All Posts Tagged With: "University of Toronto"
Artificial turf to be revisited in 10 years
After debating all day, Toronto’s city council voted 31 to 12 against designating a natural grass field at the University of Toronto as a cultural heritage landscape. That means the installation of artificial turf will go ahead in July.
However, a small compromise was reached. There will be a formal assessment of the project in 10 years.
The decision to install the turf was made in 2012 after two years of debate at the University of Toronto’s Council of Athletics and Recreation (CAR).
The plan for an artificial field was mentioned as early as 2009 when the province put forward its bid for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, which require fake grass for field hockey and para soccer.
Poor marks for a new technology
Sometimes when I’m halfway through a pile of 40 essays, I get tired. At these moments, if I had a grading machine, I would probably be tempted to insert the remaining essays and watch them pop out all freshly marked.
However, after 20 years of grading university essays, I know this would be terribly misguided. I’m here to help my students learn how to thrive in university—and beyond. In order to do that, they need to have strong thinking, reading, and writing skills. Machine generated grades will not help them develop these skills. With this in mind, I pick up my pen and go back to providing the constructive human feedback that will help them.
Just to be clear, I am not some remote professor in an ivory tower above Lake Ontario. In fact, I am a non-tenured “gun-for-hire,” fighting hard in the trenches of the humanities. This past year alone I have taught 914 students in six classes in writing, literature, and film. I have graded hundreds of exercises and essays, some brilliant, some hard to understand. I have worked with 19 teaching assistants, generated over 20 evaluation rubrics, assigned 12 essays. Basically, I have been battling to keep my head up, to keep teaching as well as I am able, and to keep grading the many essays that come my way.
A grade 12 student’s five criteria for choosing a school
Every year since I was six years old, I’ve attended St. Francis Xavier University’s convocation ceremony in my hometown of Antigonish, N.S. I didn’t know the graduates and I wasn’t forced to go by my sentimental parents, who both work at the school. I went because I wanted to see the looks of triumph, happiness and success on the students’ faces as they crossed the stage.
I know my love of learning is not common among teenagers, but I am extra excited about university. For years I’ve read Maclean’s education issues and Guide to Canadian Universities, analyzing what schools best suit my personality and goals. Through five criteria, I’ve managed to create a shortlist. Here’s how I narrowed my search:
1. Program possibilities
I have a passion for curriculum design and education policy. Once I realized this passion, I decided to find a program where I could explore it to some degree. After long hours of soul-searching, I narrowed my major down to ethics, economics or educational psychology. This was by far the most difficult part of the process and it was only once this was done that institutions could be analyzed. I started searching for the best universities for those programs. The University of Toronto has a specialized first-year program in ethics, making it my current top choice. McGill University allows for a minor specifically in educational psychology, so I kept that on my shortlist too.
Timmins, Ont. source may be 2.7-billion-years-old
Deep underground within the Canadian Shield, scientists are probing for life — yes, life.
Their laboratory is found at the bottom of mine shafts in Timmins, Ont., where pockets of water trapped inside crystalline granite rock have existed for at least a billion years, and may be as ancient as the geology itself — 2.7 billion years old.
That chemical-rich water is seeping, at times even pouring, out of mine bore holes and naturally occurring fissures in the rock 2.4 kilometres below the surface. The water has been captured in what are known as “fractures” within the rocks.
And scientists are keen to find out what that water contains.
“These are the oldest waters that have ever been identified,” said Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a geoscientist at the University of Toronto who is part of a research team that will be looking for life forms in samples of water from the site.
“The Canadian Shield is some of the oldest rocks on Earth. These are billions of years old,” she said Wednesday. “And what we’ve shown is despite that, these fractures are still releasing water that are full of energy that could support life.
“We don’t know yet if there’s life in this, but what we’ve been able to show is it is habitable, meaning (having the) potential to support life because of the energy that’s there.”
Eight universities’ departments among top 50 worldwide
The QS World University Subject Rankings 2013 are out now. The London-based company’s report offers a rare peek at how our school’s history, engineering and law programs—30 subjects in all—are viewed internationally.
Unsurprisingly, the top three universities from the Medical Doctoral category of the Maclean’s University Rankings—the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and McGill University—are also the top Canadian schools on the list. Those three are top five in Canada in 29 of 30 subjects and top 50 worldwide in many.
The highest ranked Canadian subject is geography at the University of British Columbia, which is tenth globally. There are also several subjects in the top 15: environmental science at UBC along with medicine, philosophy, linguistics, mathematics, sociology, geography, education, English and history at University of Toronto.
