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Editor’s Note, March-April 2020

In memory
So many lives lost

Some of you may have experienced the same sense of shock and bewilderment as I did on that fateful day in early January when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot out of the sky just outside Tehran en route to Kyiv, killing all on board. By late morning Ottawa time – about 12 hours after the crash – names of victims were beginning to pour in via social media and news reports. A surprising number of the deceased had direct connections to Canada’s universities as students, faculty members, researchers or their spouses.

As writer Christina Frangou reports in our Nota Bene section, many of the passengers, either Iranians or Iranian-Canadians, were returning to their studies in Canada after the holidays, partly explaining why universities were so heavily impacted. It is a tremendous loss of talent and potential, but it is so much more than that. What particularly affected me were the personal stories: the several newlywed couples who lost their lives, all smiles in their social media posts prior the tragedy, or the husband who not only lost his wife but his two daughters, his immediate family simply gone. The entire University Affairs staff sympathize with all those who are grieving lost family members, friends and loved ones.

But even as we continue to mourn this great loss, there are developments in the higher-education sector that are worth celebrating: our cover story highlights the various efforts by Canada’s faculties of medicine to adjust their admissions processes to attract and accommodate students from less-privileged backgrounds. These initiatives are well overdue and, in many ways, are a response to the problems expertly outlined by writer Marsha Barber back in November 2016 in our feature, “How the medical school admissions process is skewed,” which remains a popular read on our website.

Rounding out the issue, we have a fascinating look at Canada’s agriculture faculties, which have quietly become “among the most exciting hubs of interdisciplinary collaboration on Canadian campuses,” according to writer Matthew Halliday; and a sort of insider’s look by Erika Thorkelson at the field of Canadian literature studies following a period of upheaval in the last decade that has been described as the “CanLit dumpster fire.”

Léo Charbonneau