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Tuesday, March 7, 2000

  • UW students richer, Feds say
  • Co-op system will involve students
  • Agenda for the technology conference
  • Events and notes on Mardi Gras

Network outage planned

On Sunday, March 12, between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., "links to most campus-wide services will be down," the information systems and technology department warns. "Networking links completely within other campus buildings will remain operational. The external campus Internet connection and the campus dialup servers will also be unavailable during this time.

"This down time will allow us to relocate, rewire and perform preventative maintenance on core networking equipment in the Math and Computer building, and is part of the ongoing renovation of the main computer room."

UW students richer, Feds say

Students at UW come from more affluent families, or at least more affluent neighbourhoods, than they did nine years ago, says a study done by the Federation of Students.

A six-page report of the Feds' "accessibility study" came to yesterday's meeting of the senate executive committee and is on its way to the senate when it meets March 20.

"Our idea," an introduction explains, "was to correlate postal code information from incoming students with StatsCan income information. This way, we have been able to develop a yearly snapshot of the socio-economic background for the incoming class." Data for UW came from the office of institutional analysis and planning; similar information from other Ontario universities has now been added to the study.

Says the report:

"As tuition has increased, the percentage of the entering class of the University of Waterloo from areas with median household incomes below $25,000 has decreased. In 1991 66.88% of the students in the Waterloo entering class were from lower income areas. By 1998, only 59.22% of the students in the Waterloo entering class were from lower income areas. During this time, tuition rates steadily increased. Tuition in the Faculty of Mathematics is representative of tuition in regulated programs at the University of Waterloo. In 1991, students in the regular mathematics program paid $885 for tuition before incidental fees. This had more than doubled by 1998, to $1,777. This suggests that there is a reason that students from lower income areas are choosing not to attend the University of Waterloo and that this reason is correlated with tuition fee rates.

"Across Ontario, the percentage of students from lower income areas in the entering class of universities was 62.87% in 1991, and fell to 58.87% by 1998. If the trend of the eight years that has been examined continues, UW will have fewer students from lower income areas in its entering class than the average for Ontario universities in fall 2000. This is a significant change because in the early 1990s, UW had a much higher number of these students than average. This indicates that students from lower income areas are finding greater deterrents to attending the University of Waterloo than other universities in Ontario.

"Another important trend to note is that the average real income of students at the University of Waterloo, and at Ontario universities in general, is rising. Income data is from the 1996 Canadian census, so the increase reported here is independent of inflation. The average income at the University of Waterloo is rising faster than the provincial average. As a result, UW has gone from an average household income of $452.68 less than other Ontario universities, to an average income $131.61 more than that of other Ontario universities. Waterloo students are coming from richer areas, and this trend is stronger at Waterloo than the average for Ontario universities.

"These three trends demonstrate that students from lower income areas are no longer attending the University of Waterloo as frequently as they were in the past. They confirm that universities across Ontario are experiencing a similar trend. The trends also show that the loss of students from lower income areas is stronger at the University of Waterloo than at Ontario universities in general.

"Overall, the information in this report suggests that rising tuition is negatively affecting accessibility to university education in Ontario."

Co-op system will involve students

A new computer system for the co-op department is on the way, in spite of this year's setbacks, and when it comes, there will be changes to more than just what's on the screen.

[Lumsden] Bruce Lumsden (left), director of co-operative education and career services, says the introduction of a new system provides "an opportunity to rethink the way we do business". In particular, he says, the co-op department is looking hard at the traditional schedule: a month of interviews, followed by a computerized match of preferences. "It still takes too long for students, and for employers, to have a decision," