News of the year: In Ontario

1. The recession

It defined 2008 and 2009, driving more students into post-secondary institutions as thousands of people sought to upgrade their qualifications due to the little work available.

University endowment funds tanked, student numbers soared and even high school students looking to attend university were guaranteed nothing in the face of an ageing laid-off workforce.

Many universities, including the University of Toronto, sought help from a struggling hospitality industry and bought hotels by the floor or the entire building to house new students.

The recession brought lessons and hard times, and Ontario’s post-secondary institutions gained and lost in equal amounts.

2. CFS exodus

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Canada’s largest national student lobby group, saw the departure of many members.

Petitions to hold a referendum on membership in the powerful organization were circulated on 12 campuses across Canada and votes were held on at least three.

The University of Calgary Graduate Students’ Association and the Concordia Students’ Unions both voted to leave the organization by the end of 2010, and as many as nine other referenda could go forward before 2010 is over.

Due to the demanding by-laws that govern defederating from the CFS and its provincial counterparts, many of the results are expected to be contested, and several students’ unions are expected to spend some time in court before the whole affair is settled.

3. Faculty strike vote

For two months, college students were kept on edge, wondering if they would have class or even be able to finish their semester.

From the initial strike vote, the grandstanding strike deadlines and last-minute negotiations, Ontario college students had plenty of reasons to be nervous outside of their academic lives this year.

By the time the final Feb. 11 deadline approached, some students were praying for a strike, if only so they could start planning their lives around something firm.

4. Ann Coulter

If you didn’t know who she was before her scheduled March 23 speech, you knew who she was afterward.

Whether she cancelled the speech herself as a publicity stunt, whether she was actually intimidated by the protestors who greeted her, or if the University of Ottawa chickened out at the last minute is now the subject of a human rights complaint that Coulter is filing with the help of none other than Ezra Levant, the Alberta-born right-wing pundit made famous for being the editor of one of the only media outlets in Canada that published the controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in 2005.

5. H1N1

While the pandemic raged across most of the world and long line-ups formed outside make-shift vaccination clinics in many parts of the province, schools explored innovative alternatives.

Determined to ensure the health of students and staff, initiatives such as online learning, web-chat office hours and a largely honour-driven sick policy that didn’t even require students to present a doctor’s note for missed exams were persued.

Whether it was a dry-run for Ontario’s newly-pronounced online university or just desperate times, post-secondary institutions rose to the challenges of H1N1.

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