Top Ten

January 8, 2019

Free speech policy now in effect for ON colleges and universities

Ontario post-secondary institutions have formally ushered in their free speech policies, meeting the provincial government's deadline of January 1st, reports The Star. “I think what (the free speech policy) will do is create some certainly around expectations, and we want to make sure that there’s an environment of respect, of open debate, respectful dialogue and that’s really the foundation,” said Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton. The Star adds that Colleges Ontario has been criticized by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union for its free speech policy that covers the province’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology. The Star (ON)

Canada should prioritize human capital over research output: Nicholson

In light of a downward drift in innovation and research, Canada has been urged to push interest towards human capital over research output, writes Paul Baskin. While the Government of Canada appears concerned with boosting university research breakthroughs, Council of Canadian Academies founding president Peter Nicholson argues that a better use for taxpayer money would be to help institutions produce graduates who can help Canadian industry capitalize on innovations. “What really counts is how good are you and how quick are you at picking up the best ideas from around the world and applying them effectively in the Canadian context,” said Nicholson. “That’s what matters.” Times Higher Education[Subscription required] (International)

New war on gender studies spans the political spectrum: Evans

A new wave of backlash against gender studies is not the preserve of authoritarian states and far-right populists, but a multifarious and insidious “backlash against sexual liberalism in all its forms,” writes Jennifer Evans. Citing Brazilian President Jair Bolsinaro’s declaration that he will fight the “ideology of gender” in public schools; Pope Francis’ condemnation of gender theory as “ideological colonization”; and social media conglomerates’ decisions to unequivocally ban all forms of sexual expression, the author adds that scholars of gender and sexuality have long sought to expose the relationship between sexual violence and structural inequity. The war on gender studies “is part of a new kind of culture war that targets research in gender and sexuality,” Evans concludes. National Post(The Conversation) (National)

UBCO announces plan for greenhouse

The University of British Columbia Okanagan is planning to build a 500-square-metre greenhouse, a venture that the Kelowna Daily Courier says could support a range of agricultural sectors and attract international researchers. “The research conducted in the greenhouse will lead to long-term agricultural benefits and will be directly applicable to major BC agricultural industries, including fruit and wine,” say professors Susan Murch and John Klironomos. The Courier adds that the greenhouse will not be able to accommodate cannabis cultivation, as provincial farming regulations state that marijuana may not be grown inside of greenhouses, but that the planned facility will include a 256-square-metre outdoor growing area. Kelowna Daily Courier (BC)

Four things academic leaders should never say

“You can’t always say everything you would like to say and still be effective in administrative roles,” writes David Perlmutter. To that end, the author provides a breakdown of four phrases higher ed leaders should never say: “I’m just so busy/I work hard”; “”The previous leader did it wrong”; “Back at my old school we did it better/differently”; and “#&^$*@!" Perlmutter adds that although academic leaders have the right to assert facts and deny falsehoods to protect their department’s interests, academic leadership can also mean restricting the individual’s leader right to say what they want to say if it threatens the integrity of their office. Chronicle of Higher Education (International)

CEGEP students struggle with anxiety in transition from high school: ULaval study

A new study out of the Université Laval has found that anxiety tops the list of factors that make the transition from high school to CEGEPs more difficult, reports the Journal de Montréal. The study surveyed students over four years, starting from their fourth year of high school. According to the researchers, the anxiety symptoms were already present in the high school students, suggesting that the problem starts sooner than the transition. The study’s lead author, Simon Larose, stated that high schools need to implement mental health supports early on. Journal de Montréal (QC)

CBU international student enrolment more than doubles in single year

Cape Breton University will welcome an additional 500 international students as the Winter semester gets underway. CBC reports that the university has seen a significant spike in international enrolments this year, from 893 in 2017 to nearly 2,000 in 2018/19. Director of Student Affairs John Mayich stated that CBU will study whether this sort of growth is sustainable over the coming years. “We're going to undertake an exercise probably in the coming year on what is our capacity and how many students can we maintain based on our program levels and our staffing levels,” said Mayich. CBC states that CBU is focusing on challenges that include housing capacity, transportation, and local employment. CBC (NS)

Getting back to the basics of “vocational” education

“People who are shopping for college are looking for something more” than a way into their first good-paying job, writes David S Cunningham. The author looks to explore what this “something more” might be by asking the reader to consider the term “vocation,” whose original meaning referred to a calling rather than simply how a person makes money. “By cultivating the vocabulary of vocation and calling,” the author adds, “colleges and universities can offer a more integrated educational program, emphasizing that career planning should go hand in hand with an exploration of deep issues of meaning, purpose and identity.” Inside Higher Ed (International)

Niagara OPIRG and student group plan to protest return of Brock professor

The Niagara-based chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group and the Brock Student Justice Centre are planning to publicly protestDavid Schimmelpenninck’sreturn to teaching, reports the St Catharines Standard. A professor of Russian history, Shimmelpennink was disciplined by Brock University for sexually harassing a student in 2014. In a statement, the  Brock University Faculty Association wrote that Schimmelpennink has the right to “teach, do his research, and participate in the service responsibilities incumbent upon every faculty member, in compliance with relevant university policies.” Ellie Donohue-Miller, support services coordinator at the Brock Student Sexual Violence Support Centre, said that the university needs to do more to support survivors of sexual violence. Hamilton Spectator| CBC (ON)

Understanding student mental health from the inside out  

While many administrators and parents often ask, “Why are students struggling?” the questions that students themselves often ask are ones like “Where do I fit in?”, “What is the point?” or “Is it worth it if I’m struggling or suffering this much?” writes Catharine Munn. The author notes that it is only by understanding mental health from the position of the students themselves that schools will be able to provide effective support. This approach requires a clear understanding of the difference between mental health and mental illness, Munn adds. “[Y]outh may attribute their struggles and problems to ‘mental health’ or illness, rather than to life events and circumstances, more often than they did in the past. We all have a state of mental health, but we do not all have a mental illness.” University Affairs (National)