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Monday, May 17, 1999

  • Payroll ballots due this week
  • A university for the north
  • A nurse on the phone
  • Floors and deans and such


Payroll ballots due this week

Staff members have until Friday afternoon (at 3:00) to send in their ballots in the referendum on a switch from once-a-month to twice-a-month paydays. Ballots were sent out May 7, and should be returned -- along with the Voter Verification Sheet provided -- to the university secretariat in Needles Hall. If a majority of all staff vote in favour of the change, work on converting the payroll system is expected to start early next year.

Senate meets tonight

The UW senate will meet at 7:30 tonight in Needles Hall room 3001 -- the last senate meeting to be chaired by James Downey before he finishes his term as UW's president two weeks from today. Among the agenda items are a report from the scholarships and student aid committee, summarizing the amount of financial help available this year, and a Federation of Students presentation on measuring teaching quality.
An open meeting on Thursday, sponsored by the staff association, discussed the way the referendum is being held, and the possible costs of the change, rather than the merits of being paid on the 15th day and last day of each month instead of "the last Friday of the month" as at present.

"No one indicated why they thought the change would be an improvement," one staff member complained later in a newsgroup. "Instead, it felt more like a left-wing anti-establishment political rally. . . . UW's administration is opposed to the change and so passing it must be the right thing to do, regardless of whether it is better for us or not."

About 75 staff members attended the meeting, which was chaired by Charlene Schumm, president of the staff association. "Administration has indicated that they are against the switch," she confirmed in a summary of the meeting. But the vote is being conducted -- by the advisory committee on staff compensation -- because staff association representatives pushed for it. "Our staff members fought hard to keep it as neutral and fair as possible," she added in a second e-mail message to association members. "What was finalized was what was allowed by administration."

There have been some complaints about the mechanics of the referendum, which involves two envelopes and the Verification Sheet. "As a result of the confusing wording," Schumm said. "staff expressed a strong concern for the legitimacy of the counting process. It was requested that a Staff Association scrutineer be present during the counting of ballots."

Other speakers at Thursday's meeting said they have trouble believing that it will cost $134,900 a year to pay staff twice a month instead of once. That's about one-quarter of one per cent of total staff payroll, and would mean lower pay increases for staff. "The costs involved in the switch were included on the referendum at the insistence of the administrative members" of the staff compensation committee, Schumm said.

A university for the north

A "University of the Arctic", with backing from eight countries including Canada, will register its first students next year, offering courses around the world (or at least around the North Pole) leading to a Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies degree.

UArctic is to get under way following the 6th Circumpolar Cooperation Conference, to be held at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, in June.

The National Post reported on the progress of UArctic a few days ago:

Yukon College will act as one of the Canadian campuses for the university, along with the possible additions of Aurora College in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Arctic College. They will join an international network of universities with UArctic programs.

As far as classrooms go, UArctic will rely heavily on information technology to help deliver courses. "One of the benefits is that northern people in Canada can complete degrees without leaving the region," Aron Senkpiel, dean of arts and science at Yukon College in Whitehorse, said.

"Those degree opportunities will be relevant like no other program that's ever been offered. It will specifically look at the land and the peoples of the North. The problem with high-tech distance education years ago was that nobody had video or some other technology." . . .

Students in isolated communities like Old Crow, Yukon, could take their lessons through virtual classrooms. Other northerners from countries such as Sweden would also be able to join in. . . . Richard Langlais, originally from Jasper, Alta., is the director of UArctic's Co-ordination Centre, based at the University of Lapland in Finland. . . . Many of the extra costs attributed to the creation of the university are picked up by other governments. The costs are relatively low, since the university is not building its own campuses, but using existing ones, Dr. Langlais said. . . .

"It's not an indigenous people's university," Dr. Langlais said. "It's the character of the North that indigenous people are present." The circumpolar studies degree is intended to encourage a common understanding of the circumpolar world, its people, and the issues they face. Therefore, all students, whether in Norway or Nunavut, will be taking the same core courses, no matter what language they study in, Mr. Senkpiel said.

The plans for UArctic come from the Circumpolar Universities Association, which links institutions in Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark (and Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

A nurse on the phone

The University Health Insurance Plan has announced the launch of a new trial program for international students and employees covered under the plan. (It's a form of health coverage for people who aren't eligible for OHIP, the government's province-wide health insurance, and so don't have free access to clinics.)

The "CareWise" nurseline service is designed to enhance UHIP participants' access to available health care information resource services. "CareWise," an announcement says, "is a 24-hour, 365- day-a-year telephone service that all UHIP participants and their dependents may use. CareWise offers participants telephone contact with a registered nurse, able to give an informed assessment of the best course of action to take in non-emergency medical situations. These nurses have access to credentialed medical information, medical journal abstracts and drug databases. Services are available through translators, in more than 140 languages.

"Callers will also have the option of listening to a variety of tapes from the CareWise Audio Library -- on over 200 topics ranging from hay fever to living with coronary artery disease -- before speaking, if they so desire, to a nurse."

The program was launched on May 1, for a trial period that runs through August 31, 2000. "After this 16-month period, the overall effectiveness of the nurseline will be evaluated."

For international students and employees currently participating in UHIP, CareWise information packages are now available and can be picked up from the International Student Office (in counselling services in Needles Hall), from the finance office on the first floor of NH, or from human resources in the General Services Complex.

Floors and deans and such

Work starts today on the floor of the Humanities building lobby, outside the box office. "The existing floor has heaved and must be replaced," says Peter Fulcher of the plant operations department. "Please use caution when walking in this area." The job should be finished by Friday, he says -- "This is the only quiet time we can do this repair."

The UW chaplains host an open discussion today on "Violence in Our Society: What Happened in Littleton/Taber?" The event starts at 12:30 in the multipurpose room of the Student Life Centre. "Memorial moment will close this event," a notice adds.

The Institute for Computer Research and the Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence Group present a seminar at 1:30 today by William Gruver of Simon Fraser University. (Place: Davis Centre room 1304.) He'll speak on "A Survey of Holonic Systems in Intelligent Manufacturing and Robotics".

The physics department presents a seminar at 2:30 in Physics Room 308; Yong Duan of the University of California at San Francisco will speak on "Pathways to a Protein Folding Intermediate Observed in a 1-Microsecond Simulation in Aqueous Solution".

News from Conrad Grebel College: Philosophy professor Conrad Brunk has been appointed academic dean of the college, effective July 1. He replaces Hildi Froese Tiessen, who, after 11 years as dean, is returning to life as an English professor. She will be on sabbatical for 1999-2000. Grebel president John Toews expressed appreciation for Tiessen's years of administrative leadership: "She has served the College with distinction and grace during some very difficult years. Hildi, more than anyone else, helped transition the College through a period of down-sizing and through a series of leadership changes." Brunk joined the college's faculty in 1976 after completing a PhD in philosophy at Northwestern University. His areas of teaching and research have included professional ethics, conflict analysis and resolution, philosophy of law, science, religion and technology. He served as founding director of the peace and conflict studies program at Grebel and UW, and as director of the legal studies and criminology option. Grebel will also have a new chaplain, Ed Janzen, who is starting work on July 15. Janzen is currently associate pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines.

And, this notice from the university secretariat:

Alan George's term as interim Dean of Mathematics expires on June 30, 2000 and, accordingly, a Dean of Mathematics Nominating Committee, as required by Policy 45 is being constituted. Nominations are requested for the following seats on the Nominating Committee (at least three nominators are required in each case): Nominations should be sent to the Chief Returning Officer, University Secretariat, Needles Hall, Room 3060, no later than 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 26. An election will follow if necessary. Nomination forms are available from the Secretariat, ext. 6125.

CAR


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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