Top Ten

August 2, 2019

RRC criticized for 'inexplicable' decision not to renew President Vogt’s contract

The Board of Governors at Red River College has been criticized by several members of the postsecondary community for its “inexplicable and regrettable decision” to not renew the contract of current President Paul Vogt. RRC Board Chair Loren Cisyk confirmed the decision, stating that the “board has decided that we would like to go in a different direction.” CBC stated that Cisyk did not elaborate on what this direction would look like. "I had expressed my eagerness to continue as president, so I can't hide my disappointment over the decision," Vogt stated in an internal email. "Or my surprise — it doesn't align with the feedback I have received in my time here." Other members of the postsecondary community indicated their confusion and drew parallels to other recent board issues in the province. CBC (MB)

QS releases Best Student Cities rankings

QS Top Universities has released its 2019 rankings for student cities, which aims to showcase the “best urban destinations for international students.” 5 Canadian cities were included in the rankings: Montreal (6), Toronto (11), Vancouver (16), Ottawa (45), and Quebec City (tied for 115). Cities must have a population of over 250,000 and house at least two universities to be eligible for the rankings, resulting in a total list of 125 cities. The rankings are determined by the local universities’ overall rankings, student mix, desirability, employer activity, and affordability. QS Rankings | QS Methodology (International)

AB extends deadline for universities to adopt free speech guidelines

The Government of Alberta has extended the deadline for universities in Alberta to adopt free speech guidelines to mid-December. Other postsecondary institutions in the province have indicated that they are currently drafting freedom of speech policies, preparing to discuss related principals at upcoming meetings, or that they have struck committees to examine the issue. The Toronto Star states that some members of the community are concerned that such policies may have a negative effect on postsecondary institutions. “Once you say that all ideas are equal, then nothing matters anymore. All of the ways that we produce knowledge in the institution become meaningless,” said UAlberta Lecturer Shama Rangwala, who recently wrote a piece critiquing the Chicago Principles of free speech. The Star (Subscription Required) (AB)

SFU campus sees spillover from Hong Kong protests

The conflict surrounding ongoing political protests in Hong Kong has spilled onto the campus of Simon Fraser University, reports The Province. The controversy at SFU has centered mainly on “Lennon Walls,” or surfaces on the school’s campus where people can post notes of support or inspirational wishes, where post-it notes expressing support for protesters in Hong Kong have been repeatedly put up and torn down. “The tricky thing is what can be done?” said Leo Shin, a professor of Asian Studies at UBC, adding that he hopes the solution will promote dialogue “in a manner that befits a university where we can disagree in a peaceful manner.” The Province (BC)

Dealing with microaggressions: Aguilar

“Microaggressions are the poison ivy of living life as a person of color,” writes Stephen J Aguilar. “They’re irritants, and those of us whom they affect must find ways to soothe the uncomfortable feelings they elicit.” Aguilar reflects on a situation in which a senior faculty member sent a congratulations to another Mexican American scholar for the publication of a paper that Aguilar wrote. He advises others who find themselves in similar situations to weigh their reactions against possible consequences and encourages them to reach out to their support networks and allies. To those who are at fault, Aguilar suggests simply owning the error and apologizing: “In the end that’s all we want: a sincere effort to learn from your mistakes. We 100 percent have no interest in hearing an epic tale about how the microaggression manifested through a confluence of unlikely events, thus absolving you of any responsibility.” Inside Higher Ed (International)

KPU introduces new zero textbook cost program in design

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has introduced a one-year Foundations in Design certificate program that will use library materials and open textbooks. The program is reportedly the first fully zero textbook-cost program of its kind in Canada, and the sixth ZTC program launched at KPU. “We would like to continue to support our students with the ability to save on costs for their education and this has been further enhanced by expanding access to other digital resources and online subscriptions,” says Andhra Goundrey, interim dean of the Wilson School of Design at KPU. “We also have another twenty-plus courses in our other design programs that are listed as ZTC for this Fall 2019 with more to come in the future.” KPU | CBC (BC)

Brock to more than triple square footage of fitness complex

Brock University has begun a year-long construction project on its Zone fitness centre. The project will see the Zone transformed from a 4,300 square-foot space into a state-of-the-art, two-level, 15,500-square-foot complex. The project was financed by student fees and approved in 2018 through a Brock University Students’ Union referendum. “Safety is our first priority,” said Brock Capital Planning and Project Management Director Paul Smeltzer, who explained that the construction will be taking place within a courtyard with no access to outside roadways. “We need to be strategic about how we get equipment and material into that area. It’s not as simple as just lifting everything over top of existing hallways and buildings and into the courtyard.” Brock (ON)

Knowing when to “call it quits”

“At some point, most of us wrestle with determining when it's time to call it quits,” writes Rob Weir in a reflection on retirement from higher ed. Weir writes that his decision to retire stemmed from hearing loss, but provides a list of other considerations for those wrestling with the idea of retirement. In particular, he asks readers to consider the signs that it is time to retire – such as a loss of interest in teaching and service or feeling hypercritical of students – and to ask whether they can afford to leave their position. For those who expect to retire soon, Weir advises starting to plan for retirement early and encourages professors to prepare themselves mentally. "Just as we wanted others to move on so we could move in,” Weir concludes, “so, too, a new generation of scholars awaits its turn.” Inside Higher Ed (International)

BC transcript issue 'resolved,' won't affect school admissions: Minister

The Government of British Columbia has reported that the issue affecting Grade 12 transcripts has been resolved and that postsecondary admissions should not be affected. Education Minister Rob Fleming stated that ministry staff worked “around the clock” to identify and fix the errors discovered on student transcripts. “After the discovery, the ministry contacted all post-secondary institutions in Canada and NCAA institutions in the U.S. to ensure that no student applications for the fall would be affected,” stated Fleming. “Post-secondary institutions have stated they will ensure the error in marks reporting won’t negatively impact any incoming students.” An investigation found that human error caused the mistakes. Times Colonist (BC)

Why small towns just aren’t suitable for some faculty: Harris

“Colleges don’t always realize that their small-town communities are unsuited for the faculty members whom they hope to hire,” argues Rachel S. Harris, adding that schools must be accommodating toward those who wish not to live locally if they want to promote diversity in their ranks. The author notes that in an age of increasingly rare tenure track positions, newly hired faculty do not have the option to hold out for positions in places they would like to live. But issues ranging from racism to local dating options can make some small towns unsuited to faculty members from diverse backgrounds. The author concludes that in order to help address this issue, institutions must make greater efforts to support faculty members who choose to commute. Inside Higher Ed (International)