Top Ten

March 6, 2017

“Holding back my applause”: CFS chair questions university responses to Trump travel ban

Recent efforts made by Canadian universities to support international students affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban are not a “kind-hearted gesture,” writes Bilan Arte of the Canadian Federation of Students. Rather, the CFS national chairperson argues that these efforts are “in fact an opportunistic marketing ploy by these institutions to recruit international students as a source of revenue.” Arte explores the financial incentives that drive universities to attract students impacted by the US ban, and provides a list of concrete steps for how schools and Canada in general can provide meaningful support to these students. “If Canada is going to establish itself as the antithesis to Trump’s America, we need more than PR statements—we need life-changing policies from our government,” Arte concludes. CFS

Critics ask why NB’s free tuition program requires credit checks

New Brunswick's minister of post-secondary education, training and labour faced questions last week as to why some of the province’s students were turned down for a tuition access bursary (TAB) due to bad credit. CBC reports that students looking to qualify for the bursary who are over the age of 22 must submit to a credit check before getting approval. New Brunswick Student Alliance Executive Director Robert Burroughs has stated that the credit check acts as an unnecessary barrier to receiving the TAB, considering that the program offers bursaries and not loans. NB Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Don Arseneault has responded that students denied a bursary due to the credit check have the opportunity to challenge the decision, and that “it will take two to three years” for New Brunswickers to fully benefit from the TAB program. CBC

AB to hire external consultant to review postsecondary funding

Alberta will hire an external consultant to analyze the province’s postsecondary funding model to support a top-to-bottom review as part of its Future Ready vision, reports the Edmonton Journal. The assessment will reportedly inform a new funding model for AB higher ed institutions as part of a final report that will be released prior to the 2018-2019 budgeting process for AB postsecondary schools. “The tuition freeze is only going to last for one more academic year and we need to make sure that our funding model and our tuition model are in place and out there in the general public so that every university and college can gear up for those new systems when they are in place,” stated AB Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt. Edmonton Journal

SMU receives $480K for program helping at-risk youth find jobs

A Saint Mary’s program designed to help at-risk youth develop better employability skills has received over $480K in federal funding. The OPtions (Overcoming Poverty) Youth Program works with at-risk youth through employability skill training and work term placements by partnering with local businesses to offer young Nova Scotians opportunities to develop their career skills through mentorship, entrepreneurship training, and on-the-job training. “A clear and pervasive commitment to social responsibility enriches the educational experience of our students, and contributes significantly to their development as active citizens,” said SMU President Robert Summerby-Murray. “Through programs like OPtions Youth, we help our community grow stronger by giving youth the tools and skills they need to fuel their own success.” SMU

uMoncton students rally in support of woman targeted by malicious emails

Students at the University of Moncton held a rally last week in support of a peer who became the victim of a hateful and explicit email campaign. CBC reports that an estimated 50 students attended the rally and marched toward the school’s administration building, chanting lines such as “let's stop the emails” and “I am her” in French. Some students have argued that the university should shut down its email system entirely until the sender of the messages is found. Yet uMoncton President Raymond Théberge has replied that “as a university, as a place of freedom of expression, we have to make sure we can keep communicating.” CBC

Support non-tenure track staff to improve unit cohesion, retention

The differences in the experiences and opportunities faced by non-tenure track and tenure track faculty members can create enough friction to erode unit cohesion and staff retention, writes Elizabeth Simmons for Inside Higher Ed. Reflecting on her experiences as a dean and as an associate provost, Simmons outlines how senior academic administrators can help make non-tenured colleagues feel valued, rewarded, included, and consulted. Simmons advises administrators to take on initiatives such as providing non-tenure track staff with comparable compensation and workplace facilities, providing staff with leadership and research opportunities, and inviting academic staff to participate in faculty meetings and discussions. Inside Higher Ed

UWaterloo selected for Amazon student program to develop AI

The University of Waterloo has become one of four North American universities selected to participate in a new artificial intelligence research program funded by Amazon. As part of the program, engineering students at UWaterloo will use knowledge from classes on artificial intelligence to develop new uses for a voice-activated virtual assistant system known as Alexa. The system uses natural language understanding and speech recognition technology to process voice queries and commands from users. “It’s evolving at incredible speed,” said Fakhri Karray, director of the Centre for Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UWaterloo. “These are very exciting times for researchers, product developers and customers.” UWaterloo

Queen’s announces closure of Physical and Health Education program

Queen’s University Senate has approved the closure of the Bachelor of Physical and Health Education programs offered at the institution. The program was temporarily suspended in March 2016. Queen’s notes in a release that the programs were closed for a number of reasons, which include declining interest in physical education programs throughout Canada, fewer opportunities for physical education teachers in the school system, a lack of potential faculty members with doctoral degrees in physical education and pedagogy, and a considerable content overlap with the Kinesiology programs at Queen’s. In light of the closure, Queen’s is evaluating the possible development of an undergraduate certificate program available to all Queen’s students, as well as opening the school's applied, placement-based physical education courses to students in Kinesiology and Health Sciences. Queen's

SPU receives $3.2M donation to build new Student Life Centre

Ottawa’s Saint Paul University says that it plans to build a new Student Life Centre thanks to the largest donation in the school’s history. Given by the Saint Paul University Oblate Fund Inc, the donation will be used to renovate existing facilities to create a centre for collaboration and innovation in student life and activities. The central meeting place will contain multipurpose rooms for study, multimedia presentations, and exhibitions. The Student Life Centre will also have a student lounge, new offices for the SPU Students’ Association, pastoral services, a reception room for various events, and an outdoor courtyard. “[This gift] will allow us to update the image of our institution and continue to pursue our objective of becoming transformational leaders while maintaining our vision: preparing our students to be the face of change in the world,” said SPU Rector Chantal Beauvais. SPU

Grad students with children need more support

“Colleges and universities, as spaces known for shaping the future and creating change, should be at the forefront of implementing [parental] leave policies for faculty members, grad students and staff members,” writes Whitney Pirtle for Inside Higher Ed. The author writes that schools must be especially mindful of the demands that having children can place on graduate students, who often do not receive the institutional support that staff or faculty members do. Further, Lister argues that institutions must change their “outdated gendered and racialized perceptions of working parents,” offering a series of recommendations on how institutions can move forward on this issue. Inside Higher Ed