Top Ten

April 20, 2020

BC launches Here2Talk for postsecondary students

The Government of British Columbia has launched Here2Talk, a mental health counselling and referral service for postsecondary students. The 24/7 service provides students who are dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, and relationship issues with confidential, free, single-session service by app, phone, or online chat. “Students advocated for years to fill the gap in available mental-health counselling services in British Columbia,” said BC Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training Melanie Mark. “With the advent of COVID-19 and the increased stress it puts on students, we doubled down to get students the supports they so desperately need.” CBC reports that BC is spending $1.5M per year on the service. BC | CBC (BC)

York Schulich, Pycap Venture Partners establish COVID-19 Small Business Support Centre

York University’s Schulich School of Business and Pycap Venture Partners have established the COVID-19 Small Business Support Centre to help small businesses and entrepreneurs access financial support programs. The Centre will help assess grant eligibility, assist with preparing funding applications, provide additional business and financial strategies to support business owners during the pandemic. “Schulich is proud to team up with Pycap Venture Partners to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs,” says Schulich Dean Dezsö J Horváth. “The Support Centre will provide critical assistance to help small businesses stay afloat during these unprecedented times.” York (ON)

Lethbridge offers free online learning course

With Spring and Summer semesters just around the corner, and the need for online learning to be conducted effectively, efficiently, and deliberately, Lethbridge College is offering free learning to all faculty. Lethbridge College has adapted its Facilitating Online Learning courses to the new reality and made these courses free to all postsecondary institutions and faculty members until the end of June. “We wanted to do our part to contribute to the collaborative effort taking place across the country to ensure all students still have access to meaningful learning experiences wherever they may be,” says Jackie Doherty, Dean of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovation. “Providing instructors with some tools and strategies to make that happen was something we could do right away, and it made sense to offer it to the entire post-secondary sector.” Lethbridge (AB)

Brock Aboriginal Student Services provides connection, calming options for students

Brock University’s Aboriginal Student Services office is finding new ways to support students amid the COVID-19 pandemic by using social media, deploying interactive craft exercises, and visiting with students online. Aboriginal Events Co-ordinator Cindy Biancaniello has been distributing sanitized craft kits that focus on different areas of Indigenous art and design, for example, in order to maintain connections with students. “We’ve found that the arts exercises we ran while people were on campus were very calming for our students,” said Biancaniello. “We hope these at-home crafts and online sessions can continue to help reduce stress and let us share our stories together while we are temporarily apart.” Brock (ON)

Tips for public engagement during the pandemic and beyond

“In trying times, it is especially critical that we continue to create and maintain effective dialogues between scholars and communities in order to generate equitable and sustainable solutions to the problems that matter most,” write Elyse L Aurbach and James DeVaney. In this piece, the authors offer considerations for institutions seeking to increase or elevate their public engagement work and initiatives: creating infrastructure and policies to institutionalize a commitment to respectful and equitable engagement; helping communities address disparities in accessing public engagement; and supporting scholars and community partners so that engagement work can be pursued sustainably and equitably. Inside Higher Ed (International)

Institutions deliver creative convocation solutions for Class of 2020

Institutions across the nation are launching creative options to allow the Class of 2020 to proceed with convocation. In preparation for the creation of a convocation video, the University of Lethbridge is sending students a convocation box filled with items like a cap and tassel and an alumni pin, and encouraging students to take photos of themselves and post online using #uleth2020. Students will also be given the opportunity to attend any in-person convocation in the next three years. Meanwhile Mount Allison University is preparing for a virtual convocation that will see approximately 400 graduands receive their degrees in absentia on May 25th. “While the Class of 2020 will not be able to cross the Convocation Hall stage in person just yet, we want to ensure they are virtually celebrated and provide them with a special Mount Allison experience,” says MtA President Jean-Paul Boudreau. ULethbridge | MtA (AB, NB)

Supporting international scientists during global emergencies: Opinion

“In order to continue international science in the face of inevitable pandemics, civil unrest and natural disasters, institutional policies, communication and insurance coverage must improve,” writes Sehoya Cotner. Writing from their experience of being stranded in Peru with students as the COVID-19 pandemic took off, the author outlines policies and procedures institutions should place moving forward to allow international science to continue even in the wake of massive disruptions. Among these recommendations, Cotner notes the importance of requiring faculty and students to provide detailed itineraries to their institutions, ensuring the institution has officials prepared to help and communicate with faculty and students in the event of an emergency, and providing blanket insurance policies to cover all international research. “Institutions must better support the researchers and students who take up this work to avoid any more experiences like ours,” concludes Cotner. Times Higher Education (International)

Colleges announce temporary layoffs in response to pandemic

Several colleges in Canada have announced temporary layoffs in response to the pandemic. Red Deer College announced that 47 permanent employees will be temporarily laid-off until further notice, adding to the 145 casual, part-time, or term-certain employees that have been issued Records of Employment since the start of the pandemic. Fort McMurray Today reports that Keyano College has also been forced to temporarily layoff 74 staff members due to cancelled classes and events, as well as building closures. The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees stated that up to 100 employees at Olds College will be out of work or on reduced hours, which AUPE states is due to cuts from the provincial government. RDC | Red Deer Advocate (Olds) | Fort McMurray Today (Keyano) (AB)

Montmorency foundation provides computers to low-income students for distance learning

The Fondation du Collège Montmorency and the Association des étudiantes et des étudiants de Montmorency (AGEM) have partnered to help low-income students receive a free computer to continue their education that is now being delivered virtually. The donation was made possible by the non-profit organization Ordinateurs pour les écoles du Québec, which offered low-cost computer equipment for purchase to the Fondation and AGEM. The Fondation stated that the computers will help not only the students, but the companies waiting for young graduates to address labour shortages. Portail du réeau collégial du Québec (QC)

US Libraries brace for budget cuts, talk about digital transitions

The 2008 financial crisis hit many institutional libraries hard, writes Lindsay McKenzie, and now librarians are again preparing for another wave of cuts with the impacts of the global pandemic. Anticipating fiscal constraints, some librarian staff are considering dropping or reducing large contracts with academic publishers, subscribing to a smaller number of select journals instead. Yet, while librarians will face tough financial decisions ahead, McKenzie describes how many feel they are well-positioned to weather these changes. "Libraries, perhaps more than any other area of an institution, already offer a robust set of digital services," said the director of a US library. "They have been preparing for this moment." Inside Higher Ed (International)