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Wednesday, April 28, 1999

  • A million for actuarial science
  • Improved disability benefits proposed
  • French contest held today
  • What the Throne Speech implied

A million for actuarial science

A chair in insurance is being launched at UW as the result of an anonymous gift of $1.25 million. The development office, which announced the gift, said that the donor heads a Toronto-area corporation and has asked that his name not be publicized. The announcement said UW is raising an equal amount to create the chair.

"Thanks to the generosity of the donor, this gift will allow the University of Waterloo to realize a dream of ours in actuarial science for many years now to be able to endow an industrial Chair in Insurance," said statistics and actuarial science professor Robert Brown. "This is partly because so many of our sister programs around the world have such endowed chairs, which left us at a competitive disadvantage."

The chairholder will be "a researcher of international stature" in the area of property-casualty insurance, either from outside the university, as a new professorial appointment, or from within the existing actuarial faculty. The appointment will be for a period of two to five years.

While here, the chairholder would "actually become part of the Waterloo team, do good research in partnership with the existing Waterloo roster and supervise graduate students from start to finish," Brown said. The chair holder "will be instrumental in attracting top-ranked graduate students", the announcement said.

UW president James Downey praised the donor's "leadership" for taking the initiative to provide the "outstanding" pledge. "Initiatives such as the Chair in Insurance will help to guarantee the high quality of our faculty, students and programs in Statistics and Actuarial Science, as well as to foster advanced research of benefit to the private sector," he said.

UW has one of the largest university-based actuarial science programs in the world, with a strong faculty component conducting advanced teaching and research. There are up to 250 students enrolled in the undergraduate actuarial program, with graduating classes averaging about 60 new entrants to the profession. UW has more PhD graduates from the program than any other institution in North America. Post-degree diploma and masters-degree programs are offered and there are eight actuaries on full-time appointments, seven of them with PhDs.

"We are the target of a lot of visitors of international repute today," said Brown. "Our actuarial colleagues love to come to Waterloo to mix with our numerous actuarial faculty. However, we can do little to aid and abet these visits, nor have we been able to support visits of long duration." The new chair will change that, he said. "We know we can attract some top people."

Once the $2.5 million in total funding and all approvals are in place, the process of making the first chair appointment is expected to take up to a year, the announcement said.

Improved disability benefits proposed

Changes are being recommended to UW's board of governors that will increase the benefits paid to some staff and faculty members on long-term disability leave, the provost told the campus in a memo yesterday.

The pension and benefits committee "is recommending several improvements to take effect July 1", said provost Jim Kalbfleisch. An outline of the proposals is available on the Web. Briefly:

In a change that doesn't involve individual income, the LTD program will kick in only when an employee's sick leave finishes. At present, there are cases in which LTD money is provided to departments to help them provide a replacement for an employee who's away. "This is not an appropriate use of a tax-free benefit," the provost writes, and in future that kind of transfer won't happen; LTD money will only be available to the individual, when sick leave is used up.

UW has two different sick leave and long-term disability programs, dating from the days when there were different benefits and salary scales for different groups of non-union staff. Faculty members, and staff at level USG5 and above, receive 180 days of sick leave after one day of work, and are eligible for LTD coverage on day 181. Other staff receive 30 days of sick leave initially plus one day per month worked to a maximum of 180 days, and are eligible for LTD coverage on day 91. Salary during sick leave is paid from department salary accounts. LTD is an insured benefit with the premium paid by employees.

Kalbfleisch's memo also announced that those LTD premiums will be at a reduced level for another year. Normally 1 per cent of base pay, the premiums were reduced to 0.75 per cent in 1998-99 because the reserve fund is in good shape. It will be 0.75 per cent again in 1999-2000, he said.

"The proposals outlined above," the provost wrote, "do not significantly alter either the nature or the costs of our existing SL/LTD programs. The Committee also considered two more fundamental changes: replacing the two existing SL/LTD programs by one program for all ongoing faculty and staff; and converting from an employee-paid to an employer-paid LTD benefit. Both changes would have advantages, but they also have major implications for costs and cost-sharing between employees and the University. After much discussion, the Committee decided not to proceed with them at this time."

