Top Ten

November 7, 2017

McGill labour unions, SSMU protest honorary doctorate for former principal

On-campus labour unions and the Students’ Society of McGill University have come out against the university’s decision to award an honorary doctorate to former McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum. The opposition groups claim that during her tenure, Munroe-Blum “created rifts in McGill’s social and academic fibre that have yet to heal” by overseeing an increase in pay and benefits to managers and administrative executives, while students and staff were allegedly left in financially precarious positions. A McGill release contends that Munroe-Blum is “a vocal champion for education accessibility, and increasing financial support for students, academics and research.” McGill Daily

Dal Medical Research Foundation receives $1.3M pledge to Medical Research Foundation

The Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation has received a $1.3M pledge from former Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Dal faculty member Ronald Stewart. The fund, which will be paid out over 10 years, will help establish the Ronald Stewart Symposium in Emergency Medical Services Research, as well as provide seed funding for a chair in the field. DMRF CEO Brian Thompson said that the gift “will underscore the impact of our Emergency Health Services program, ensuring we are taking an evidence-based approach to delivering superior emergency care to this region.” Dal explains that the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation is an independent funding agency that supports medical research undertaken by Dal’s Faculty of Medicine. Dal

NB students issue report to highlight, address systemic PSE barriers

The New Brunswick Student Alliance has issued a report proposing reforms to address systemic barriers in the province’s postsecondary sector. Titled “Mandating a Better New Brunswick,” the document identifies pressing student issues for 2017-2018 and will form the basis for student-led advocacy efforts this week. Leaders from the NBSA’s five member campuses will hold meetings with MLAs, university presidents, senior civil servants, and key stakeholders in Fredericton between November 6 and 10 as part of the NBSA’s fifth annual Advocacy Week. “We are strongly encouraged by the Speech from the Throne and the government’s renewed commitment to actioning consequential change to our education system,” said NBSA Board Chair Sara Camus. NBSA

BC responds in wake of anti-Semitic posters appearing at UVic

The appearance of anti-Semitic posters on bulletin boards at the University of Victoria has prompted the British Columbia government to seek new ways of combating racism, reports the Times Colonist. Speaking about the posters to reporters at the University of Victoria on Friday, Ravi Kahlon, parliamentary secretary for sport and multiculturalism, said that he plans on making a statement on racism in BC this Thursday in the BC legislature. Third-year UVic law student Renata Colwell heard about the poster and sees no place for its message on UVic's campus. “We have to be careful,” she said. “Freedom of speech stops at the point it becomes hate speech.” The provincial NDP also says that it is looking into reviving the BC Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded in 2002. Times Colonist | The Province

Investing in faculty renewal is the way to make the most of Canada’s PhDs: Wright

“The decline in academic jobs has been addressed primarily as a graduate student issue,” writes Dalhousie University Professor Julia Wright, noting that many conversations about PhD employment focus more on an oversupply of PhDs than an undersupply of positions that take advantage of these highly trained professionals. The author cites data showing that Canada falls behind many comparator nations in doctoral degrees awarded by population, suggesting that oversupply is not the problem that the country needs to address. Rather, Wright suggests that Canada invest more heavily in faculty renewal and in the hiring of more full-time, tenure-track professors, which is not happening at the rate that it used to. University Affairs

UOttawa student union votes down BDS motion, approves pro-choice mandate

The University of Ottawa student union has reportedly voted down a motion to pursue Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions against Israel, while a campus pro-life group says that it was on the losing end of a different resolution. The Ottawa Citizen reports that attempts to pass BDS resolutions have failed with student unions at other universities including the University of Winnipeg, University of Waterloo, and University of British Columbia, but have succeeded at York University and Concordia University. The University of Ottawa Students for Life have reported that in a separate vote, a motion has been passed declaring that the SFUO “affirms a person’s right to choose. No SFUO resources, space, recognition, or funding will be allocated to enhance groups/individuals with the primary/sole purpose of pro-life activities.” Ottawa Citizen

PSE must broaden its focus to all ages to keep up with the changing world of work: Levine

The question of PSE accessibility can no longer focus on young people, writes Arthur Levine. The accelerating pace of change in industry and the shortening of the “half life” of technical skills has made it essential, the author argues, for government to reconceive higher education as a site of reskilling throughout a person’s working life. This means expanding federal and state grant programs and targeting additional funds toward mid-career professionals who need to upgrade their skills just to hold onto their current jobs. “The point is this,” Levine concludes. “Our conception of access to education can no longer focus only on young people and preparation for life.” Inside Higher Ed

Ryerson Student Centre represents bigger problem for ON accessibility, advocate says

Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre is not accessible for students with disabilities, according to Toronto lawyer David Lepofsky. Lepofsky has released a video demonstrating how the building allegedly poses risks to people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia, and balance issues. “Ryerson tried to do the right thing, they wanted to make the building accessible,” said Lepofsky. “But the problem is twofold — one: Ontario’s building laws are weak and don’t require buildings to meet the needs of those with disabilities and two: architects are not properly trained in accessibility and nor do they give it priority.” Lepofsky has written a letter to the Ontario Ministry of Accessibility, asking the government to launch a new strategy to address recurring accessibility barriers in the province. Toronto Star

KPU launches Zed Cred program with no-cost textbooks

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has announced the launch of Zed Cred, a first-of-its-kind in Canada program that allows students to complete an entire degree program--in this case a certificate of arts credential--with zero textbook costs. “Even a single textbook can cost well over $100, which means a student can spend thousands of dollars on textbooks on top of the cost of tuition during their post-secondary career,” said KPU Teaching Fellow Rajiv Jhangiani, who recently released a study showing that 54% of BC postsecondary students refrain from purchasing at least one required text due to its cost. KPU has reportedly launched nearly 50 courses in the Faculty of Arts that use either free open textbooks or free library materials that are available online. The program was made possible by a grant from BCcampus. BCcampus | KPU

Indigenous communities, McMaster partner on water quality research

Two Indigenous communities will work with a McMaster University research team to find the source of contaminants in the water on their land and develop an app that gives real-time updates on water quality. CBC reports that Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario and the Lubicon Cree Nation of Little Buffalo in Alberta will be part of this three-year project that has secured $950K in funding. Dawn Martin-Hill, principal investigator of the project and a resident on the Six Nations reserve, says that both communities have had issues with their water for many years. CBC