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By: Sonia Leung

“Five colours to wear this fall!” “Biggest trend of the season!” These headlines (and their variations) make their way around the fashion magazine circuit year-round. Magazines and similar media are quick to prescribe a trend to track, a culture to associate yourself with, and rules to abide by.

There is nothing wrong with these trends or adhering to a culture of following fashion guidelines. After all, they only become widespread as more and more people appreciate the proposed aesthetic. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with pushing boundaries, testing the waters and seeing what works for you even if this may means you’re the only one swimming against the current. As much as I love seeing the analogous colours of autumn as fall trends make their way into the fashion zeitgeist, other colours need some love too.

If you are a utilitarian, kudos to your practicality! But if you are like me, clothing possesses a dual purpose — it is an outward expression of your inner reality. For me, attire is a mood ring of sorts, an in-a-nutshell approximation of the uniquely intricate properties that make you, you (or of the thoughts and emotions that morning when you got dressed up.)

If I wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy, I’m likely to be sporting a vibrant colour or bold print. On a dull uneventful day of hiding under readings and paperwork, I may be spotted with a more demure ensemble to reflect my state of hiding. When a day rolls around where I don’t feel as conversational as I usually do, I may wear a purple or black lipstick. If I find myself hankering to wear a colder-coloured lip gloss but still come off as inviting and approachable, I consciously smile more and adjust my body language to appear more open to counter the bold choice of makeup.

In a world where advertising is ubiquitous and there are constantly messages competing for your attention, we are conditioned to make split second judgments on what we see. Like it or not, this is the paradigm in which we live. We are required to form impressions quickly; we judge books by their covers. Of course, there are intellectually stimulating books with uninviting covers and vice versa. Covers aren’t always a fair preamble to the content lying thereafter, but in an ideal world, they would be.

Every action is a message. The absence of actions is also a message. Your attire and the way you carry yourself is a message and first impressions matter. Whether the messages you send are intentional or not, they are undeniably received by your peers. The way you present yourself may affect how others are primed to expect, think of, and interact with you.

Your appearance is not a testament of your character or personality just as covers are not a good measure of how fascinating a book is, but a book with a cover composed with care and intention would definitely invite more readers to read it.

Be bold, try a new colour, and redesign your cover.

The Ontario government has launched an online database providing centralized course-to-course information for post-secondary students looking to transfer credits.

The ONTransfer.ca website was announced in mid-January and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is in the early stages of developing the initiative’s functionality and offerings. Similar online transfer guides have been launched in previous years in British Columbia and Alberta.

“What we’re trying to put in place is a system-wide process that ultimately will involve all, hopefully, post-secondary institutions in Ontario,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

The new website will serve as an interactive guide, building on a static course-mapping initiative by the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer. ONCAT was established in 2011 among all 44 public post-secondary institutions in Ontario.

At this point, the University of Toronto, McMaster University, the University of Ottawa and Western University have not signed onto the ONTransfer initiative. Algonquin College, Cambrian College, Confederation College and St. Lawrence College are also not yet committed.

According to McMaster University’s provost, David Wilkinson, McMaster applied to join the database but a glitch along the way led to the university being excluded when the initiative was announced.

“We’re actually very interested in the credit transfer process. The best we can understand is there was a paperwork mix-up somewhere and the courses we accept for credit are not loaded on the database, so we’re in the process of fixing that,” Wilkinson said.

Siobhan Nelson, the University of Toronto’s vice-provost (academic), said the university will be “watching how the mobility and student success rolls out” before participating in the initiative.

“We want to see the concept tested before we go into it fully,” Nelson said. The University of Toronto is part of another credit transfer consortium established in 2011 among seven research-intensive universities in Ontario known as the ‘G7’.

“We looked at our records of where students are transferring into our programs and what courses they are taking credit for. That actually accounts for most of the credit transfer requests the U of T gets,” Nelson said. “Our key issue is we want to make sure we facilitate student success and credit transfer in equal measure.”

A separate consortium for engineering transfers is in the works, again linking the universities in the G7. The consortium would provide transfer pathways primarily among first- and second-year engineering courses.

The ONTransfer initiative, part of a $73.7 million investment by the Ontario government over five years, will unfold alongside the government’s push for greater differentiation among post-secondary institutions. As universities and colleges develop further in niche areas, they will also be expected to find commonalities in course offerings and provide more opportunities for student mobility. How that process will unfold remains to be seen.

“It’s a question that we [at McMaster] ask ourselves and we also engage the ministry on, because the ministry is pushing universities to be differentiated one from another in a number of ways,” Wilkinson said. “So the more we become differentiated, the more difficult it is to imagine a credit transfer system that treats courses that look similar at different universities as being ‘equivalent’ in both content and quality.”

