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University of Waterloo | Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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Tuesday, June 1, 1999

  • David Johnston becomes president
  • Residence project gets approval
  • More students in distance courses
  • Other fragments of the day's news

David Johnston becomes president

[Johnston standing] The fifth president of the University of Waterloo takes office today, holding the position previously occupied by Gerry Hagey (1957-1969), Burt Matthews (1970-81), Douglas Wright (1981-93) and James Downey (1993-99). Howard Petch was "president pro tem" in 1969-70.

I asked David Johnston for any message he might have for the campus this morning as he becomes president. "Thank you," he wrote, "for the warm welcome to Waterloo. My wife and I are delighted to be here and continuing the great tradition of innovation which has made Waterloo so widely admired."

The new president has been getting to know the university and the community since his appointment was announced last October. David and Sharon Johnston have bought a house and farm -- a former bed-and-breakfast -- northwest of Waterloo, and are sinking roots in their new home. While the president settles into Needles Hall today, Sharon Johnston will be guest of honour at a noon-hour "strawberry social" hosted by the bookstore in South Campus Hall.

Johnston, former dean of law at the University of Western Ontario and then principal of Montréal's McGill University for 14 years, comes to Waterloo with a reputation for miraculous fundraising, endless energy (as both athlete and administrator), and a keen interest in computer networks and how they can transform society. He is "perhaps the most

The bookstore's strawberry social runs from 11:00 to 2:00 today, celebrating the opening of the new Double U's coffee shop and Techworx stationery shop. Book signings and a poetry reading are on the program along with berries and cream and Starbucks coffee.

accomplished academic leader of this generation", Downey told UW's board of governors in his farewell message yesterday.

Johnston chaired the federal government's "Smart Communities" project last year, recommending that Ottawa spend millions of dollars to create a dozen pilot projects by next year.

Definition of a smart community, according to the report:

A geographical area ranging in size from a neighborhood to a multi-county region whose residents, organizations, and governing institutions are using information technology to transform their region in significant ways. Cooperation among government, industry, educators, and the citizenry, instead of individual groups acting in isolation, is preferred. The technological enhancements undertaken as part of this effort should result in fundamental, rather than incremental, change.
It's hard to imagine that Johnston won't seek to make Waterloo one of those pilot "smart communities".

Yesterday, a day before taking office as president, he was guest speaker at the annual meeting of the UW staff association. "I'm struck by the civility of this place," he said, urging staff members to join him in working towards making Waterloo a "good" as well as a "great" university.

"I can think of no other time in history," he said, "when our effort for the advancement of learning has been so important."

Residence project gets approval

The UW board of governors yesterday gave approval for a $24 million "renewal" of residence facilities, including a new 300-bed residence for first-year students and conversion of most of the UW Apartment complex to single rooms for upper-year students.

Also at yesterday's meeting, the board of governors gave approval to UW's 1999-2000 budget. "There are still a number of uncertainties," provost Jim Kalbfleisch said as he presented the budget. "Perhaps the largest of these is the election result," which could affect the level of government grants and tuition fees. Enrolment this fall and winter is also still a matter of guesswork. As things stand, the budget involves running a $2 million deficit in the current year -- or leaving $2 million of UW's accumulated debt unpaid, rather than paying off the entire $2.6 million deficit that remained at the end of 1998-99.

"Students will see definite improvements" from the extra money they're paying in higher tuition fees, Kalbfleisch said in answer to a question. He promised UW's second annual "quality improvement report" for the October board meeting.

The project was presented to the board by Bud Walker, director of business services, who said there has been "shock" and "tragedy" in the past few days as some would-be students have received word that yes, they can come to study at UW next fall, but no, they can't have rooms in residence. He said 80 per cent of first-year students would like to live on campus, so that UW needs 3,350 beds for a class of 4,200 students. At present only 2,250 beds are available.

On the other hand, Walker said, "we've been using room-and-board facilities for upper-year students, when the demand from that group is more for suites." So the plan is to move all upper-year students out of the Villages; they'll be concentrated in the Apartment complex, in semi-official residences such as the Co-op Residence on Phillip Street, and off campus altogether.

Work will start this summer on the first phase of the project, creating "community space" in the East Tower of the UW Apartment complex, Walker said. The first new rooms will be ready by the fall of 2000: some 240 rooms replacing 120 one-bedroom apartments in the East Tower. Many of those apartments are now occupied by single students, he said, and some by non-students who will be moved out of UW property altogether.

The new residence building, to be located on parking lot F between Village I and Ron Eydt Village, is scheduled to be ready for September 2001. Walker said it hasn't been designed yet, but could be as high as six storeys to keep its "footprint" as small as possible, or as low as three storeys if the decision is to make it larger on the ground.

Either way, he said, the new building is expected to be very attractive to students not only because it will group students in "suites", with four bedrooms sharing kitchen and bathroom space, but because -- unlike most of the other residences -- it will be air conditioned.

Board members asked many questions about the residence project before giving their approval. And several of them noted that expansion of space for first-year students is long overdue, but still doesn't deal with the possibility of more enrolment growth when UW faces the "double cohort" of incoming students in the year 2003.

More students in distance courses

There's "good news" from the distance education office, says director Don Kasta, announcing an enrolment in distance (correspondence) courses that's 5.4 per cent bigger than the figure at this time last year.

"This is the second consecutive term that we have seen an upturn in enrollment," Kasta says in a memo summarizing the figures. "Winter 1999 showed an increase of 3.3% over Winter 1998. We attribute some of this to an increase in our marketing efforts and we will continue with these efforts."

Distance education has 2,962 students in 71 courses this term, up from 2,811 students in 74 courses as the spring term began last year. The growth is most striking in mathematics, which had 202 students (in eight courses) last year and has grown to 257 students (in seven courses) this year.

Arts accounts for 2,091 of the distant students, science 460, applied health sciences 113 and environmental studies 41.

Most distance education courses are still taught with a mixture of taped lectures and printed materials, but courses on the Internet are the growth area, Kasta indicates. "We want to survey the students who took Web courses this past year so we can determine how effective those courses were. As well, we are doing a survey of our distance students to try to determine their interest in web-based courses and their access to computers and the Internet."

Another sign of distance education becoming more electronic is the announcement that assignments from faraway students can now be accepted as e-mail attachments. "Most essays and assignments in prose format will transmit very well," says a memo in the new issue of the UW Correspondent newsletter.

Other fragments of the day's news

With the Ontario election coming up on Thursday, people from Elections Ontario will be on campus tomorrow "to help enable you to vote on Election Day". They'll be at the Student Life Centre from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Want to get on the voters' list? "Bring two pieces of ID," is the advice. One should be an official card bearing your signature -- such as a driver's licence or Ontario health card -- and the other should be a piece of mail with your name and Waterloo address, proving that you live in the riding where you want to vote; a utility bill or lease is suggested.

The career planning seminar series continues. Today at 2:30: "Create Your Own Future -- The Enterprising Edge". Tomorrow at 10:30: "The Work Finding Package". Both seminars take place in Needles Hall room 1020, and more information about them is available from the career resource centre.

The local Volunteer Action Centre is in search of community-minded people as always. Some current opportunities: volunteers for the Literacy Group, to spend two hours a week helping an adult or young person improve reading, writing and basic math skills; someone to facilitate a drama group at Participation House, a facility for adults with brain injuries; a web page designer and updater for Ray of Hope/OASIS. More information about all these ways to help is available from the VAC at 742-8610.


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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Copyright © 1999 University of Waterloo