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Monday, January 24, 2000

  • Debate on the tenure policies
  • 'Kids in traffic' paper brings award
  • The talk of the campus

[Man on ladder]
The Red Room is turning purple. Andrew Wardach was on the job last week to paint the new classrooms that have been constructed out of the former machine room in the heart of the Math and Computer building.

Debate on the tenure policies

Faculty members and others across campus have another week to make their opinions known before the Faculty Relations Committee starts work on revisions to UW's proposed new policies on faculty appointments, promotion and tenure. Comments are wanted by January 31, the provost and the president of the faculty association have said in a campus-wide letter.

The two drafts -- Policy 76 and Policy 77 -- got about an hour's discussion at the monthly meeting of the UW senate on January 17, and two points got most of the attention:

The new policies don't make huge changes to the way UW faculty members are appointed, promoted, and given tenure ("security of employment"). They replace the existing Policy 46 and Policy 53, with new texts that nearly everybody admitted are clearer as well as briefer. The computer science department, for example, met to discuss the new policies and "were positively inclined", department chair Nick Cercone said at the senate meeting.

Apart from the issues of student representation and appeal processes, one significant change in the new policies is that promotion from assistant professor (the usual starting rank) to associate professor will now come automatically with tenure, rather than being a separate business.

And Fred McCourt, president of the faculty association, spoke with satisfaction about another change: tenure appeal committees now are supposed to be made up of people who know something about the academic field of the faculty member who is appealing. That way, tenure decisions can be based on the quality of someone's teaching and research, not on quibbles about procedure, he said.

Questions in the library

Here's news from the library, more specifically from Jackie Stapleton in the Davis Centre:

"From January 24 to March 27, weekly drop-in sessions are scheduled for students using the Dana Porter Library or the Davis Centre Library. Encourage your students to come with questions related to term papers, assignments and projects when they need instruction such as searching TRELLIS, locating journal articles, how to begin their research etc. While this is similar to the assistance provided at the Information Desk, staff wearing 'Ask Me' buttons in the computer areas are prepared to spend more time with each individual. Hours: Mondays 4 to 5 p.m., Davis Centre; Tuesdays 3 to 4 p.m., Dana Porter."

'Kids in traffic' paper brings award -- by Barbara Elve

A co-op job with Transport Canada back in 1980 led Carolyn MacGregor into a career as a systems design engineering professor, and now she has won one of the leading awards in the transportation industry. MacGregor's achievements were honoured earlier this month at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., where she was presented with the D. Grant Mickle Award for the "outstanding paper in the field of operation, safety and maintenance of transportation facilities."

The award was shared with Alison Smiley (MSc and PhD in systems design at UW) and Wendy K. Dunk, who co-authored "Identifying Gaps in Child Pedestrian Safety: Comparing What Children Do With What Parents Teach". The paper, published in Transportation Research Record, was selected from some 350 peer-reviewed submissions.

Finding herself in systems design, where she specializes in cognitive ergonomics, is really "a situation of happenstance," says MacGregor. After her first work term in the road safety branch, systems section, at Transport Canada, she returned to complete the remainder of her work terms at the same place. While in Ottawa, she met systems design students from UW who inspired her to take some systems design courses in human factors and ergonomics as a psych undergrad. That led to a Master's and PhD in industrial engineering at the University of Toronto, before she returned to UW to join the faculty in 1996.

She specializes in cognitive ergonomics, exploring the information processing demands of a task. Employing both psychology and engineering, she analyzes where people are having a problem and how to design displays or devices to make the task easier. "I teach students how to design from a user-centred perspective and how to do usability testing on those designs."

Usability testing is most often used in computer applications, but "it's starting to trickle into other engineering departments," she says, with an increasing number of students from other engineering departments signing up for her systems design course in Design of Human-Machine Systems, which takes a user-centred perspective.

While traffic systems have been one of MacGregor's main areas of interest to date, her work in that area includes the application of navigational tools to virtual environments. Such systems can be used to train people, such as firefighters, in maneuvering through unfamiliar space.

Her prize-winning child pedestrian safety study, funded by Foundation MAIF, Paris, is the first research project outside France to receive funding by the foundation. Findings from the study will be used to produce educational brochures for parents in France, and the Transportation Research Board has expressed interest in a similar educational initiative for a North American audience.

Among the findings:

A second study funded by MAIF will compare parents' expectations of young drivers with what young drivers are actually capable of handling, says MacGregor.

SPSS CD is available

Carol Vogt of the information systems and technology department sends word that "we have succeeded in licensing SPSS (Base and Advanced Statistics) for student use. This is a fully functional version, not limited to a maximum number of variables.

"This CD is available to students (and only to students) at a cost of $23, from the CHIP (MC 1052). At the present time, there is only a PC version. It joins the Math at Home CD, which contains a licensed copy of MathCad and Matlab, also available from the CHIP for $15. (Math at Home comes in both PC and Mac versions.)

"While students are in the CHIP acquiring these CDs, they can also pick up the Home Use CD for $15. It contains copies of web browsers, email clients and a variety of other packages, but it also has a licensed copy of Norton Antivirus software, more than a bargain at $15.

"We are attempting to assemble a comprehensive set of software for students to use on their own computers, and to make it available at prices affordable to students. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements."

The talk of the campus

I learned the other day that there is such a thing as the UW Drum Club, and today's the day to see the club in action. "We're going to be running a drum circle in the Great Hall of the Student Life Centre, from noon until 2 p.m.," writes third-year math student Matt Corks. "Anyone is welcome to join in, dance, or just listen. Club members should be able to bring some extra drums for people who don't own one." I asked Corks for a little more explanation -- Native drums? Ringo Star drums? "Neither," he replied. "The club exists to bring together people who play hand drums, and not drum kits like Ringo. And Native drumming ceremonies are full of religious and cultural symbolism and significance which doesn't really apply to us, as we're mostly in it for the musicianship. Most of our members own drums of African or Middle Eastern origin, and are influenced most by those traditions."

Geoffrey Fong of UW's psychology department is the speaker today in the noon-hour series sponsored by Kitchener Public Library (and held at KPL's main branch downtown). His topic: "Errors and Biases in Reasoning: Examples and Explanations from Everyday Life and Science".

The career development workshop series continues. Today brings "Interview Skills: The Basics" at 1:30 p.m. and "Interview Skills: Preparing for Questions" at 2:30, both in Needles Hall room 1020.

The philosophy department today presents Allan Nadler of Drew University, speaking on "Images of Spinoza in Modern Jewish Thought". His talk starts at 3:30 in Humanities room 334. Tomorrow, Nadler will be giving the next talk in the Jewish studies "Distinguished Guest Lecture Series": he'll speak at 8:00 Tuesday night on "From Elisha to Spinoza: A Brief History of Heresy in Jewish Thought".

The WatCHI group presents a talk today by Nick Hoh on "Working in User Interface Design": 5:30 p.m., Davis Centre room 1304.

The city of Waterloo will be holding a public meeting tonight to discuss two developments of some academic interest:

The open meeting begins at 7:00 this evening at the council chambers in City Hall on Regina Street.

Happening tomorrow, in addition to the Jewish studies lecture, already mentioned:

Finally . . . today's the last day for several weeks that you can enjoy a ride on the Engineering Lecture Hall elevator. First thing tomorrow morning, the elevator will be taken out of service for major repairs, the plant operations department says.

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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