Category Archives: Higher education

A Festschrift piece in Comparative Literature for the New Century

I’m delighted to have a chapter in Giulia Gasperi’s and Joseph Pivato’s new book, Comparative Literature For The New Century, which has just been published by McGill-Queens University Press.

It’s a delight, too, have written that chapter as a Festschrift piece* honouring Pivato’s discipline-building career.

And—in the process—it’s both a delight and a privilege to be able to bring to this writing a payment of tribute—by way of opening epigraphs—to other important mentors in that critical institution called the #university:

* What’s a Festschrift? A peculiarly academical genre.

 

My brief on fair dealing & education for Canada’s copyright review

Here is a copy of the brief I submitted last month to the Government of Canada’s current review of the Copyright Act (a review mandated among the Act’s 2012 amendments). This brief focuses on fair dealing and education. (Click here for the direct link to its Scribd page.)

Other excellent submissions to the review include Meera Nair’s and the Dalhousie Faculty Association’s.

It’s Fair Dealing Week 2018

This week (Feb 26-Mar 2, 2018) is Fair Dealing Week, a national campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of users’ rights in copyright law that further education, creation, and innovation. (Said rights are a subject of the federal government’s current copyright legislation review.)
See Fair-Dealing.ca to find out more; and consider signing the CAUT’s petition to the federal government to preserve (and if anything strengthen) the users’ rights in Canada’s amended copyright law.

I’ve contributed a testimonial of my own to Fair-Dealing.ca’s collection of statements from Canadian creators and educators:

Without fair dealing, licensing fees to excerpt even single lines from extant published works, especially works of poetry or song lyrics, could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Creative writers and authors need fair dealing no less than educators do.

If you don’t want to hear it from me, take it from no less a bona fide luminary than the late great Northrop Frye:

Six things the public & the government need to know about fair dealing

Amidst ongoing efforts by copyright-maximizing lobbyists to mislead both the public and the government (which is now undertaking its 5-year review of the amended 2012 copyright act) about what fair dealing is, and what it means for Canadian culture, innovation, and education, here are six evidence-based points worth understanding about fair dealing.

  1. Over a decade’s worth of Supreme Court rulings have firmly and consistently enshrined fair dealing as a users’ right in copyright law.
  2. If Canadian publishers are hurting, it’s not because of fair dealing.
  3. In the name of authors, lobbyists against fair dealing antagonize and vilify educators — but many educators are authors themselves.
  4. Far from “pirating” protected works, educators actively promote authors’ interests, e.g. by ordering Canadian authors’ works in large quantities for schools and students to buy. (See p. 2, item 4 of CARL-ABRC’s Fair Dealing fact sheet.)
  5. Authors need fair dealing too, no less than educators do.
  6. Fair dealing augments and reinforces our Charter-guaranteed freedom of expression: any change to fair dealing (or to copyright more generally) must be understood as a change to free speech rights.

All these points are supported by case law and rigorous, evidence-based studies (by nationally recognized experts like Bita Amani, Carys Craig, Michael Geist, Ariel Katz, and Meera Nair, among others).

So next time you read that teachers are killing Canadian publishing, or stealing Canadian content, don’t believe the hype.

Link

Fair Dealing Myths & Facts, from the Canadian Association of Research Libraries

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries has published a helpful, concise briefing on fair dealing in Canadian copyright law.
Get the facts, not the all-too-pervasive myths.
Fair Dealing Myths & Facts (PDF format; updated November 2017).

A word of thanks for university support for Humanities research, on AU’s Employee Recognition Day

[I shared this short word of thanks on the occasion of receiving this year’s PARSE research award, at today’s annual Employee Recognition event at Athabasca U, in the town of Athabasca.]

