Top Ten

March 26, 2020

Institutions donate supplies to local hospitals

Several Canadian postsecondary schools have answered the Government of Canada’s call to mobilize resources and expertise in the fight against COVID-19. Colleges such as Fanshawe College and St Clair College have donated personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other supplies to their local health alliances and hospitals. University Affairs reports that many universities have supplied or donated equipment from their laboratories: The University of Ottawa and University of Toronto designed and manufactured new equipment while the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center launched a contest to spur new ventilator designs. McMaster University’s Engineers have announced that they are prototyping and creating protective gear for health care workers. “Their laboratories have the resources and the experts to be part of this great fight,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We asked them to identify the equipment they have, the masks and the respirators they have.” Canada (Call for Supplies) | University Affairs (National) | Fanshawe | St Clair | McMaster

UofA denied request for budget flexibility, planned layoffs to go forward

Despite efforts to reach an agreement with the Government of Alberta, University of Alberta President David Turpin said that mass layoffs due to the 2020 provincial budget will go forward. Turpin added that the university and other postsecondary institutions in the province have been working with the provincial government to reach an agreement to have the severance costs from layoffs deficit financed, but the request was denied. The AB Ministry of Advanced Education told Global News that it believed UofAa was not operating in a fiscally prudent way, with press secretary Laurie Chandler stating: “Over the last decade, funding has grown 106 per cent, while enrollment has only grown 21 per cent.” CBC reports that 5 university groups have condemned the cuts and called on UofA to maintain pay for laid off workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Global News | CBC (AB)

RMC to send cadets home, proceed with online learning

Royal Military College has announced that the school will be “taking a pause” and making arrangements to send students home following complaints by the Union of National Defense Employees. Officer cadets can leave the campus once essential administration is completed and arrangements made for their travel home. In cases where students do not have another primary residence, they will remain at the school while completing their studies online and awaiting employment. “These were not easy decisions to make, but both of us thank you in advance for your understanding in these extraordinary times,” said Commandant Sebastien Bouchard and Principal Harry Kowal. “The safety and protection of the entire campus community remain paramount, and like others across this country, we must do everything possible to protect and support each other as we fight the spread of the virus.” The Whig Standard | CBC (ON | QC)

As health, medicine students step up to the plate, concerns emphasize importance of student safety

Students in health programming across the country have continued to step up and volunteer or request special permission to do so in order to help with the COVID-19 situation. At the University of Manitoba, over 200 students in faculties such as medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy have volunteered in various capacities as local hospitals and groups to help support front-line workers. At Bow Valley College, nursing students who are just weeks away from graduation have called for accommodations to allow them to put their skills to use during the pandemic. “We’re skilled and ready to work,” said nursing student Morgan Winn. At Saskatchewan Polytechnic, a group of nursing students voiced their concerns after being asked to continue their clinical work in the province’s hospitals, indicating that they did not have the same benefits as nurses and had received inconsistent messaging. Sask Polytech Dean of Nursing and the School of Health Sciences Sandra Blevins indicated that the institution is in close contact with the SHA and that the safety of its students are a top priority: "We did not want them to feel like they had to show up, or that their grades or anything would be impacted, so they have that choice right now to make." CBC (UManitoba) | CBC (BVC) (National) | CBC (SaskPolytech)

Canadian PSE raises funds for student emergency support

Several Canadian postsecondary institutions have joined the Université Laval in raising funds for student emergency support. Laurentian University raised over $80K in emergency funds for international and domestic students that do not have an alternative to living in residence. Huntington University announced the $25K Huntington Helps Emergency Bursary Fund in order to support postsecondary students in need across Greater Sudbury. At Simon Fraser University, the Simon Fraser Student Society announced an emergency financial aid fund that students could use for needs such as laptops, internet access, or a plane ticket home. CBC (Laurentian) | The Sudbury Star (Huntington) (National)| The Peak

Identifying challenges, offering tips for admissions during the pandemic

There's no good time for a pandemic, said Jon Boeckenstedt, “but for admissions, this has got to be the worst time." Based on his own experience as the Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at a US institution, Boeckenstedt outlines key areas for consideration for admissions during the pandemic: lower-income students’ decisions to attend may be affected by business shutdowns; the issuing of high school transcripts will likely be impacted; and there may be a decline in international student enrolments. To address such issues, Boeckenstedt suggests schools consider extending admission deadlines, offering virtual information sessions and tours when possible, and begin to think about how institutions will evaluate transcripts that may look appreciably different from those in the past. Inside Higher Ed (International)

Tips for staying on task in the new home-based work environment

“For many people, the next few weeks will be their first sustained period of working outside their normal working environment and the routine it imposes,” writes Alice Kelly. Experienced at working from home, the author shares strategies for academics who find themselves in this new, distraction-laden working environment: Find a “writing buddy” to Skype with; try using focusmate or ‘study with me’ videos on YouTube; experiment with time management apps and internet blockers; and try creating a sonic workplace. Times Higher Education (International)

OCUFA calls on the provincial government to ensure paid sick leave for workers

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations has called on the Government of Ontario to ensure that workers across the province have access to paid sick leave. “No worker should have to pick between complying with public health guidelines and putting food on the table or covering rent.” said OCUFA President Rahul Sapra. “We are worried about the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable groups in society. On university campuses, we are particularly concerned about contract faculty, workers in precarious working conditions and international students.” OCUFA states that it remains committed to working with the provincial government and opposition parties to advocate for better worker protections in the province. OCUFA (ON)

How to get an esports program off the ground

Several institutions have launched esports teams in recent years, and Brett Shelton and Chris Haskell have developed a primer for those that wish to follow suit. Shelton and Haskel explain that, when starting an esports program, institutions should begin by creating a document that outlines the goals and structural components of a proposed team, such as the team’s purpose, funding sources, space needs, and leadership. The authors then describe how to involve the legal department and/or institutional leadership to establish the team, how to determine where to house the team, and how to split up leadership duties that require full-time attention. “As the world of esports continues to grow,” the authors write, “we expect more media coverage and interest in what universities are accomplishing in this burgeoning field.” EdTech (International)

It’s time to institute equity audits in higher ed: Opinion

“Higher education has a tool to identify and address issues of inequality,” writes Annika Olson, “and more colleges and universities should use it.” The tool in question – equity audits – are described by the author as a tool most often used in K-12 education in order to evaluate, identify, and address disparities in educational systems. Olson provides the example of an American college that used an equity audit to assess whether outreach efforts were accessible for potential first-generation college students, what practices in algebra courses affected equitable success in statistics, how faculty members shared information regarding financial aid opportunities, and whether current staffers and administrators were supportive of the student population. Significantly, the audit identified gaps in each of these areas and provided specific ways to improve, which—according to the author—suggests their usefulness may extend past K-12 education. Inside Higher Ed (International)