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Daily Bulletin

University of Waterloo | Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, May 14, 1998

  • Two days of deep thinking
  • Microsoft denies mass UW hiring
  • Placements up from last year
  • June convocation proposed; and more
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Two days of deep thinking

UW's executives -- the deans and associate provosts and such -- headed north last night for their annual "retreat" at the Kempenfelt Bay resort near Barrie. The provost, Jim Kalbfleisch, said participants will spend much of the two-day event just going over the issues that are outstanding in various parts of the university, so that everybody is brought up to date.

In addition to the current officials, Alan George, who becomes dean of math on July 1, will be there. (The new dean of engineering, Sujeet Chaudhuri, won't be back to Canada from his Australian sabbatical until shortly before he takes office, also July 1.)

Almost certainly, the biggest issue facing the executives this week will be an offer from the Ontario government that's going to be hard to refuse. As announced in the provincial budget last week, the government will give colleges and universities $150 million over three years to double enrolment in computer science and high-demand fields of engineering. Sounds great, but . . . where could UW find enough professors (by next September) to teach hundreds more students? What classroom space is available? For that matter, where would they sleep? And are that many highly-qualified students really out there waiting to come to Waterloo (and Toronto and McMaster and Lakehead and all) if they're invited?

It's no secret that the CS department, in particular, is already strained to the limit by the number of students it has. An unexpectedly high enrolment in first year last September put extra pressure on, and means that UW would be starting from an artificially high figure if it tried to double the first-year class this fall.

There are also financial questions, including the calculation of whether UW's share of the $150 million would be enough, minus startup expenses for buying new computers and such, to pay the cost of teaching those students for four years. One estimate is that the per-student money available would be far less than UW spends now on teaching in CS and engineering. The apparent result: a big boost in tuition fees (which the province is willing to allow if, but only if, the university does double its enrolment).

Microsoft denies mass UW hiring

The general manager of Microsoft Canada says in a letter to the Ottawa Citizen that it's not true his company has been hiring massive numbers of computer science graduates from UW. He contradicts a statement in the Citizen that "one-third of the graduates in computer science at the University of Waterloo last year were hired by just one U.S. company -- Microsoft -- to work in Seattle."

Says the letter from Simon Witts of Microsoft Canada, published Friday:

This is simply not true. We'd like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

Locally, Microsoft Canada has historically hired graduates from the University of Waterloo, and has an ongoing internship program involving Waterloo co-operative students. The graduates Microsoft hires stay in Canada, contributing to our business in Canada.

Beyond these employees, our Redmond headquarters has hired fewer than two per cent of all computer science graduates from the University of Waterloo since 1993. The University of Waterloo, Microsoft Corporation Human Resources and Industry Canada have now confirmed these numbers.

I'd like to note that Microsoft's hiring practices are actually kept quite confidential, as we believe our people are what provide our competitive edge. We are sharing this specific information regarding the University of Waterloo only to correct the false information currently circulating.

The whole issue of American companies hiring high-tech workers from other lands, including Canada, is on the political front burner, with an announcement Tuesday that 65,000 visas to admit skilled workers to the United States have been issued so far in 1997-98. That's the limit under existing laws, and the year has five months to run, but two bills are before Congress that would raise the annual quota.

Placements up from last year

As job postings for the fall term begin, the co-op department has issued figures on placements for the current term, when a total of 3,607 co-op students were scheduled to work. The placement rate is 88.0 per cent, up from last year's 82.2 per cent at the beginning of the spring term.

This year 433 students were still unplaced on May 5, says the statistical report from co-op director Bruce Lumsden. The placement rate is lowest in science, where 318 students have jobs and 109 don't. Engineering has a larger number of unplaced students, 148, but also a much larger number of students who did find work, 1,249. In mathematics there are 860 students with jobs and 90 without.

"We are doing substantially better than last year at this time," says Lumsden, "but there are still over 400 students who are unemployed at the beginning of the work term. All these students have been or will be contacted by our staff to ensure that everything is being done to maximize employment opportunities.

"The Canadian economy continues to prosper. We are continuing to maintain and build our employer base to retain our competitive edge when the inevitable downturn occurs."

Postings for fall term jobs, in what the co-op department is calling the "rank-match phase" of placement, begin today; posting #1 goes up at noon, and expires tomorrow evening at 8. "Students should note," a memo says, "that the maximum number of applications has been changed to 18."

June convocation proposed; and more

Spring convocation will be held in June rather than May, starting next year, under a proposal that's coming to the UW senate next Tuesday. The reason: changes to the schedule for first-year admissions to Ontario universities, which mean the registrar's office will be going crazy dealing with applications during May. The plan is to hold 1999 convocation ceremonies June 16 (applied health sciences, environmental studies and independent studies), June 17 (arts), June 18 (science), and June 19 in the morning (mathematics) and afternoon (engineering).

Clubs Day began yesterday and continues today (the longest day?) in the great hall of the Student Life Centre.

Conrad Grebel College sends word that a crew will be fertilizing and weed-spraying its lawns on Friday, weather permitting. If it rains -- which doesn't look likely at this point -- the spraying will be done Saturday instead, says business manager Paul Penner.


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