Top Ten

January 7, 2022

UWaterloo Water Institute, BlackBerry partner on water-related research challenge

The University of Waterloo’s Water Institute and BlackBerry Limited have partnered on a research challenge that will see professors and students applying BlackBerry technologies to address challenges related to water. The challenges will focus on topics such as water system cybersecurity, water emergencies, and IoT water management solutions, with research expected to advance water-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “The Water Institute at the University of Waterloo is thrilled to be partnering with BlackBerry to catalyze technological innovation to advance progress against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Water Institute Executive Director Roy Brouwer. “The Water Innovation Challenge will connect our researchers to BlackBerry technologies in new ways to address the most urgent global challenges of today.” BlackBerry (ON)

Professor who questioned BLM movement, criticized Indigenous policy at MRU fired

CBC reports that Frances Widdowson, a former associate professor at Mount Royal University who gained notoriety in 2020 for comments regarding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and residential schools, was fired in December. In a statement, MRU emphasized that it fosters free speech and diverse viewpoints, but that academic freedom “does not justify harassment or discrimination.” CBC reports that the case will be going to arbitration in about a year, and CTV News reports that Widdowson intends to appeal the decision through her union. CBC | CTV News | Calgary Sun (AB)

Universities must play a pivotal role in the recovery of the Canadian economy: Gertler

When campuses begin to come back to life and in-person activity ramps up again, writes University of Toronto President Meric Gertler in a recent editorial, Canada’s universities will need to consider the role they will play in the country’s recovery. Reflecting on the interpersonal and community losses felt both at institutional campuses and across society more generally, Gertler highlights three key responsibilities for universities. He recommends ensuring that campuses are places that accommodate and enable discussions about difficult issues; foster diverse excellence in all forms; and provide equal access to education and opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. “As we continue our return to campus, let’s focus on breaking down barriers to access, educating citizens, fostering debate, and engaging difference,” said Gertler. “In doing so, we will demonstrate to society how to do these things well, and why it matters.” University Affairs (Editorial)

OUA, student athletes express frustration as restrictions prevent training, competition

The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and student athletes in Ontario have expressed their frustration with the new provincial COVID-19 restrictions, which prevent student athletes from using indoor athletic facilities for their training and competitions. The OUA and the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association were excluded from the elite amateur groups that were given an exception and permitted to play indoors. OUA issued a statement arguing that student athletes should be considered elite given their proven athletic ability at provincial level meets and experiences competing in the Olympic Games. “It is the right of all of these past, present, and future OUA student-athletes to be given the recognition and the respect they deserve,” reads a release from OUA. OUA | Global News | CKPGToday (ON)

YTC Indigenous Social Work Diploma program gains full ACSW accreditation

Yellowhead Tribal College has announced that its Indigenous Social Work Diploma (ISWD) program has received full accreditation from the Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW). The ISWD program underwent a rigorous self-evaluation as well as an independent peer review, and demonstrated compliance with ACSW’s accreditation standards. “This achievement is evidence of the hard work and sacrifice of past and present program leaders, staff, and students over many years – as well as their outstanding competence, and commitment to excellence,” said Yellowhead Tribal Council CEO Laverne Arcand. “It opens doors of opportunity for our students and graduates; and enables us to serve our peoples more and more effectively.” YTC | Release (AB)

Using AI chatbots in education: Opinion

Postsecondary institutions can use ethically-designed AI-powered chatbots to support a quality education for their students, write Nadia Naffi (Université Laval), Ann-Louise Davidson (Concordia University), Auxane Boch (Technical University of Munich), Bruno Kesangana Nandaba (ULaval), and Mehdi Rougui (ULaval). The authors argue that chatbots can provide instant, high-quality guidance at a time when staff are facing overwhelming demands on their time and energy. The authors discuss the necessity of having chatbots that are secure, ethically created, able to understand a variety of questions, and designed to pass people on to a real human operator if necessary. “The university of the future as anticipated by many scholars and policy makers has already started,” write the authors. “Technology, if used ethically and strategically, can support faculty in their mission to prepare their students for the needs of our society and the future of work.” The Conversation (Editorial)

NS universities keep residences open for international students

Several universities in Nova Scotia are keeping at least one of their student residences open for international students as residences across the province close in the face of rising COVID-19 case numbers. Dalhousie University, which has closed its residences until the end of January, made an exception for international students who needed to come back earlier. Acadia University has kept residences open for its large number of international students in an effort to limit disruption to their studies. “Over 50 per cent of our students who are out of province are international, so we wanted to make sure that their travel plans would not be disrupted,” said Acadia President Peter Ricketts. CBC (NS)

ON institutions launch, reopen COVID-19 vaccination clinics

Postsecondary institutions in Ontario are launching or reopening COVID-19 vaccination clinics on their campuses to help people in their communities get their first, second, or booster doses. At the University of Guelph, a vaccination clinic held on January 4th and 5th provided drop-in service for those seeking first or second doses and scheduled booster dose services. Seneca College reopened a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on its Newnham campus and will be providing the vaccine for those 30 and up. Brock University has scheduled vaccination clinics from January 6th to 10th to help students get their booster dose to support a safe return to campus. UoGuelph | | Brock (ON)

AVC adjusts overnight emergency vet services due to staffing challenges

Due to emergency service staffing shortages, the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) Small Animal Emergency Service has had to alter its overnight coverage for veterinary clinics on Prince Edward Island. The clinic has faced a variety of challenges due to the pandemic, including an increase in the number of pets needing care, increased travel restrictions for vets and staff who normally would come from out-of-province, and greater personal responsibilities for staff outside of the clinic. These coverage changes will not impact clients and pet owners whose primary veterinary clinic is AVC or who do not have a primary care veterinarian. The AVC will also remain open for specialty referral care after coverage hours and animals currently in AVC care will also have an attending veterinarian onsite during these hours. AVC hopes that the changes will be temporary. ​UPEI | CBC (PE)

Fostering collaboration with colleagues: Opinion

New professors and graduate students should seek out collaborative research opportunities to advance their careers and lead to scientific breakthroughs, writes Rae Robertson-Anderson. Robertson-Anderson argues that collaboration can be fostered in a variety of ways, including networking with colleagues, being open to new research ideas and directions, and reaching out to leaders in your discipline for advice. The author suggests taking advantage of video conferencing software like Zoom to facilitate collaboration, taking part in conferences whenever possible, and ensuring that work is published and presented to raise awareness of it. “Now, more than ever, to recover from the wounds of the pandemic, you should seek out collaborations to reinvigorate your research, advance knowledge and reconnect,” writes Robertson-Anderson. Inside Higher Ed (Editorial)