Analyzing the many reports of sexual assaults on campus
I’ve covered student news for two years now. Time and again, I’ve seen headlines that looked like this one from yesterday’s Toronto Star: Police investigate alleged sex assault at York University.
It’s less common to see headlines referring to sexual assaults at other schools, so it’s easy to assume York has a worse sexual assault problem.
But this conclusion is probably wrong.
Student articles contain errors
A recent dust-up between Wikipedia and Canada’s largest university raises questions about how collaborative the popular website that bills itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” truly is.
The online information portal recently took a professor from the University of Toronto to task for one of his classroom assignments.
Steve Joordens urged the 1,900 students in his introductory psychology class to start adding content to relevant Wikipedia pages. The assignment was voluntary, and Joordens hoped the process would both enhance Wikipedia’s body of work on psychology while teaching students about the scientist’s responsibility to share knowledge.
But Joordens’s plan backfired when the relatively small contingent of volunteer editors that curate the website’s content began sounding alarm bells. They raised concerns about the sheer number of contributions pouring in from people who were not necessarily well-versed in the topic or adept at citing their research.
What students are talking about today (March 20th)
1. Students at the University of British Columbia celebrated cycling culture with electronic music and glow sticks at the UBC Bike Rave on Friday night. It was organized by student residence advisors and was funded by a community grant. Unlike the drug-fuelled all-night parties of the 1990s that inspired the bike rave, this one was, according to The Ubyssey, “good clean fun.”
2. A student writing in The Varsity at the University of Toronto reports that the stress seminar she attended is a sorry excuse for counseling. “I had hoped that this “Coping with Stress” workshop, run by U of T’s Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) would help me, but instead it left me frustrated and angry,” writes Amanda Greer. “After a hard first semester, I approached CAPS about meeting with a counsellor. I was told there was a four month waiting list and to start looking for other options.” She points out that despite much discussion about the mental wellness of Canadian students, including in a recent cover story in Maclean’s, students often can’t access the one-on-one counselling. It’s a shame, but I think the explanation is obvious: tight budgets.
3. Western University is mourning the loss of student Noah Kishinevsky, whose body was found in a parked car at a high rise in London, Ont. The cause of death has not been confirmed, “but a hazardous substance was found in Kishinevsky’s car,” reports The Gazette. Police told the student newspaper that there was “no foul play” and that they won’t release more details.
4. A commentary in The Griff student newspaper at MacEwan University defends Ohio University photography student Sara Lewcowicz, who witnessed a man beat his girlfriend and documented it with photos instead of intervening. The heartbreaking photos of Shane, 31, abusing Maggie, 19, were published in TIME. Rebecca Trites supports the young photojournalist, arguing that intervening can be dangerous and that the photo essay creates awareness of domestic violence.
5. Police arrested 45 people in Montreal who were demonstrating against tuition fee hikes on Tuesday, reports CBC. As usual, police immediately declared the demonstration illegal because organizers did not submit an itinerary in advance. Several of the protesters threw snowballs, and four were arrested for assaults on police, reports Radio-Canada. The hikes recently proposed in Quebec under its Parti Quebecois government are about $70 per year—much less than the $325 increase that was planned by former premier Jean Charest. Quebec students pay about $2,200 per year.
Emma Teitel on the Janice Fiamengo affair
Read more from Emma Teitel on Macleans.ca.
Nothing says free speech like pulling the fire alarm. It was a quarter past seven last night when police emptied U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre. Keynote speaker Dr. Janice Fiamengo, an English professor at the University of Ottawa, rolled her eyes and adjusted her blouse as the crowd poured out of the building and onto the sidewalk to mingle with the small throng of protesters—pretty girls with big placards and little patience. They wanted Dr. Fiamengo to take her message elsewhere. But firemen came and went, and the professor, once a radical feminist, proceeded to do what the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society, and the Canadian Association for Equality invited her to do: denounce women’s studies.
The discipline has devolved into an “intellectually incoherent and dishonest” one, she argued, replacing a “callow set of slogans for real thought.” It’s man-hating, anti-Western, and fundamentally illiberal. “It champions a “kind of masculinity that isn’t very masculine at all,” and shuts down freedom of debate, hence the fire alarm.
This message was quite pleasing to the minority in the room—greying baby boomers of the pro-Fiamengo, Men’s rights camp–and exceedingly distressing to the majority—by the looks of it, gender studies majors and people who would, if given the opportunity, personally execute Rob Ford. It looked like a small contingent of CARP wandered, bemused, into a Bon Iver concert.
