Eduvation Blog

Year of the Ox, Fireworks in Court

Good morning, and TGIF!

For those observing, today is the Lunar New Year (it’s not just for China anymore) – so welcome to the year of the Ox!

Today I’ve got new details about 2 of the most significant stories in the past year affecting CdnPSE: the SaskPolytech cyberattack, and Laurentian’s insolvency. I’ll also share some updates about COVID19 on campuses around the world, and disciplinary actions against students in Canada, the US and the UK.

But first, let’s taste some of the early New Year celebrations from higher ed institutions so far…


Lunar New Year

Quite a few CdnPSEs will be celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Ox today, if the early activity is anything to go by…

Dalhousie U reports that online meetups and small “bubble-based” celebrations will replace the usual larger celebrations of the lunar new year, particularly for international students in Nova Scotia. “Many students are so far from home, and this celebration brings a sense of home, a sense of belonging and support. It’s part of their roots and culture and pride of their culture.” In China, Lunar New Year is the most important day on the calendar, but it is also important in Vietnam, Malaysia and other Asian countries. Common ways to celebrate include fireworks, “new clothes and a fresh haircut… for good luck.”  Dal News

If firecrackers are a Chinese tradition to scare away the old year, all of us should be lighting them up to rid ourselves of 2020! (Somehow it’s fitting that the Year of the Rat brought the world a global plague.)

“We have to fire fireworks to get rid of the bad luck from the previous year and start fresh.”Austin Zhang, Student & Alumni Engagement Officer, Dalhousie U


Exploding Videos

This is the first year I’ve noticed so many Lunar New Year greeting videos appearing on higher ed channels – it doesn’t rival Christmas yet, but institutions with large numbers of international students have started pulling out the stops to celebrate in video, even in pandemic lockdown. As you might expect, I’m assembling a playlist of those I spot on YouTube, from uMelbourne to Cambrian College. (Sadly, those marked “safe for children” cannot be added to a playlist.)

Here are 6 early examples, in alphabetical order…



Boston U’s 1-min video includes the “top 5 things to know for ringing in the Lunar New Year,” such as it’s not just China, clean your house before the new year to sweep away bad luck, red is a lucky colour and red envelopes of money are usually given as a symbol of good luck, most people in Asia travel home at this time of year, and of course, in the Chinese Zodiac, this is the year of the Ox.


Cape Breton U released at least 4 Lunar New Year videos, including greetings from president David Dingwall, an explanation of the “Red Envelope Tradition,” shout-outs from students, and a “Virtual Fireworks celebration” over the CBU campus.

Centennial College shared a 5-min video of students, faculty and staff offering greetings in a variety of costumes and languages, colourful dragons, lanterns, and more – and greetings from partner schools around the world.


Dalhousie U shared a multilingual 4.5-min “shout-out” video of greetings from administrators, faculty and students, with pretty consistent audio and video quality.


Langara College published 7 videos yesterday as a virtual Lunar New Year celebration, including students talking about the holiday and how they celebrate it at home, greetings from the new BC minister of advanced ed Anne Kang, and greetings from president Lane Trotter. (Admittedly, Anne Kang made a similar video for Vancouver Community College too.)


Niagara College shared one of the first, and most ambitious, of this collection – a 26-minute-long virtual Lunar New Year celebration, hosted by Southeast Asia and East Asia regional managers Eric Jin and James Maur. “They share how the new year is celebrated around the world, and announce the winners of our Lunar New Year photo contest.”



Cyber Postscript

We can see now the full impact of a cyberattack on an institution: class cancellations for a week, workarounds for registration, and 3 months of systems disruption…


SaskPoly Cyber Recovery

You may recall from my roundup of cyberattacks last month (Cyber Cat and Mouse in the Matrix) that Saskatchewan Polytechnic was particularly hard hit by a malware phishing attack on Oct 30. (Happy Hallowe’en indeed.) Yesterday, SP held a media conference to let us know that after 3 months of diligent effort and long days, they finally have almost all of their systems back online (although some work remains, including online CE registration, onsite computer labs, and some bookstore and student awards functions). There is still no sign that any personal information was compromised. The police investigation is ongoing, so many details are still not public, but we know that a malicious email attachment was opened, and that SP did not pay any ransom. (It remains unclear whether one was demanded or not, but most PSE cyberattacks have been demanding steadily larger ransoms.)

