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Friday, June 2, 2000

  • 'Stopgap' co-op web page is near
  • 'Pockets of unhappiness' among staff
  • Provost speaks to staff meeting
  • Work on diabetes brings gold medal
  • And a little of this and that

'Stopgap' co-op web page is near

[Black at desk] A web interface to the Access database of job information for UW co-op students should be ready within a very few days, says Jay Black (right), UW's associate provost (information systems and technology).

"We're sort of in final phases," Black said yesterday, noting that a focus group of students met last Friday with the IST team that's developing the interface, and tried out the prototype. "I'm not prepared to commit my people," Black said, warning that all kinds of things can go wrong at the last minute in a complicated project, but he's hoping that by about the end of next week the web site will be ready.

It'll meet a frequently stated demand from co-op students, who currently have to telnet to Access and deal with job and interview information in text form. The web site will make life much easier through the rest of this spring's application and interview season.

Black stressed that what's going to be ready this summer is "a stopgap" -- a whole new computer system for the co-op and career services department is needed, but is probably a couple of years away.

Why has even this limited product taken so long? "We prioritize," said Black, whose staff in IST are responsible for big projects -- such as the Student Information Systems Project -- as well as routine operations of computer networks, data processing, administrative systems and so on. "We have to have the right people with the right resources," he noted. "All of us are frustrated that it's not been done sooner."

When the web page is ready, he promised, "we'll have something whose security we're convinced of, whose robustness we're convinced of."

Black confirmed that -- after talking to other top UW officials -- he had asked the Open CECS Online student group, as well as an individual student whose name hasn't been made public, to take down their unauthorized sites that provided a web interface to Access. The main issue, he said, was "presenting the information for which they're not the authoritative source. . . . We've got no way to know whether it's a true copy of what's in the Access database. 'Open source' models aren't 'open data' models."

'Pockets of unhappiness' among staff

You could have heard a pin drop when Walter McCutchan, the new president of the staff association, spoke briefly about unionization during yesterday's annual general meeting of the association.

"It's going to be a busy year," he told the roughly 50 staff who showed up for the meeting. The regular business of representing the university's staff is demanding enough, he said, but on top of that will be the need to pay attention to a drive to have UW staff file for certification through the Canadian Auto Workers union.

"We all hope," said McCutchan, "that it will be an honourably conducted campaign, and I'm sure it will be." If fair information is provided to everyone, he said, the campaign need not be "divisive".

The unionization campaign is being led by Joe Szalai of the user services department in the UW library, who ran for president-elect of the association this spring and was defeated, by more than a two-to-one margin, by Ed Chrzanowski of the math faculty computing facility. He has said the union campaign will go ahead anyway.

Earlier this week I asked Szalai who's behind the campaign. His e-mailed reply: "I met with the organizing committee and we decided that committee members' names be kept confidential. The committee, unfortunately, is a small group of dedicated individuals who are willing to start a unionization drive. In most cases we need to make decisions without seeking the input of the majority of those who will be greatly affected. That is the down side, which will hopefully be more than compensated after the certification goes through."

I also asked whether his committee has a "financial arrangement" with the Auto Workers. His reply: no.

At yesterday's meeting, McCutchan and the 1999-2000 president, Paul McKone, both referred to "pockets of unhappiness" among staff across campus. McKone said that had been something of a revelation to him after he got involved with the staff association: "Working in a happy department, you think everywhere is happy!" (McKone is a consultant in engineering computing.)

McCutchan acknowledged that some people find work a "miserable" experience. "If we work hard and we do the right thing," he said, "we can address that problem. Sometimes people who are unhappy are sitting there licking their wounds, and not asking for assistance from those who might be able to help them."

Provost speaks to staff meeting

Yes, the salaries of UW staff should be higher than they are, said provost Jim Kalbfleisch, who was guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the staff association yesterday.

"I'm a member of the staff association myself," the provost noted, and he paid tribute to the association's leaders over the years: "It's been a really mature, nonconfrontational relationship."

Kalbfleisch gave a rundown on the challenges facing UW in the next year or so, telling his audience that research funding has improved greatly and there's starting to be government money for building construction, but operating funds -- the money that pays the salaries and the bills -- are still being squeezed, as they have been for years.

"We haven't been able to hire the extra people we should have to do the extra work," said the provost. "And for the same reason, we haven't been able to increase the salaries at the rate they should have been increased."