One major challenge in determining course equivalencies is tracking what happens when courses at different universities change year to year.

“When you think about this over time, maintaining the currency of that database is an issue. I think for that reason this will develop perhaps more slowly than you might otherwise imagine, because we do need to make sure that when we accept an equivalence of a course it’s actually the same course that we evaluated,” Wilkinson said.

The ministry estimates that about 21,500 post-secondary students transfer between Ontario post-secondary institutions annually, and that transfer pathways have doubled to 600 over the past two years. By 2015, the ministry intends to “implement a well-established, province-wide credit transfer system” that would “expand and improve” post-secondary transfer pathways.

Lindsay Purchase
The Cord

WATERLOO (CUP) — Ontario’s universities will soon be competing for more than just students — they’ll be fighting for more space to put them. In December, the province released its Major Capacity Expansion Policy Framework, which provides guidelines for interested universities to put forth proposals for satellite campuses.

“We made a commitment to engage in capacity expansion to meet the needs of future growth in our system and a number of institutions … have expressed interest in putting project proposals together. And there was a need to provide them with a level of stability and certainty going forward in determining timing,” said training, colleges and universities minister Brad Duguid.

Duguid said that a call for proposals will likely go out in early 2014. The policy document outlines a number of characteristics it is looking for from applicants. This includes the ability for a new campus to accommodate growth of 5,000 to 10,000 students over the next twenty years, provide additional facilities of at least 70,000 square feet and address geographic gaps in capacity.

“So we want to make sure these expansions take place in the areas where growth is taking place in the province and where there’s the greatest need for students in the province for post-secondary institutions,” Duguid continued. “And we also want to make sure that the growth occurs in a way that’s reflective of our principles regarding differentiation, that it meets the needs of our students and our economy.”

Differentiation, he explained, does not necessarily mean that a university must offer something different, but must fill a gap. Cost-effectiveness and benefit to the local economy were also highlighted as advantages. Dugid said that while universities appear to be the focus of growth needs, colleges could also put forth proposals. He also noted that the main purpose is to accommodate growth, so funding expansions on current campuses is a possibility.

“These ultimately have potential to be substantial expansions, but if there are projects on existing campuses that accommodate this, that would be open for consideration within the competitive process as well,” he said.

A number of post-secondary institutions have expressed interest in campus expansions and have been waiting for more direction from the Ontario government. Laurentian University, in Sudbury, is one, hoping to expand into Barrie. Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo is another university whose administration has been pushing for a satellite campus, which it recently outlined in a draft Strategic Mandate Agreement submitted to the province in accordance with its new differentiation policy.

“We were pleased that the guidelines were released,” commented Brian Rosborough, senior executive officer for the WLU Brantford campus. “We were anxious to see what the government’s process would be for applying for new campuses.”

Rosborough said he believes a Milton campus would align well with the government’s stipulations, as there is no university in the Halton Region, of which Milton is a part, and it is undergoing substantial population growth.

“The fact that we based our proposal on sort of good public policy ideas around growth and addressing the infrastructure gap that exists there, I think our chances are pretty good,” he said.

Rosborough added that the presence of a university campus would also help Milton transition to a more knowledge-based industry. While a specific timeline has not been announced for proposals to be examined and construction would certainly be a ways off, Duguid assured that the turnaround would be quick.

“We wanted to make sure that those institutions that were considering projects had an idea ahead of time so they can start preparing and the institutions are aware that—we don’t have a date yet—sometime in 2014 we expect to put out a request for proposals,” he said. “We look forward to seeing what comes about.”

In a leaked framework proposal, the province expressed an urgent need for universities and colleges to further specialize in niche areas. The Ontario government sent the draft to administrators, seeking clarification on strategic enrolment plans and feedback on metrics tied to funding.

The leaked document, entitled “Ontario’s Proposed Differentiation Policy Framework: Draft Discussion Paper” and marked confidential, comes on the heels of expected changes to the post-secondary sector by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

The document stresses the need “to protect the gains of the last 10 years” in the face of current fiscal challenges.

The Ministry stated that it “has opted for differentiation as a primary policy driver for the system” and outlined eight components under which institutions can be evaluated. The components range from teaching and learning to innovation and economic development.

The government also proposed evaluation metrics to be used in funding considerations, based on discussions with various stakeholders since 2012. Some metrics include teaching-only faculty, student employment outcomes, employer satisfaction, research productivity and distribution of credentials.

Already, the proposed framework is raising questions about institutional autonomy and student impact, particularly for those living in northern and rural areas.