Appearances aside though, it was a meeting of truly lunatic minds.
A few placards, a full house and a long line to speak
Janice Fiamengo, a professor who advocates for men’s rights, gave a lecture at the University of Toronto on Thursday evening entitled What’s wrong with Women’s Studies? Naturally, there were dozens of protesters, a few police, and a fire alarm set off, but free speech prevailed, her lecture was given and her opponents were able to challenge her afterward. Here’s what it looked like.
The fire alarm went off, but free speech prevailed
I was expecting the police officers, the provocative placards, and the rent-a-protesters with neon hair and black face coverings.
I was also expecting the fire alarm to go off—and it did—five minutes after Janice Fiamengo’s lecture started in the nearly full George Ignatieff Theatre at the University of Toronto on Thursday evening.
After all, the last time a person spoke against academic feminism on campus, when Warren Farrell visited in November, approximately 100 protesters barred the doors. They wouldn’t try that again, but I figured they’d try to shut things down, and fire alarms can be effective if, during the confusion, enough people give up and leave.
What I wasn’t expecting was a full house 20 minutes later, after the fire department gave the all clear, or that the controversial University of Ottawa professor would make it all the way through her lecture What’s wrong with women’s studies? without an angry mob attempting to shout her down.
Don’t misunderstand me. They denounced her lecture vigorously, but not until the question and answer period after she spoke. During the lecture, most people were respectfully silent.
The general non-violence of the evening—save for the childish fire alarm routine—is a sign of progress. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests. The academic’s voice remained strong. The University of Toronto’s Statement on Freedom of Speech and its Policy on the Disruption of Meetings, mentioned though not read by the moderator, served their purposes well.
So what exactly was so controversial? Few protesters ahead of the meeting could offer specific reasons, except that her talk was promoted by A Voice for Men, whose associates have said some hostile things to women. It’s true that Fiamengo dislikes most of today’s academic feminism, but I think the most offensive thing she said was that, when the Titanic sank, 75 per cent of women survived, but only 18 per cent of men did, because men are somehow naturally heroic.
The rest of the talk was a fairly common critique of feminism. She called it empty, incoherent and dishonest. She said its obsession with violence results in police charging men for assault, while absolving women. She denounced a family law system she says is biased against fathers. She said she is infuriated by “affirmative action where men are passed over time and time again.” She talked about the hypocrisy that women’s studies sees violence around every corner in Canada, but turns a blind eye to the deadly oppression of women and sexual minorities in the Islamic world. And so on.
She also praised a local Toronto feminist, Steph Guthrie, who was interviewed in Metro News about the upcoming talk. Guthrie told the paper that instead of trying to shut Fiamengo down like they did to Warren Farrell, Fiamengo’s detractors should go to the lecture, ask tough questions and debate.
And that’s what many of the would-be hecklers did. In order to stand up to that Q&A microphone and challenge her with dozens of balding men glaring and videotaping, they had to have at least listened to Fiamengo’s arguments well enough to come up with their own rebuttals. That left them scribbling down on notepads and keying into smartphones in eager anticipation while she spoke.
That’s not to say many minds were changed. Many asked questions that betrayed either their admiration or disgust for Fiamengo. In fact, some of them didn’t ask questions at all, and instead just ranted about personal grievances at the hands of those evil women or those evil men.
But there were interesting back-and-forths, including one between a self-identified McGill student who asked Fiamengo to explain why “only 25 per cent of parliament is female-identified.” (I wonder how she knows all 308 member of parliaments’ gender identities, but never mind.) “There’s a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of result,” Fiamengo replied.
Only one person really lost her temper, after making a thought-provoking query about the impact of Fiamengo’s assertion that “children need their fathers” on lesbian parents. Fiamengo responded by suggesting there’s research that children do better in two-parent households. She didn’t like the answer. “That’s heteronormative bullshit,” the woman screamed, before a dramatic exit.
I don’t know that Fiamengo made a sound academic case. What I do know is that she deserves respect for gathering evidence and calmly presenting it. She also offered advice all students should heed. “Educate yourselves so you can challenge [each other],” and, “do it will style, not hatred.”
She’s right on that. The freedom to debate unpopular ideas is something universities have a duty to protect. On Thursday night at the University of Toronto, that ideal was challenged but prevailed.
