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Thursday, June 29, 2000

  • Open meetings about benefits this fall
  • Nobody will ever get an F again
  • The talk of the campus

Religious studies department moves

As of today, the department of religious studies has moved its office. Department secretary Luanne McGinley will now be in PAS (Psychology) room 2051, phone ext. 3497.

Chair of the department, as of July 1, will be Lorne Dawson, whose office is in the sociology department (PAS room 2028, phone ext. 5340).

The undergraduate officer for RS continues to be Mavis Fenn of St. Paul's United College, 885-1460.

Open meetings about benefits this fall

Staff and faculty members will likely be invited to open meetings early this fall for some conversation about their health and dental benefits, provost Jim Kalbfleisch said yesterday.

He was talking the day after a long meeting of the pension and benefits committee that, he said, didn't make much progress about what might be done to relieve the financial pressure on the two plans. Together they cost UW more than $20 million a year.

Costs are particularly fierce for the "extended health" plan, said the provost, who chairs the P&B committee. "With cost increases of 20 per cent last year and 32.8 per cent this year, we've got to do something," he said. "What you spend on benefits comes out of what you can spend on other things. Ultimately it's felt in fewer people or lower salaries than you might have otherwise."

He said the committee is looking at the whole range of what's covered by the health and dental plans, which include prescription drugs, semi-private hospital rooms, some services of chiropractors, masseurs and other therapists, dental work and orthodontics. The goal: "to see where we could make changes that would help reduce some of the cost, but still leave us with very good benefits programs".

Possible changes to benefits programs are "a very difficult issue for people", Kalbfleisch acknowledged. "Employees obviously don't like to see any reductions in what is covered. . . . These are complex issues, and the committee is struggling with them."

The goal is to produce some written information in time for open meetings in the fall, at which the committee would "explain the background" to staff and faculty members, "probably with some options". The earliest any changes would come into effect would be January 1, 2001, the provost said.

[In red T-shirts]
Canada Day preparations are getting to the feverish stage. Sarah Dolbey and Nancy Heide of UW's community relations office show off some of the souvenirs being prepared for sponsors, volunteers and other participants in Saturday's party, which is expected to bring some 50,000 people to the north campus between 2 p.m. and the time it's dark enough for fireworks.

Volunteers are still needed, says organizer Chris Harold. "Typical duties include helping out with concessions, security, and children's activities. People can sign up online until Friday at noon. After that point, we are asking people to show up on the field and be placed at that time."

Nobody will ever get an F again -- by Barbara Hallett

"I don't think I deserved an F in this course, Professor Squidge."

"Neither do I, but that's the lowest mark the registrar's office will let me give you."

Starting in the 2001 spring term, all six faculties at UW will assign student marks using the same grading system -- numbers from 0 to 100, with no A-to-F letter grades.

Currently, the faculties of mathematics, science and engineering use numeric grading, while arts, applied health sciences and environmental studies employ an alphabetical system, with the letter grades A+ to F- represented by numeric weighting factors.

"As the university evolved, it evolved in two different directions," explains registrar Ken Lavigne, who spearheaded the proposal to standardize the marking systems. "We have a long-standing history of the university having two grading schemes."

The inconsistencies become inconvenient when math students take arts courses -- or vice versa -- and raise real problems when students apply for graduate school or for scholarships.

Under the alphabetical system, a student who receives a course mark of 98 would receive a letter grade of A+. However, the weighting factor of A+ is only a 95, creating "a ceiling of best performance," says Lavigne. That could disadvantage a student competing for a major scholarship, in which other students with high marks calculated under a numeric scheme are being considered.

In the interests of creating consistency across faculties and eliminating disadvantages for students under the alphabetical system, UW's senate approved the change in June. The conversion to the numeric system was supported by each of the three faculties currently using the alphabetical scheme, Lavigne says, and students endorsed the move at senate undergraduate council.

Although the change coincides with a new Student Information Systems Project, the move to a numeric marking system is "not SISP motivated," he says. "SISP can accommodate two (or more) grading systems." Since the decision to convert to a common system will, however, affect the "Academic Advisement build of the system," it simply made sense to address the question now, Lavigne added.

The talk of the campus

"Are You Prepared to Work Outside Canada?" is the topic of today's career development workshop, starting at 10:30 in Needles Hall room 1020. Next session in the series is Tuesday, July 4, at 1:30, under the title "Interview Skills: Selling Your Skills".

Lunch today in the psychology department is barbecued kabobs, with a choice of beef, chicken or veggie; they're accompanied by watermelon and iced tea or lemonade. The meal will be served at 12 noon in the PAS building lounge; prices start at $3; and RSVPs go to Sharon Adams in the psych department (sladams@watarts).

At 3:00 this afternoon, the teaching resources and continuing education office presents a workshop under the title "Teaching Dossiers, Part 2". Facilitators will be Donna Ellis and Gary Griffin of TRACE. Says an abstract: "The teaching philosophy is a critical component of the teaching dossier, but it is also the most difficult to articulate. At this workshop, you will learn more about the goals of a teaching philosophy and a variety of tools that you can use to help you uncover what teaching means to you. We will do an interactive metaphor exercise to demonstrate one of the tools and then we will analyze sample teaching philosophy statements." The event takes place in Biology II room 350; participants should have registered already with the TRACE office at ext. 3132.

The Chinese Christian Fellowship and Korean Christian Fellowship will hold a coffee house in the great hall of the Student Life Centre tonight, from 5 to 8:30, says Denny Suh, one of the organizers. "There will be live bands, personal songs, skits, poems and testimonies about the importance of Christ in our lives. All are welcome to attend this comfortable coffee house environment in which free food and drinks will be available."

It's the last night for "3rd Party", the interactive play that's been taking place in the Graduate House. Performances tonight are at 7:00 and 9:30, and in between, from 8:30 to 9:30, the Grad House offers a "musical intermission". Tickets are available at the door at $8 (graduate students just $5).

Some opportunities listed by the local Volunteer Action Centre: "Computer tutors at Courtland-Shelley Community Centre teach basic computer skills to adults who are also learning English. . . . Hildegard Marsden Co-op Day Nursery loves having volunteer assistance to go swimming Tuesday and Thursday mornings and assist with all kinds of fun outings on Wednesdays. . . . Promotion and speaking skills are needed by K-W and District Special Olympics. . . . Waterloo Regional Homes for Mental Health is planning a 20th anniversary celebration and needs the help of a volunteer organizer." More information is available from the VAC at 742-8610.

And . . . the staff association office will be closed from today through July 17. Says a memo from office manager Barb Yantha: "To purchase discount tickets during that time, please contact either Teri McCartney, ext. 2600, or Kelly Wilker-Draves, ext. 2796. For other staff association business, Edward Chrzanowski, ext. 6487, will be available after July 5."


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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