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Daily Bulletin

University of Waterloo -- Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
December 20 Bulletin | Previous days | UWevents | UWinfo home page

Thursday, January 2, 1997

Dashing through the snow

Slipping through the slush, anyway, the people of the university are -- mostly -- back to work today. A few departments are closed today and tomorrow, reopening Monday with the first day of the term, including athletics, the bookstore, the research office, and financial services. Other departments say they're open but with only "a skeleton staff". (And did you realize that there's one UW unit that has a skeleton staff all year round? That would be the chiropractic clinic in Matthews Hall.)

The libraries are open again, plant operations is getting caught up on snow shovelling, and faculty members are -- one trusts -- frantically marking the last few December exams; marks are due at the registrar's office tomorrow. Food services is barely open today, with lunch and a caffeine fix available only at two places, Brubakers in the Student Life Centre and Tim Horton's in the Davis Centre.

If you're looking to register for the winter term today, you'll have to make use of drop boxes at the registrar's office (or the graduate office, if you're a grad student) in Needles Hall or at the turnkey desk in the Student Life Centre. In-person registration begins Monday: at the cashiers' office in NH for grad students, at the Physical Activities Complex for undergrads. Classes also begin Monday, of course.

No government cuts in 1997

There was moderately good news from Queen's Park on the afternoon of December 20 -- no reduction (but also no increase) in university grants in the coming year. (Calling a zero increase in grants "moderately good news" is some indication of what things have been like lately for the organizations supported by the government of Ontario.) Here's how the government worded its announcement:
Ontario Education and Training Minister John Snobelen today gave school boards, colleges and universities an opportunity to start planning next year's budgets by announcing that funding for 1997-98 transfer payments will not be reduced further.

Universities will receive approximately $1.5 billion and transfers to colleges will be $686 million. School boards will receive just under $3.9 billion for the coming fiscal year. The Minister said capital funding for schools will be announced in the new year.

"We've been busy doing our homework -- looking at how we can improve postsecondary education, how schools may best be governed, and how education should be financed," said Snobelen. "It's important that we take the time to make careful, informed decisions that will result in a high-quality education for all Ontario students."

"Today's announcement will give school boards additional time and a stable financial environment in which to prepare for reforms envisaged for 1998. Our goal is to make sure that tax dollars are focused on the classroom, where students will get the benefit," Snobelen added. "And we want to be sure that all students across the province get a solid education that gives them the knowledge and skills to compete and succeed in Ontario and around the globe."

On the postsecondary side, Snobelen said he would take time to study the recommendations of the Smith advisory panel on postsecondary education before making further changes. He also acknowledged Smith's recommendation to stabilize funding this year.

The president of the Council of Ontario Universities said she was "cautiously optimistic" after the announcement, but a zero increase -- no more cuts -- isn't all that good, said a statement hours later from Michael Piva, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations:
This "freeze" at the postsecondary level is clearly not sufficient. Only four days ago, the Advisory Panel on the Future Directions for Postsecondary Education issued its much anticipated report which documented the extensive underfunding of Ontario's universities.

We find it disconcerting that the Minister has not immediately addressed the primary recommendation which states that funding for the province's universities must be brought up to the national average. However OCUFA is encouraged that the Minister will carefully study the Advisory Panel's report. We only hope that the next funding announcement will address the serious underfunding of higher education.

The Advisory Panel's report "Excellence, Accessibility, Responsibility" warns that the "high quality of the postsecondary system cannot be sustained in the current financial environment. If the system is to meet Ontario's needs in the twenty-first century, Ontario must accept the principle that the total resources available to our colleges and universities must be similar to the total resources available to colleges and universities in other jurisdictions in North America."

Last year, the government cut funding for postsecondary education by $400 million. The government has neither reversed this trend nor made any effort to move funding to the national average. Next year's "freeze" on transfers does not take into account the cost of inflation. In real terms, the government has again cut funding for higher education.

Indeed, while grants aren't going up, costs are. At UW, for example, there are still leftover bills from the Special Early Retirement Program to pay, and staff and faculty members will be hoping for a pay increase in 1997. (The 1996 salary increases are still fairly recent, and adjustments to the 1996-97 budget to pay for them are still possible.)

The government didn't say anything about tuition fee levels for 1997-98; news about that is expected to come in a few weeks. University leaders will be hoping for an increase, to help pay for those pay increases and other rising costs, not to mention a little rebuilding after the cuts of the past few years. Student leaders will be insisting that any fee increases be accompanied by big improvements in financial aid programs.

Assault charges are dropped

Edgardo Esparza, who was charged at the end of October with committing five sexual assaults on and near the campus, was freed December 23 when Waterloo Regional Police conceded he was the wrong man. Another man, Walter Sanchez, is facing charges in connection with seven later, similar assaults in such areas as parking lot C, Waterloo Park, and the railway tracks near University Plaza. In each case, a woman walking alone in a secluded area was grabbed. None of the victims were physically injured.

Some of the assaults with which Sanchez is now charged took place while Esparza was in jail in November. And Esparza's lawyer noted that there is evidence his client was out of town at the time of some of the earlier assaults, which took place in August and September. Police "are investigating" Sanchez in connection with those earlier attacks.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Record reported that Esparza was charged with the August and September assaults after "a UW police officer believed the description of the man wanted in the first five assaults fitted Esparza, a man he knew. When police included his picture in a photo lineup of 12 men, three assault victims picked out Esparza's picture."

The newsgroups with pictures

UW computer networks are still carrying the "binaries" newsgroups, which use heavy bandwidth to deliver everything from experimental (or pirated) software to pictures of hot cars, electronic components and sometimes naked people. Such newsgroups made up 73 per cent of the total newsgroup traffic at UW last month (1,282 megabytes a day, on average, out of 1,763 megabytes), according to the information systems and technology department.

An advisory committee early last fall recommended that UW stop supporting the binary newsgroups as of November 1, as a way of saving resources and improving computer response. It also recommended an appeals committee to deal with requests for exceptions -- "a specific newsgroup that is deemed essential for research, teaching and administration or to enrich the general intellectual life of the University". Roger Watt of IST, responding to a question (on a newsgroup, naturally), notes that the appeals committee hasn't yet been set up, and "It did not seem wise to proceed with termination until after the appeals committee is in place. I am led to have hope that it will be formed in the next few months." So, for now, the binaries are still there.

And a happy new year

As UW's 40th anniversary year begins, I'm introducing a new feature in the Daily Bulletin each morning: "Today in UW's History". Look back and marvel.


January 1, 1988: Smoking is banned inside UW buildings.
January 2, 1975: As the university comes back to work after Christmas vacation, the Dana Porter and Engineering, Math and Science libraries close at midnight, rather than being open all night as in the past.

Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@watserv1.uwaterloo.ca -- (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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