Top Ten

July 7, 2020

Concerns voiced about nature of Canada Student Service Grant program

Since WE Charity stepped back from its controversial role as the administrator of the $912M Canada Student Service Grant program, concerns have been voiced about the appropriateness of the student pay under the program. CBC explains that the grant program pays approximately $10 an hour, below the minimum wages of any Canadian jurisdiction, for students in the volunteer positions. Toronto-based labour lawyer Andrew Langille argues that while it is great for young people to volunteer, “the problem is when you blur the lines and start paying an hourly rate that is below the minimum wage." Others are questioning why the government is paying students, some of whom already have summer jobs, to volunteer given that volunteering is something that, by definition, one does without pay. CBC | The Province (National)

U of T OISE establishes Indigenous Education Research Centre

The University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education has announced the launch of the Indigenous Educational Research Centre. The research centre will provide space for Indigenous faculty and students to meet, work on Indigenous-specific projects, and engage in critical conversations about their work. The space will also pursue seven key objectives that aim to advance Indigenous educational research; develop and promote protocols, ethics, and methods for culturally appropriate research; and provide a space and opportunities for Indigenous faculty and students. UToronto (ON)

NSCAD U prof speaks out against president’s firing, FU to hold vote of no confidence

Charmaine Nelson, a professor that was recently hired to run NSCAD University’s newly minted Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery, has penned a letter to the institution’s board of governors calling the recent firing of president Aoife Mac Namara “an attack on anti-racist principles.” “Whether intentional or not, the board's decisions appear to be not merely an attack on President Mac Namara, but an attack on the greater racial inclusiveness and anti-racist principles that she so courageously championed,” explains Nelson in her letter. Faculty union president Mathew Reichertz has also indicated that the union is currently holding a vote of no confidence in the board. Board Chair Louise Anne Comeau stated that the institution cannot speak about Mac Namara's departure due to confidentiality rules. CBC (NS)

Why governments should avoid cutting postsecondary budgets: Opinion

As governments begin considering ways to pay down debt incurred from the COVID-19 crisis, Shiri M Breznitz and Daniel Munro of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy argue that funding cuts to universities should not be part of debt-reduction strategies. Breznitz and Munro outline four reasons why governments should commit to maintaining or even increasing funding after the crisis: universities are agents of innovations and will contribute to economic and social recovery; universities were already experiencing financial pressures and challenges prior to the pandemic; conventional institutional strategies of recouping financial losses, such as tuition increases, are falling short; and universities are in the process of experimenting with new learning strategies with the shift to online learning. “If we want higher education institutions to produce skilled graduates, support regional economic development, and ensure education is accessible and equitable for all,” conclude the authors, “we need to fund them in crisis and in prosperity.” Policy Options (National)

GTA colleges, universities open campuses to students to complete program requirements

A number of Ontario colleges and universities have begun a provincial summer pilot project for students who have outstanding hands-on training to complete as part of their graduation requirements. Returning students will face classroom and campus environments that are much different than those they experienced in March when classes were cancelled, with many institutions requiring a screening process to enter buildings, implementing mandatory mask policies as well as putting extra safety protocols in place. "That might mean that they're coming in on staggered days," said Emily Milic, manager of PR and Communications at Humber College, one of the participating schools. "It might mean that they're using two spaces when they used to use one" to ensure distancing, Milic added. CBC (ON)

Thriving Foundations offers new suite of first-year support

Western University has introduced a new Thriving Foundations program that will supplement its existing orientation events and help first-year students acclimate to university life. The program consists of three pillars: Academic Advantage, which will offer online modules for learning strategies and supplement high school learning; Community Connection, which will allow students to meet one another in small groups and meet members of the Western community before the Fall semester; and a Peer Program, which will connect incoming students with peer coaches. “It’s really comprehensive in having so many stepping-stones they can walk across to attain success in all aspects of their time in university,” explained Western Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) Jennifer Massey. Western (ON)

UAlberta Augustana, alumni association band together to save hockey team

The University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and the Augustana Vikings Hockey Alumni Association have established an agreement that will ensure the continuation of the hockey program at the campus. The program faced an uncertain future due to deep budget cuts, but the new agreement will see the alumni association garner support and fundraise to support the team. “The longevity and success of the Vikings is entrusted in this agreement,” said Augustana Dean Demetres Tryphonopoulos. “And I would like to offer our thanks to our Alumni Hockey Association for their imagination, spirit of generosity, passion for the program and hard work. Without this group’s initiative and persistence, none of this would have been possible.” UAlberta (AB)

USask to sell, move historic Poultry Sciences Building

The University of Saskatchewan has decided to sell their historic Poultry Sciences Building and seed barn. The buildings, which were built in 1918 and 1915 respectively, “We’re doing a condition assessment of all our buildings,” explained USask finance and resources vice president Greg Fowler, “but the seed barn and the poultry barn are examples of buildings that were no longer able to be used for modern teaching or research purpose.” The institution was unable to find alternate uses for the buildings, but if the building sells, the university will use the vacant space for an expanded engineering facility. Fowler could not provide an estimate of how much the university will sell for. Global News (SK)

Concordia signs Montreal Statement on Sustainability in the Digital Age

Concordia University has signed the Montreal Statement on Sustainability in the Digital Age, a document that argues that achieving a climate-safe and equitable future requires inclusive and trusted digital technologies. The statement calls for five specific actions, including building a new social contract for the digital age, ensuring open and transparent access to data and knowledge on sustainability and equity, and promoting research and innovation that will steer digital transformations toward sustainability and equity. “This work can play a key role in ensuring a digital future that is both informed by, and continuously advancing sustainable principles,” said Concordia President Graham Carr. “The Statement is a consolidation of this vision and a welcome call for transformative action now." Concordia (QC)

Holland College suspends programs, announces layoffs as part of fiscal mitigation plan

Holland College has announced that it will be taking on several mitigation strategies to minimize the impact of the pandemic. The college has suspended its Dance Performance, Theatre Performance, Cabinetmaking/Wood Manufacturing, Commercial Diving, and Aircraft Turbine Technician programs for the upcoming academic year. It has also implemented layoffs, introduced delayed or adjusted contract start dates, and opted to leave some vacant positions unfilled for the upcoming year. These decisions are expected to impact 29 employees at the college. “Although the future remains uncertain and other interventions may be required,” stated Holland President Alexander MacDonald, “we are optimistic these changes will find us fully prepared for the start of the academic year.” Holland College (PEI)