On Sept. 24, OPSEU, a union which represents more than 8,000 college faculty, requested that joint task forces be set up “to both mitigate the negative impact of any changes on faculty, but also to achieve the changes to the objectives.”

Since roundtable discussions began last year, CFS-Ontario and OCUFA have expressed concerns about differentiation being a cost-saving measure. OUSA has cautioned that teaching and research should not be separated in the differentiation process.

In response to recent concerns, TCU minister Brad Duguid said, “We [the province] will not be micromanaging but we do have a stewardship role.” He said the province would “use funding mechanisms to drive change in the system.”

“If there’s a world-class institution doing something in one area and another institution down the road wants to get in on it, that doesn’t really make sense,” he said.

Duguid also emphasized the importance of “building a culture of innovation and entrepreneurialism.”

“Some of our institutions are doing a tremendous job [of doing that]. We need to encourage that because it’s going to benefit graduates in any field.”

For McMaster University, a large-sized school with approximately 24,000 full-time students, one challenge will be to reconcile high research intensity with a student-centred approach - two facets that have been identified as equally important in the University’s 2011 “Forward With Integrity” mandate. With greater differentiation, it remains to be seen how the university will effectively balance the two priorities.

McMaster’s provost, David Wilkinson, said the proposed framework is not surprising but it is unclear how the province will move forward in terms of funding.

“It’s too early to tell what the impacts [of the framework] might be,” Wilkinson said. “It’s certainly a competitive process and it does force us to demonstrate to the ministry how we can be more effective than other universities. It will also provide certain avenues for collaboration.”

Like other Ontario universities, McMaster is already differentiated to an extent—for example, the University is well known for its school of medicine and flagship interdisciplinary programs.

Laurentian University, a smaller institution in Sudbury with a total of 9,700 students, has also been setting itself apart from other institutions. Laurentian released its strategic plan in 2012, outlining the University’s distinctive programs, including mining engineering, sports psychology and applied geophysics.

Laurentian president Dominic Giroux said the university has looked to expand programs that aren’t readily available elsewhere.

“When I first came in [Apr. 2009], the strategic plan was 16 pages and had 102 priorities – I wanted the board of governors to submit to us a report of no more than five pages to identify a limited number of signature programs in research excellence. It took us about 10 months. What came out loud and clear at the initial stage was the need to focus, focus, focus,” Giroux said.

“Differentiation shouldn’t lead to program expansions or closures - it’s an issue of where more space should be allocated,” Giroux said.

By Oct. 11, administrators are expected to respond to the government’s proposed framework. The government stated it would provide a finalized framework by late October.

While various groups have been consulted since 2012, the government will negotiate only with institutions about metrics and funding. Universities’ strategic mandate agreements will be under negotiation until spring 2014.

Ask. Then ask again – this time through a months-long and thousands-strong public protest. And, eventually, you will receive.

Student activist groups in Quebec are tentatively celebrating victory. The newly elected Parti Québécois minority government has promised to cancel the tuition hikes initially proposed by the previous Liberal government.

What have we learned here in Ontario? Apparently, not much.

Here’s the state of post-secondary education in our province. Our schools have the highest tuition in Canada. They also have the lowest level of provincial support. And in my time here, I’ve never seen a McMaster University budget that wasn’t prefaced by a desperate call for more funding.

So schools take on more and more students, both because provincial funding depends on it and to boost tuition revenues.

But there’s nowhere to put the extra students. It’s no secret that McMaster, like other universities in the area, is well over capacity. Its class sizes are too large, its residences are stuffed and its common spaces are crowded.

And for that less valuable education, students are paying more every year.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s anything natural about the gradual fee hikes. They aren’t about inflation. A report released on Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says tuition across the country has increased at three times the rate of inflation since 1990. In Ontario, where it’s highest, the report says that undergraduate tuition will increase from its current level of $7,513 to $9,231 four years from now.

It’s a vicious cycle. More students means more need for funds. More need for funds means more spaces for new students, all paying higher fees than the students before them.

University administrators will tell you this is a problem. They know campus is crowded. They know that young people don’t get much value from sitting through lectures with hundreds of others. They know high fees mean more difficult or more burdensome access to education.

But the province – and its universities along with it – has committed to the recommendations of the Drummond Report, which was released in February. The Report supported continued enrolment growth. It recommended tuition increases – not ones low enough to match inflation, but not ones high enough to match the growth of the student population, either.

It also continued the push for more differentiation of Ontario universities, which would make some universities teaching-focused schools and others research-oriented in order to enhance the student experience. But, for good or bad, McMaster’s president Patrick Deane wants nothing to do with it. He believes that teaching and research should go hand-in-hand.