Why Meric Gertler and Suzanne Fortier matter
Between them, the University of Toronto and McGill University have 100,000 students, $596 million in total accumulated funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, one Charles Taylor and a perhaps disproportionate amount of the spotlight on higher education in Canada’s two largest provinces. They also have two new presidents: Meric Gertler at UofT and Suzanne Fortier at McGill. Together the two changes are probably more significant than most federal cabinet shuffles.
(This blog post will be lousy with Laurentian Consensus nostalgia; sorry. Perhaps only for today though, the less said about the University of Calgary, the better.)
In hiring close to home, both universities can be taken to be demonstrating either quiet confidence in the maturity of Canadian academe, or a chastened realization that in a time of limited resources, even the biggest schools are wise to stick to their knitting. Both schools instituted global searches and wound up bypassing candidates from afar in favour of local produce. Gertler was Toronto’s dean of Arts and Science. Fortier is president of the National Science and Engineering Research Council — indeed her start as principal of McGill will be delayed so she can cool off from that job for six months before taking a position with a major NSERC grant recipient — but her BSc and PhD were from McGill.
What students are talking about today (March 4th)
1. Harvard University has bagged billionaire superwoman Oprah Winfrey as its 362nd commencement speaker, according to The Crimson student newspaper. “Oprah’s journey from her grandmother’s Mississippi farm to becoming one of the world’s most admired women is one of the great American success stories,” university President Drew Faust wrote in a press release. That sure beats the speakers at my commencement from the University of Guelph, who included Pamela Wallin, a woman whose journey started in Saskatchewan and who went on to become host Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Canadian edition before racking up many frequent flyer points as an unelected Conservative senator.
2. Also at Harvard, a 24-hour campus library is considering a napping room for students who can’t quite pull all-nighters and would instead like to rest for a few hours between exams. The room would be accessible to students who present ID. Blankets and pillows would be provided, reports USA Today. I could see this working, so long as it’s not pitch black in there. That would just be creepy.
June Larkin earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
June Larkin, a lecturer in Women and Gender Studies and Equity Studies and vice-principal of New College at the University of Toronto, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10.
Before June Larkin ever attended a university class, she was engrossed in the intricacies of social justice as a primary-school teacher.
As a “mature student” balancing her undergraduate studies in psychology, feminist studies and education with her teaching job, she saw firsthand the interplay between gender and social equality on the playground as the children fought, played and formed peer groups. When she went on to do her PhD, she used her background as a teacher to write her doctorate about sexual harassment in high schools. “Working as a teacher was one of the things that attracted me to equity studies,” she says, “Now, as a professor, I have always tried to bridge theoretical concepts with practical, community-based application.”
Stephen A. Cook earns Herzberg Gold Medal
A Toronto researcher will receive the top prize today at a ceremony to honour Canada’s leaders in natural sciences and engineering research.
University of Toronto mathematician and computer scientist Stephen A. Cook will receive $1 million in research funding over the next five years.
He’ll also receive the Herzberg Gold Medal, the top honour from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
It says Cook has made key contributions to computational theory, algorithm design, programming languages and mathematical logic.
Brain chemicals to be scrutinized
Researchers at the University of Toronto say a new study on sleep patterns in seals could help explain what allows humans to get some shut-eye.
Researchers teamed up with biologists at UCLA and found that seals are able to both sleep and stay awake at the same time.
They say one half of a seal’s brain shuts down when they sleep in water while the other remains awake and on the lookout for possible danger.
The study authors say the findings may help guide research into the factors that control human sleep.
Studying a brain with both a sleeping and wakeful side can give scientists clues as to which chemicals are more heavily involved in the sleep cycle.
Early research suggests, for instance, that serotonin may play a less important role than scientists believed.
Universities aren’t doing much to help students plan careers
From the 2013 Student Issue on sale now.
Mike St. Jean is in his seventh year of political science at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. “I still don’t even know what I can do with my degree,” he says. “I can get a job in government or elections, but other than that, the transition seems hard to lay out. I read books and analyze them. What does that mean to the real world?”
It’s not as if it hit him suddenly. The question “What’s next?” is one of the reasons he dropped down to part-time studies in year four of his degree. Another reason was that he needed time for his part-time job and his work with the Argus student newspaper, where he’s now an editor.