Also at yesterday's annual meeting of the staff association:

Work on diabetes brings gold medal

A graduate student in health studies whose research is about how exercise affects diabetes will be presented with the Governor General's Gold Medal at convocation ceremonies later this month.

The gold medal is given each year at a number of Canadian universities for the most outstanding PhD student. The 2000 winner is Catrine Tudor-Locke, whose thesis on "Development, Implementation and Evaluation of a Daily Physical Activity Intervention for Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes" was supervised by health studies and gerontology professor Anita Myers.

Says Jim Frank, associate dean of graduate studies:

The selection was made from a group of nominees with superb intellectual achievement and international reputation established while they were students.

Ms Tudor-Locke has a very impressive record of academic achievements over the 3 years of her doctoral studies. Her research into exercise intervention for Type 2 diabetes has resulted in numerous publications in scientific journals, as well as presentations to scientific and lay audiences. A distinguishing feature of her achievements is her success with attracting research funding from such agencies as the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Osteoporosis Society of Canada, the Pearl Laird fund for Diabetes Research and the Bayer Award for Educational Innovation.

In addition to her academic achievements, Ms Tudor-Locke also has taken time to serve as a Board Member of the Canadian Evaluation Society and as a student representative to the Department of Health Studies and Gerontology and Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Graduate Affairs Committee.

Spring convocation is scheduled for June 14-17; Tudor-Locke's gold medal will be presented on Wednesday afternoon, June 14, when degrees from the faculty of applied health sciences are awarded.

And a little of this and that

A memorial service will be held this afternoon for Aileen Proudfoot, the first-year chemical engineering student who was drowned in an accident on UW's north campus two weeks ago. The service will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome's College, the dean of engineering office says.

The Guelph-Waterloo Physics Institute is holding its annual symposium today, under the title "New Physics for a New Age". Speakers based everywhere from Laval to Los Alamos will address topics from astrophysics to optics; there will also be a poster session and a banquet. The event is taking place at the OMAFRA building on Stone Road near the University of Guelph campus (with the banquet at the nearby Cutten Club).

Wilfrid Laurier University holds its spring convocation today and tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at the Waterloo Recreation Complex. Among the people receiving honorary degrees is David Crane, business editor of the Toronto Star, who has often written about the importance of research and higher education for the Canadian economy. He'll be the speaker at this afternoon's ceremony.

The Jewish Students Association will hold its first Shabbat dinner of the spring term tonight, starting at 6:30 in the third-floor lounge of the PAS (Psychology) building. "There will be chicken, meatballs, vegetarian cuisine, kugels, vegetables, dessert, wine and more," says Dan Pollock of the JSA. Price for the meal: $5.

And now a note from Kris Braun, president of the Waterloo Christian Fellowship: "Dale Lang, whose son Jason was killed by another student in Taber, Alberta, has not only publicly forgiven his son's killer, but is working to keep the boy from being tried in adult court. Can this kind of mercy be shown without sacrificing justice? Kirk Durston, who has a master's in philosophy, will explore the conflict between justice and mercy on Friday, June 2, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m." The WCF event will take place in Engineering Lecture Hall room 211.

Engineering alumni from 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1995 will be back on campus this Saturday for reunions. There are separate programs for the older and younger grads, including lunch for the 1975 and 1980 veterans at the University Club and a special reception hosted by UW president David Johnston, followed by a gala dinner at the Four Points Sheraton in Kitchener. Activities for the 1985, 1990 and 1995 grads, on the other hand, centre on an afternoon barbecue and beer garden at South Campus Hall.

The staff association's second Niagara wine tour of the season heads off tomorrow, with the bus leaving campus at 8:45 en route to six wineries.

And . . . faculty members and non-union staff are both waiting for retroactive pay increases, though they're of different kinds. And they'll have to wait somewhat longer, says Catharine Scott, associate provost (human resources and student services), who says payroll staff are struggling with a computer system that doesn't provide well for retroactive changes. Her prediction: faculty will see their increase (based on a 2 per cent scale change) in their end-of-July paycheques. Staff, who have already had one May 1 increase based on a 1 per cent scale change and have now been given a second 1 per cent boost, will start being paid at the higher level in the end-of-July cheque. But a lump sum representing the staff increase for the months of May and June won't be along until "at least" August.


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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