What students are talking about today (December 14th edition)

Astronauts, McGill's budget cuts and UBC's animal research

Photo by shahk on Flickr

1. McGill University’s board of governors spoke out for the first time Thursday on the Parti Québécois government’s mandate to cut $20-million in spending by April, and the CBC reports their response is pretty clear: They’re not gonna take it. McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum told the CBC the cuts are “draconian, unpredictable, [and] ineffective.” Quebec’s universities are under order to cut $120-million in the next four months, but McGill is in a particular pickle: the university’s budget was set last spring, before the student protests against tuition hikes that consumed Montreal and led PQ leader Pauline Marois to announce a tuition freeze in September. McGill contends the cuts are impossible, and is board is asking the provincial government to revoke the cuts and honour its original commitment to the school’s budget.

2. The University of British Columbia released 2011 data on animals involved in its research today, reporting a total of 225,043 animal used in research in 2011, up from 211,604 in 2010. The university’s animal research wing has received negative attention in the past (particularly from a 2010 report from the Canadian Council on Animal Care), but The Province reports that university scientists defended their work at a media briefing before the data was released, pointing to medical advancements made as a result of animal testing. The 2011 report says the majority of the animals used in 2011 were rodents, reptiles, fish and amphibians. UBC’s vice-president of research told The Province sometimes there are no other alternatives: “Animal research is not going away at this time.”

3. An astronaut and an old man walk into a doctor’s office… Researchers at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Institute for Aging Research published a portion of their research paralleling cardiovascular health in astronauts and sedentary seniors, finding that astronauts exposed to zero gravity for long periods of time begin to develop the same muscle atrophy and decrease in blood flow seen in inactive seniors. The Waterloo Record reports that Richard Hughson, research chair in vascular aging and brain health, and a team of researchers are studying the stiffening of arteries and its impact on brain blood flow in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA. Hughson tells the Record that even short amounts of physical activity is beneficial for seniors’ health. Do you hear that, Space Cowboys?

4. There is still no sign of missing Mount Allison University student Christopher Metallic, and the CBC reports that his family is organizing their own search as specially trained dogs, including cadaver dogs, were brought in from Ottawa to aid police. Metallic, originally from Listuguj First Nation in Quebec, was last seen at a house party in Sackville on Nov. 25, but left without his shoes or cell phone. Metallic, 20, is described as being aboriginal, six feet tall, 180 pounds, with short dark hair and glasses.

5. Todd Pettigrew took a stand today against all the puppy rooms popping up at Canadian universities, but we’re going to say it one more time: puppies. The Victoria Times-Colonist features yet another cute canine being stroked by stressed students, but also touches on the serious increasing demand for services from students struggling with mental health issues. No surprise here – the demand spikes during exams in December and April. Take solace in the fact that the exam cloud has almost cleared. In the meantime, exercise, talk to friends, and don’t fall into a Netflix hole.

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