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Friday, April 14, 2000

  • Masked team practises spill technique
  • New report on learning technologies
  • A call to spend 2 per cent
  • Under a mild spring sky

Masked team practises spill technique -- by Barbara Elve

[Two men in suits] A bottle of chloroform has spilled in a chemistry lab. Does the UW Spill Response Team rush in?

Not on your life, says safety director Kevin Stewart. The motto of the team, "Hurry up and wait," reflects their approach to toxic events. The first priority is restricting access to the contaminated site, identifying the substance, then planning a strategy for cleanup before approaching the spill.

The seven-member team had a chance to practice that approach Wednesday as part of a day-long spill response training session offered by Team One Environmental Services, of Hamilton. As part of the semi-annual training program for the UW team -- made up of members from the safety office, chemistry stores and earth sciences -- the session included a classroom component in the morning and a staged spill in the afternoon.

In the scenario, a chemistry lab containing a chloroform spill was sealed off. Members of the spill team suited up in protective gear and breathing apparatus -- all carefully sealed with duct tape -- and entered the contaminated area with appropriate clean-up materials, using the buddy system. Following the cleanup, toxic materials were disposed of through the environmental safety facility, and the area remained closed off to be ventilated.

Three training officers from the Waterloo fire department were on hand to observe the exercise as part of a cooperative arrangement that sees UW safety staff attending fire department training sessions as well, said Stewart.

The spill response team in full protective gear may not be a common sight around campus, but members are called into action nearly once a month, he said, to deal with incidents ranging from a broken mercury thermometer to a leaking 45-gallon drum of Varsol.

While members bring to the team their expertise in specific areas of handling spills, from radiation to ground water contamination, they don't receive any hazard pay in return. It's just part of the job.

New report on learning technologies -- a news release from the Council of Ontario Universities

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) has released A Time to Sow, the report of COU's Task Force on Learning Technologies.

The rapid emergence of information and telecommunication technologies is transforming the way organizations are doing business. To help respond to these challenges, the Task Force was created to examine opportunities and barriers, and ultimately to make recommendations to facilitate the more effective use of these technological resources. The report identified strategic planning, the creation of a more supportive environment for the use of these technologies and significant investment from governments, the private sector and universities as crucial to address the potential of learning technologies within Ontario universities.

The Task Force was chaired by David Johnston, President of the University of Waterloo, who is internationally recognized for his expertise in the field of learning technologies. The membership of the committee included representatives from government, the communications and information technology sector and universities. This initiative demonstrated the value of working in partnership to address major issues.

Prof. Johnston spoke of why he thinks the work of the Task Force is important: "Learning technologies are those information and communication technology tools that provide increased opportunities for interaction with learning materials and among learners, as designed and guided by university faculty. Used effectively, they can enhance the quality of student learning and improve access by allowing students to pursue learning opportunities in their own time and place."

"While there have been significant advancements in information and telecommunications technology in recent times, the full introduction of these new technologies has met with mixed reactions on Ontario university campuses. Enthusiasm continues to build as opportunities for enhancing teaching and learning are discovered, but is often dampened by the existence of many barriers to implementation," said Prof. Johnston.

Prof. Johnston noted the timeliness of the Task Force's recommendations: "Ontario universities are on the verge of a generation change as student demand is projected to grow by 40% over the next decade. At the same time, the need to recruit faculty is becoming acute owing to retirements and projected enrolment growth. Given these pressures, there is a narrow window of opportunity to make decisions the use and support of learning technologies to aid in the effectiveness and reputation of Ontario universities."

A call to spend 2 per cent

Among the recommendations from the task force, headed by UW's David Johnston, in its report A Time to Sow:

Under a mild spring sky

The exams say they're for the winter term, but lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. And on a turtle-free campus, there are other signs of life:

The Federation of Students used-book store has acquired some thousands of "previously enjoyed books", the leftovers from the recent Canadian Federation of University Women annual sale, brought to the Student Life Centre with the help of UW's central stores department. "These books," writes store manager John Jongerius, "will be on display outside the Used-Book Store, Student Life Centre, 24 hours a day for the next two weeks." Price: 25 cents a volume.

Today is deadline day in two different votes:

And there's also a student vote in progress, an unofficial election of one student representative on the board of governors. That too is an electronic election; voting closes Monday at 5 p.m.

The Touring Players bring a children's show, "Jillian Jiggs", to the Humanities Theatre at 10:00, 11:45 and 1:30 today. And this evening the theatre hosts this month's Kiwanis Travelogue event, at 8 p.m.

Jan Narveson of UW's philosophy department, who is not notoriously shy, will give an outspoken colloquium this afternoon under the title "Natural Theology? Forget It!" Says Narveson:

The current recrudescence of natural theology in the wake of recent physics raises the question whether the subject actually makes any sense. This paper argues that it does not. The reason has not been sufficiently appreciated. To argue that the world is more or less the way you would expect it to be if it were created by an omnipotent super creator is to assume that it is possible to have at least some idea what sort of universe to expect from such a source as compared with any other conceivable source. Unfortunately for the subject, knowledge of that kind is absolutely impossible. So there can be no rational argument for the existence of a deity on the basis of anything anyone could possibly know about the universe. The subject is empty.
The session starts at 3:30 in Humanities room 334.

Canadian Union of Public Employees local 793, representing staff in the plant operations and food services department, will hold its first annual spring dance on Saturday night in South Campus Hall.

A number of UW people are represented in the Menno Singers, whose base is Conrad Grebel College and whose conductor, Peter Nikiforuk, has been teaching music as a sessional instructor at Grebel this term. The ensemble will be performing on Saturday night along with the Toronto-based Pax Christi Chorale and the K-W Symphony. The blockbuster item for the concert is Johannes Brahms's "Deutsches Requiem". The concert will be presented at 8:00 Saturday night in St. Mary's Church in downtown Kitchener, and again Sunday night at the University of Toronto. Tickets are $20 (students $10) in advance (576-9853). (There's a dessert reception before hand with a talk by the Menno Singers' founder, Abner Martin; tickets for that event are $100.)

There was a little excitement around breakfast time yesterday for one UW student, David Wright of psychology. He was the winner of $100,000 in a phone-in contest sponsored by local radio station CHYM-FM. Now give him his money. . . .

Finally, building on the Biblical quotation and the question of natural theology, comes the observation that it's a big season of the year for Christians. The day after tomorrow will be Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week as Good Friday and Easter approach. There are regular worship services at two of UW's church colleges. At St. Jerome's University, the Roman Catholic college, Mass will be celebrated on Sunday as usual at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 7 p.m. (It's the last 7 p.m. Mass until September.) At Renison, the Anglican college, Palm Sunday worship will be at 10:30 a.m.


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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