In other words, the University isn’t going to solve this problem. The province isn’t going to solve this problem.

Students need to solve it. Can we get together and make it happen? Can we make change like they did in Quebec?

Well, how about our record of direct democracy here at Mac? At last year’s students union General Assembly, we just barely got the three per cent needed to reach quorum. We ran to one side of the room of the other, and, ultimately, every first year ended up paying for a Welcome Week they probably could have gotten through the old, opt-in MacPass system. That’s our direct democracy.

But people didn’t even show up because they cared about Welcome Week. It was participation for the sake of participation. The 601 campaign to get people out was a great marketing strategy. But imagine if Quebec students’ primary objective was to gather in huge numbers first – only to collectively decide later that their reason for being there was to be angry about tuition.

Understand, too, that student groups in Quebec were holding meetings similar to our general assembly every week.

It’s not that we’re incapable of getting together for a good cause. We raised $116,000 for Shinerama this year. At least for a week, hundreds of students gladly made a concern for cystic fibrosis part of their identity. And how many of them felt personally affected by the disorder?

So what’s it going to take for us to care about the state of post-secondary schooling?

The official charity of Welcome Week 2013: our education?

Sam Colbert

Managing Editor

When talk of “differentiation” – the plan to specialize Ontario universities in specific disciplines and in one of either teaching or research – emerged last year from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), McMaster’s president Patrick Deane responded in opposition.

He held an open forum, which was attended primarily by faculty members, to discuss the matter. The sentiment in the room was consistent: McMaster would resist these pressures to specialize by remaining a diverse and well-rounded institution, strong in both teaching and research.

Last week, Deane held a similar forum to discuss his recent letter addressed to the McMaster community, Forward with Integrity, which outlined his vision for the future of the University. Though the letter emphasized McMaster’s intention to avoid “a division between teaching and research that runs counter to the principle of institutional integrity,” any mention of “differentiation” or reference to HEQCO was absent.

“If we are too conscious of responding to each of these currents, we are not being ourselves,” he said at the Oct. 20 discussion of work being done by HEQCO. McMaster has to think of itself outside of these contexts, he said, to be able to properly and effectively define its vision.

He did add, though, that the school “will not go that route” of being either a research-oriented or teaching-focused university, and that McMaster “has a historical right to that niche” compared to other schools.

On Nov. 2, the McGill-Queen’s University Press is set to release a sequel to its 2009 publication Academic Transformation: The Forces Reshaping Higher Education in Ontario, which originally outlined differentiation in the province.

The new book, written by University of Toronto professor Ian Clark, as well as David Trick, president of  higher education consultant company David Trick and Associates, and Richard Van Loon, former president of Carleton University, will be entitled Academic Reform.

The book will call for post-secondary funding in Ontario to be earmarked either for teaching or research, effectively enabling the provincial government to designate some schools as research-intensive and others as being strong in teaching. The authors argue from the perspective of students, who are often stuck with instructors that may be leading researchers in their respective fields, but are not effective teachers.

Ontario students can have the best experience possible in teaching schools, they say, while research schools can maintain the reputation of the province’s university system internationally.

From Deane’s perspective, teaching and research go hand-in-hand. In his letter, he stated that McMaster will “as an institution escape the not uncommon yet destructive tendency to see and experience excellence in research and in undergraduate education as antithetical aims.”

At the forum, which was attended by about 200 people, most of whom were faculty and administrators, Deane expressed his general dissatisfaction with the way Ontario schools are funded. “We’re still not confident that we can do what we want to do with the resources that we have,” he said.

He discussed the “circles of imprisonment,” enforced by both funding restrictions and pressures to specialize, that prevent McMaster from fulfilling its vision of high-quality education, calling for a reworked funding formula from the provincial government.

An Oct. 10 editorial in the Globe and Mail explained that the problem isn’t with the amount of money taxpayers are giving to post-secondary education, but with the way it’s administered. “We are getting less for more,” it said. “Teaching is getting short shrift; more students are graduating, but not enough are leaving school with the skills they need for success in the real world.”

Deane acknowledged in the letter that allocation of resources will need to change, though he suggested that it support experiential, self-directed and interdisciplinary programs, in which teaching and research are linked. Emphasis on these types of learning, he said at the talk, will make for a “quintessentially McMaster experience.”

One attendee of the event noted that the goals of the last major visioning document for McMaster, a 2003 release from the office of former president Peter George called Refining Directions, were not strongly reflected in the budget that followed. Though some components of the more recent letter could mean more immediate change, Deane explained that, as a whole, the letter spells out a long-term project.

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