Meanwhile in Colorado…

uColorado reports a “malicious cyberattack” on software from Accellion “likely” exposed >50,000 records of current and prospective students, employees, research projects and hospital patients at the Denver and Boulder campuses. UC systems were shut down Jan 25 and restored Jan 28. In all, about 300 Accellion customers were impacted.  US News



Fireworks in Court

And more details emerge about Laurentian’s insolvency…


Laurentian Must “Right-Size” by Apr 30

Lawyers for Laurentian U argued in court Wednesday that it is essential that the institution have the power to “right-size” programs and faculty, for the university to survive. “Nothing else matters if they can’t do that.” (342 courses have <10 students, of which 162 have <5, and the student:teacher ratio is 20:1.) Lawyers argued that the “hard decisions” must be made by Apr 30, so that students can enroll for September. The lawyer for the faculty association argues that the university is trying “to gut the collective agreement,” getting concessions in court that it couldn’t get at the bargaining table.  CTV


Correspondence with MCU Sealed

Charlie Sinclair, counsel for the Laurentian U Faculty Association, is concerned the CCAA allows the university to terminate employees as it restructures, and argues that tenure should protect many of the 335 full-time faculty members. LUFA has asked the court to unseal correspondence between university president Robert Haché and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. They also argue the province has a “moral responsibility” because Laurentian is a public institution, even though it operates independently and is self-governing.  Timmins Press

“What we have here is the parent is gone and a laser focus is on one of our member associations as the villain.”James Harnum, Counsel for OCUFA


$11M in Research Money Gone

Laurentian U “spent millions of dollars in research grants to keep the lights on” because it deposited almost all funds into a single operating account. As a result, dozens of faculty researchers, grad students and lab staff are in limbo because their dedicated research funds are gone. The tri-councils are listed in the CCAA filing as creditors: NSERC is owed $4.6M, SSHRC $1.6M, and CFREF $5.2M. Researchers now must obtain approval for routine expenditures like couriers or pipettes, which must be “critical to the delivery of Laurentian’s operations.”  Globe & Mail


Students are Owed Money

Sessional Laurentian philosophy prof Christopher Duncanson-Hales claims that students should be involved in the CCAA proceedings as creditors, since “the money to pay research assistants is gone” and students on OSAP “are being told they won’t get that money back until the insolvency is figured out.” While contract faculty are accustomed to uncertainty every summer, now full-time faculty are precarious too. “If you are in any of the Francophone programs, you know you are low enrolment and could be on the chopping block.” He predicts Laurentian will be forced to focus on engineering, and will gut humanities and the social sciences.  Sudbury Star

“Humanities and social sciences will get gutted in this process. It’s basically doing what, I think, the government wanted to do in the first place, which is get rid of the soft programs and just focus on the sciences.”Christopher Duncanson-Hales, sessional philosophy prof, Laurentian U



Bad Behaviour

Public health precautions have proven difficult to enforce on most campuses, where students living in residence feel an incredible pull to socialize with each other…


$33K in Fines at Guelph

uGuelph’s campus outbreak is almost entirely resolved, but campus police have issued $33,080 in fines since Jan 21. Initially UofG police were issuing $120 fines under the school’s own policy, but on Jan 25 started laying $880 fines under the Reopening Ontario Act. Evictions could still be pending.  Global


Students Flee out Windows

In privately-managed student apartments near Lancaster U (UK), police broke up a large party around 1:30am last weekend. Roughly 70 young people were gathered in the flats, and many climbed out of windows to evade police. Ultimately 38 were fined, most Ł800. LU says breaches of their COVID19 regulations can result in fines of Ł300 or even expulsion.  The Independent


354 Face Discipline at UMA

354 uMass Amherst students could face disciplinary action for disregarding COVID19 protocols, ranging from reprimands to suspension or eviction. UMA has cancelled in-person classes after a major outbreak of almost 423 cases this month.  NBC



COVID on Campus

There are thousands of COVID19 cases on US college campuses, but some reflect a major, growing problem…


UK Variant on 6 US Campuses

The B.1.1.7 (UK) variant of COVID19 has now been identified at 6 universities across the 4 corners of the US, from the Midwest (uMichigan) and Northwest (uWashington) to the Southwest (UC Berkeley, UT Austin) and Southeast (Tulane U, uMiami). So far, ~1,000 cases of the variant have been identified across the US – 343 of them in Florida. (The US is sequencing just 0.36% of confirmed COVID19 cases, so much of the spread will go unnoticed.) uMichigan itself has reported 39 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, out of >1,000 cases of COVID19 since Jan 1.  Inside Higher Ed


New Haven Student Dies

A 22-year-old U New Haven cybersecurity senior, Joshua Goodart, died Feb 6 from complications due to COVID19. He became ill over winter break and had not returned to campus. His degree will be awarded posthumously.  UNH



Since yesterday, I have added 1 more COVID19 cases associated with CdnPSE. (Many cases go unreported, but see my master spreadsheet for a running tally.)

McMaster U reported a confirmed case on campus yesterday, involving an international student who tested positive Feb 4, while already quarantining in residence.  Mac



Across Canada, many are taking Monday as a holiday, although the name varies from Islander or Heritage Day (in PEI and NS) to Louis Riel Day (in MB) and the relatively prosaic Family Day (here in Ontario). So I’m going to take the opportunity myself, and will be back in your inbox on Tuesday morning.

Until then, be safe and stay well!


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