Top Ten

April 7, 2020

BC provides $1.5M in emergency funding for Indigenous students

The Government of British Columbia has announced $1.5M in funding for the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund to support Indigenous students who are experiencing an unexpected financial emergency that could affect their ability to finish their studies. The fund will support emergency living expenses, such as cellphone bills and childcare, as well as other unanticipated costs like dental or optical costs. “Our government is increasing emergency financial assistance for Indigenous students to ensure they have the necessary funds to focus on staying healthy, meeting their educational goals and finishing their semester,” said BC Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark. “By supporting Indigenous students to succeed, we are doing our part to implement article 23 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.” BC (BC)

CUPE, OUWCC, students raise concerns over CERB qualifications

The Canadian Union of Public of Employees, the Ontario University Workers’ Coordinating Committee, and postsecondary students have expressed concerns about student ineligibility for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Dalhousie University fourth-year law student Kathleen O’Brien told Global News that she was dismayed to see that she did not qualify for the benefit because COVID-19 had not caused her to stop working. “Most of us haven’t stopped working, but if our jobs have been cancelled or if our jobs have been postponed indefinitely,” explained O’Brien, “we just don’t have a job to go to.” Meanwhile, OUWCC Chairperson David Simao called on the Government of Ontario to begin offering grants to students unable to access EI or CERB, bridge funding, and other supports for researchers whose work is shut down, ensure comprehensive medical coverage for international students, and direct further support to universities to ensure pay continuity. Global News | Financial Post (National)

Institutions launch funding initiatives for COVID-19 research

Several Canadian postsecondary institutions have established funds to support pandemic research. WE-SPARK Health Institute has launched a Rapid Response funding call open to researchers at the University of Windsor, St. Clair College, Windsor Regional Hospital, and Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare. The McGill University Health Centre’s foundation has created a $4M emergency fund for research and innovative treatment to fight COVID-19. Charles and Margaret Juravinski have gifted $3.3M to accelerate COVID-19 related brain health research at McMaster University as part of the newly formed Juravinski Research Institute. Western University has launched a $1M fund to support 20 interdisciplinary projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Western | WE-SPARK | Montéal Gazette | McMaster (ON, QC, NS)

TRU launches MSc in Data Science

Thompson Rivers University has created a Master of Science in Data Science program to train students in big data interpretation. The two-year program will include key courses and allow students to engage in a thesis or project that will involve applied problem solving. The program is personalized to the student, enabling them to specialize in an area with guidance from faculty members. “There are ways in which better decisions can be made by giving people the ability to determine patterns from massive amounts of data,” explained TRU Dean of Science Tom Dickinson. The program is expected to launch this fall and will begin with an intake of approximately 10 students. TRU (BC)

Accessible learning initiatives suffer amid change to online learning

“In the quick shift by colleges from in-person to online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” writes Greta Anderson, “the needs of students with disabilities can sometimes be overlooked.” Issues for students with disabilities amid the recent transition to online learning may incompatible materials for screen readers, live teaching formats that do not include interpreters or real-time captioning, and more. While Duke University Professor Marion Quirici acknowledges that online can be better for some students with disabilities when done in an accessible way, others are struggling with the reduction of social interaction. “Flexibility and approachability should be built into our mission as teachers,” said Quirici. “I hope that one silver lining of this catastrophe is that this is all possible and it can be incorporated into face-to-face environments.” Inside Higher Ed (International)

Schools ramp up efforts to provide financial support to students

Colleges, universities, and polytechnics are establishing funds and calling on donors to help students and local communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A $1M donation from Neil and Gisele Murdoch has allowed the University of Waterloo to expand wellness service offering through the creation of new student counsellor positions and a digital virtual care tool, while the University of New Brunswick, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Douglas College, and Sheridan College have established emergency funds to support students. “This pandemic is bigger than any of us,” said Sheridan President Janet Morrison. “I am more certain than ever that harnessing our collective capacity and demonstrating compassion are the keys to navigating this uncharted territory successfully.” UWaterloo | KPU | UNB | Douglas | insauga (ON, BC)

How to deal with faculty absences during COVID-19

“In the face of rising coronavirus cases, the scale of professor absenteeism could be much larger than anything colleges have seen in recent decades,” writes Lilah Burke. Some instructors have reported that schools are asking teachers to make contingency plans for how a class could continue in the professor’s absence. John Lombardi explains that it is “probably useful” to think about contingency measures, but it is “probably not useful to construct complicated alternative contingencies covering every imaginable sequence of illness.” Lombard recommends simply dealing with potential issues in the context of normal sick leave, normal reallocation of work, and other adjustments. Inside Higher Ed (International)

Universities, colleges support local hospitals by creating life-saving equipment

Schools across the country continue to support the fight against COVID-19 through producing life-saving equipment for local hospitals. Researchers from the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Engineering have designed face masks, hands-free attachments for door handles, and constructed parts for face shield and ventilators. Faculty at Loyalist College have developed prototypes of face shields that can be made with locally-sourced materials, while Dalhousie University, OCAD University, Camosun College, and the University of Victoria are producing face masks and face shields with equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters. UWindsor | Loyalist | CTV | OCAD | CBC (NS, BC, ON)

St Clair to transform sports facility into COVID-19 treatment centre

St Clair College has partnered with Windsor Regional Hospital to turn the school’s SportsPlex into a field hospital for potential COVID-19 patients. This week, staff will transform the SportsPlex into a treatment centre for up to 100 “low-acuity” patients recovering from the virus. "Our students and staff have been using the SportsPlex to foster their health for the past half-decade, so it is a natural transition for the community to use it now to restore its health," said St Clair President Patti France. "We will continue to respond immediately and enthusiastically to anything asked of the college while this challenge confronts our community." CBC (ON)

Some American institutions facing petitions, lawsuits over room and board refunds

The different approaches to refunding room and board taken by American postsecondary schools are being met with responses that are equally variant. While some schools announced almost immediately that students would receive prorated room and board refunds, other schools have set up partial refund plans to be implemented in coming weeks. However, students have begun petitioning the amounts of some refunds, while others have gone so far as to take institutions to court for breach of contract. "The problem is that a significant part of that money also goes to pay salaries of the people working in the cafeterias and people that are doing various other jobs relating to the room and board," explained lawyer Kent Schmidt. "The question becomes: Is the university caught in the middle? Do they have to refund the money to the students, or are they under pressure to keep paying the employees?" Inside Higher Ed (International)