Thanks so much to Athabasca University for the President’s Award for Research and Scholarly Excellence. Thanks especially to the judges of this award; the colleagues whom I consulted about applying to this award; and Athabasca University Press, for publishing my book, The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology. It’s been a long time coming: the project started over a decade ago, in 2006, and there are many reasons it’s taken so long to see print. I’m relieved to see that other studies of Frankenstein have taken as long. And I’ve made other workload choices (especially in service) year to year at AU. Maybe I’m making up for some of that time, but during this PARSE leave I’m now working on not one but three book projects. But enough about me.

The President’s Award for Research and Scholarly Excellence recognizes and supports several practices and values vital to preserving and building our research university. For one thing, the PARSE award supports Canadian scholarly book publishing at a time that sector is being squeezed by global competitors (not by copyright law, as some lobbyists claim). But for another thing, closer to home, the PARSE builds and diversifies AU’s research culture. AU support, like the PARSE, for research across all our disciplines is vital in a provincial context where we must compete for external funding and awards with two of Canada’s biggest universities (who shall remain nameless here).

As an internal support for disciplinary research, the PARSE also supports quality teaching, since research and teaching are mutually constituted in university work of excellence. In this way, the PARSE affirms and builds AU’s status as a comprehensive academic research university (or “CARI”) – a status that’s vital to our students. Students come to AU because they know we’re a real research university.

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from M. Terras et al, “The Humanities Matter!”, 2013, 4humanities.org/infographic. Click for full-size image.

And as both an AU award and a book-publishing award, the PARSE is especially appreciated by a Humanities scholar like me: in Humanities disciplines (like English, history, or philosophy), it’s books, not articles, that are the currency of the realm. And most if not all Humanities research is not applied, it’s pure or curiosity-driven (and sometimes, as a colleague reminds me, even fun-driven) research. The value of Humanities research isn’t well appreciated by the public because it’s not obviously useful. But usefulness is not the appropriate way to measure Humanities research. Humanities research may have no economic application; what it produces is critical knowledge, and that’s a vital, non-economic public good. At its best, Humanities research speaks truth to power, promotes engaged citizenship, and unsettles common sense, making the familiar strange and vice versa. Humanities research is, in a word, critical. And as Stuart Hall said, “the university is a critical institution or it is nothing.”

Thank you again for conferring on me the honour – and the responsibility – of this extraordinary award.

Dear students: please clearly name your assignment files

Just a tip for university students in this digital age: it’s always a good idea to name a file that you’re submitting as written work for a course with the following details:

  • your name;
  • the course number; and
  • the assignment name (or keyword).

For instance, instead of submitting an essay as a Word or PDF doc with the file name “Essay 1” try naming the file something like this: “McCutcheon-Essay1-ENGLXXX”.

There are two great reasons to clearly name your assignment files:

1. Doing so will endear you to your instructors — and improve your learning — because you will save them a significant bit of filing work, leaving more time for them to give you meaningful feedback. Put yourself in the instructor’s shoes: An instructor gets dozens, or, in some courses, even hundreds of written assignments from students. If they’re all files that are titled something like “Essay 1,” then the instructor has to open each one just to find out who submitted it. That time adds up, and it eats into the time they would rather spend giving you meaningful feedback, not doing filing and paperwork.

2. Doing so will also protect your claim to your own written work as your intellectual property. Sure, a file name can be easily changed. But no instructor would bother doing so — except maybe to indicate which student submitted it, what course it’s for, and what assignment it is. Putting your name, course number, and assignment keyword(s) in the file name establishes a virtual papertrail that identifies you as the author of a given piece of writing, and protects your investment and your interest, in case any assignments get lost in the inevitable shuffle. (Adding these details to file names also makes them much more easily searchable in computer drives and folders.)

I don’t know whether there are privacy policy implications of clearly naming files, but all universities have clear policies and rules for the secure storage, retention, and destruction of student records and information, which I believe should dispel the potential privacy concerns that might be raised in response to this suggestion. But on this, or on any other aspect of this “best practice” suggestion, I welcome your comments below.