Lakehead’s counsellors haven’t helped. He only visited them once, years ago, and was told to consider a master’s in English or an education degree. “I don’t know how many jobs there are for teachers,” he says. What he does know is that a friend who took education moved to England because she couldn’t find work here. A master’s didn’t strike him as a good plan, either; he’s seen multiple master’s graduates and one Ph.D. apply for low-wage jobs at the Subway where he works. Professors are encouraging, but they don’t offer career advice. His parents want to help, but “they think university is about curing cancer and rocket science,” he says. “They have no idea what I’m in.”
What students are talking about today (February 5th)
1. Canadian university and college students are abusing the prescription drug Adderall—a pill form of amphetamine that is prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder—to stay focused on schoolwork, reports CTV News, who have dubbed it “campus crack.” Researchers in the United States estimate that as many as 30 per cent of students there are abusing Adderall. As for Canada? “It has quite the presence around campus here, and I hear about it all the time,” one anonymous University of British Columbia student told CTV. Although I’m sure some quantity is available on Canadian campuses, I doubt that it’s as common as it is in America. One anonymous student does not make a “campus crack” trend.
2. Memorial University’s student union won’t allow a fraternity and a sorority to become official groups because they say the groups discriminate by gender. Maxwell Page, a director at large with MUNSU, told CBC News they “will not ratify any group that the council considers to be of homophobic, racist, ageist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory nature.” What makes this especially silly is that both the sorority, Nu Delta Mu, and the fraternity, Sigma Theta Pi, say they are open to anyone joining.
3. The University of Toronto is planning to build a $9.5-million field hockey pitch to be used in the 2015 Pan Am Games and that has caused controversy because it would require replacing real grass with artificial turf, reports the Toronto Star. The University College Council voted nearly unanimously last fall to to register “strong concerns.” Those who oppose artificial fields say real grass is a cooling surface that combats climate change, soaks up rainfall and isn’t made with certain chemicals. The turf is, however, a requirement of the International Field Hockey Federation.
4. The federal Liberals requested an emergency debate in the House of Commons Monday over the loss of an external hard drive containing the personal information of 583,000 Canada Student Loan borrowers. They wanted Human Resources Minister Diane Finley to answer questions including when the device was last seen and why the RCMP have been called, reports Canada.com. Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled that the request didn’t meet the requirements for emergency debate. Finley has ordered stricter data handling protocols for her department, including the collection and destruction of unapproved USB memory sticks. Credit monitoring firm Equifax is flagging affected accounts for students who contact them. A class action lawsuit has been filed.
5. The University of Prince Edward Island waited too long to close after a snowstorm Monday, say some students. Dianne Rogers went to school for a midterm. “One and a half pages into the exam, someone arrives at the door to say, ‘School’s closed, go home’,” she told CBC News. “I was thoroughly frustrated because the conditions weren’t safe for me to be out there in the first place.” Dozens of students took to Facebook angry at the university for waiting until about 8:20 a.m.. Nearby Holland College’s was closed around 7 a.m. Jackie Podger, a UPEI vice-president, told CBC staff were monitoring the weather and didn’t shut down until they felt conditions warranted it.
Research could help solve mystery of universe’s origin
Construction has begun on a new radio telescope in British Columbia’s south Okanagan that will act like a type of time machine and help astrophysicists travel back to better understand the composition of our expanding universe.
The $11-million project is being built at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory southwest of Penticton, B.C., and will use components from the cellphone industry to capture and turn radio waves emitted six to 11 billion years ago into a three-dimensional map.
It’s the first research telescope built in Canada in more than three decades and includes scientists from the observatory, the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Toronto.
“It’s almost like time travel,” said Kris Sigurdson, an astrophysicist from UBC and co-investigator on the project. “It’s looking back into the past and how the universe was at that time and it’s just amazing.”
Why a generation of well-educated Canadians has no future
Melanie Cullins is no pipe dreamer. She chose a vocation that, by unanimous opinion, represented a path to steady employment—teaching English as a second language to the thousands of immigrants pouring into B.C., a good many of whom, the experts predicted, would be making their way to Victoria, where she grew up and wished to make a home. That was back in the early 2000s, when opportunities for the young and industrious appeared unlimited. A rewarding career seemed within reach for all.
Cullins’s degree in applied linguistics was the gold standard of ESL qualifications. But she graduated in the thick of the 2008 financial meltdown, and the entry-level position she imagined would launch her career never materialized. Governments cut back on language transition programs. Resumés piled up in recruitment offices. Her calls to program directors went unanswered. “For me, that was a huge blow,” she says. “I had almost perfect performance reviews from my practicums, but I couldn’t even get an interview. You start to wonder: what’s wrong with me?”