His memo also mentions the "ramp up" philosophy of getting sick or injured employees back to work as soon as possible: "Increasingly, organizations are adopting programs in which managers and health care providers work with ill or injured employees to promote an early return to the workplace, with temporary reduction or modification of duties as necessary. Such programs are recommended by the Ontario Medical Association and the Workplace Safety Insurance Board. The Committee supports the initiatives of Human Resources, together with Health Services and Safety, to develop further such a program at UW. Printed materials are being prepared, and information sessions will be held for managers and employees."

French contest held today

Willpower workshop

The Employee Assistance Program today sponsors a half-day workshop on "Beyond Willpower: Enhancing Your Personal Well-Being Through Self-Change". The speaker is Stephen Holtz, professor of epidemiology and community medicine at the University of Ottawa. Johan Reis of health services, a member of the EAP committee, says there are still some spaces in the workshop, which will run from 1:00 to 4:30 in Math and Computer room 4020.
The 28th annual French Contest for high school students, sponsored by UW's department of French studies, is being held this morning.

Pat Aplevich of the French department says about 150 high school students, selected from schools in 15 counties of southwestern Ontario, are here to participate in "a series of rigorous French language exams including reading and listening comprehension, grammar, dictation, and a 10-minute interview".

The first-place winner in the contest receives a trip to France, including return airfare and a two-week stay with a French family. That prize is sponsored by Red Leaf Student Programs and Meloche Monnex Insurance.

The other 24 prizes include a $500 cheque, other cash prizes, plaques and book prizes. They'll be awarded May 20 at a banquet for the winners.

What the Throne Speech implied

Last week's Throne Speech from the Ontario government offered "the first glimmer of plans" for big changes in post-secondary education, a columnist in the National Post warned on Monday.

If it's re-elected and if it takes the advice it currently seems to favour, the government would "do to the post-secondary sector what it has done to the school boards", John Ibbitson wrote. "It would force the university and college administrations to reshape their programs to fit the needs of the job market or lose their funding. Ultimately, it contemplates eliminating provincial funding of colleges and universities entirely. Instead, the government would fund students directly, through some form of vouchers, which they would cash in at the college or university of their choice."

Ibbitson, Queen's Park columnist for the Post, points to David Lindsay, "one of the premier's closest and most powerful advisors", as the man behind the changes he foresees. Lindsay was the author of a report issued last month by the Ontario Jobs and Investment Board, which suggests that the government should "target provincial funding for post-secondary education and training institutions based on the employment results of the graduates", "establish an independent quality assessment organization", and "consider long-term alternatives, such as a student-driven funding system".

In the Throne Speech, the government said it would "follow the road map provided" in that report, which is titled Prosperity for the New Millennium. The Throne Speech is the first of three statements expected from the Progressive Conservative government before a provincial election. A budget is due May 4, and a PC election platform is due out shortly.

Said Ibbitson in Monday's column: "The Tories have already taken steps in this direction, by cutting back on general grants while creating new grants for information-technology programs, and by increasing tuition fees. . . . Because those tuition hikes have increased the financial burden on students, they now focus more on getting in and out of university as quickly as possible. . . . The autonomous liberal-arts university is in its last days. . . .

"One sees, finally, the complete picture. The Conservatives would transform our education system into a seamless, job-creating machine."

The Council of Ontario Universities didn't sound frightened in a news release issued the morning after the Throne Speech. Excerpts:

"In the Speech, the Government committed itself to follow the road map provided by the Ontario Jobs and Investment Board. The report of the Board suggests a central goal of making Ontario home to a world-class education system. Ontario universities strongly support the priorities outlined in the report, specifically, attracting and retaining the best and brightest educators and researchers to our campuses, ensuring the delivery of high quality education, increasing the province's research capacity, and improving the range of assistance programs available to students.

"'The Premier has often spoken of the link between a well-educated population and the economic and social well being of this province, and we know this to be fact,' said Robert Prichard, Chair of COU and President of the University of Toronto. 'Naturally, we are anxious to see the details spelled out in the upcoming budget, but we are confident that education will be among the top priorities as the strategic plans for securing a prosperous future for this province and its people are finalized.'

"Recent studies commissioned by COU, and made public on March 31, confirm that Ontario is on the verge of the greatest increase in demand for postsecondary education in over 30 years."


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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