Canadian University Press briefs

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Student death shocks Acadia University campus
Vanessa Allant
Athenaeum (Acadia University)

WOLFVILLE, N.S. (CUP) — A 19-year-old student from Alberta has died after being found unconscious in a residence at Acadia University, just outside of Halifax.

On Sept. 6, Acadia students were sent an email that released few details about the incident, stating campus security had responded to a 911 call that same morning and a student had been hospitalized and remained in critical condition.

It was then announced to the university on Sept. 8 that the 19-year-old student from Alberta had passed away at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. The student’s family has asked that no details of the event, including the student’s name, be released.

CBC has connected the student’s death to a drinking game which witnesses claimed was taking place that same evening, but the cause of death officially remains unknown.

Wolfville RCMP officers are investigating the events that led up to the incident, though it was announced that the proper response procedures were followed by both residence and security staff.

B.C. university presidents unite to improve financial aid for students
Kendra Wong
The Peak (Simon Fraser University)

BURNABY, B.C. (CUP) — In an attempt to increase the financial assistance available to post-secondary students, B.C. university administrations called upon the provincial government Sept. 8 to bring student loan interest rates in line with other provinces.

Four presidents from the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia, including Andrew Petter of Simon Fraser University, Stephen Toope of the University of British Columbia, David Turpin of the University of Victoria and George Iwama of the University of Northern British Columbia, raised concerns about the province’s skyrocketing interest rates on student loans.

Currently, B.C.’s interest rates sit at 2.5 per cent above prime – effectively the highest in Canada. Collectively, the four universities spend approximately $120 million in financial aid a year for students, which they claim is not enough.

The presidents argue that interest rates may force students to think twice before attending post-secondary institutions and providing attractive financial assistance is necessary if B.C. is planning on reaching out to under-represented groups.

The presidents also drew attention to the work of other provincial governments such as Newfoundland and Labrador, which eliminated interest rates on student loans in 2009.

The universities have since submitted recommendations to the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, which is in the process of a review.

PhD legal battle comes to a close
Leif Larsen
The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)

WINNIPEG (CUP) — A case that saw the University of Manitoba embroiled in a highly publicized legal battle with one of its professors for close to a year came to a conclusion in late August.

On Aug. 24, more than eight months after reserving her decision, Justice Deborah McCawley ruled that U of M math professor, Gabor Lukacs, lacked “public- and private-interest standing” and supported the university’s application to strike his application for judicial review of the decision to award a PhD to a student who did not pass a comprehensive exam requirement.

The student’s name cannot be revealed due to a publication ban. In an interview with the Manitoban, Lukacs said he disagreed with the judge’s ruling, but would not criticize it in the “court of public opinion.”

“If I do criticize her decision, it will be in the court of appeal,” he said.

Lukacs had taken the university and its dean of graduate studies, Jay Doering, to court last fall following the university’s decision to award the PhD degree to the student in question.

When asked to address his reasoning for disputing the university’s decision, considering he was not professionally linked to the student, Lukacs explained he was worried about the harm awarding this PhD would have on the reputation of the University of Manitoba and what stigmas might be attached to a graduate’s credentials in light of this case.

He went on to say that he wants “an employer seeing a degree from the University of Manitoba [to say]: ‘This is someone with a degree from a trustworthy institution, and the student who bears this certificate will surely be a quality expert in his or her field.’”

Universities flee Access Copyright
Tannara Yelland
CUP Prairies & Northern Bureau Chief

SASKATOON (CUP) — In the wake of a proposed fee increase, universities across Canada have opted to leave contracts with once-popular copyright licenser Access Copyright.

Many schools, including York University, the University of British Columbia and almost every school in the prairie region have abandoned their contracts with Access Copyright in favour of steering the waters of copyright legislation on their own.

Established in 1988, the organization offers post-secondary institutions, businesses, schools and other groups advance permission to copy a variety of works, including books, newspapers and journals. Access Copyright collects royalties when licences are sold to universities and other organizations, and subsequently pays the authors, creators and publishers of the works used.

The organization’s executive director, Maureen Cavan, said universities have misrepresented the shift in fees. Access Copyright has applied to the Copyright Board of Canada for a tariff, or required fee, of $45 per student.

“Universities are suggesting that [the proposed $45-per-student fee] is a fixed fee, and that it’s already been implemented,” she said. “This is not the case.”

While they have applied for a $45-per-student fee, Cavan said this was the upper end of what they could expect, and that Access Copyright is not actually anticipating the Copyright Board to compel universities to pay this much.

Ontario Conservatives seek to cut $30 million in international student funding
Lee Richardson
CUP Ontario Bureau Chief

TORONTO (CUP) — Funding for a program implemented to draw international PhD students to Ontario would be cut under a Progressive Conservative Ontario government, according to party leader Tim Hudak.

In a recent announcement, Hudak said money designated for the Trillium Scholarship fund would be diverted to middle-class Ontario families. The program, set up by Dalton McGuinty's government last year, would be closed after its first year ends in September 2012.

“It certainly doesn't send a good message to students who would be interested in coming to study in Ontario,” said Sandy Hudson, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. “There are opportunities around the world that are much better than the opportunities Ontario gives, in terms of financial assistance, and it sends a very strong message to students who'd be interested in coming to study in Ontario if that program is stopped in its first year.”

The Trillium program has been developed to give 75 international PhD students with high academic standards $40,000 a year, for four years, to study at Ontario universities. For the first four years of the program, the Ontario government is to invest$20 million, with another $10 million coming from the province's universities. The first batch of students to receive Trillium funding are beginning their studies in the approaching 2011–12 academic year.

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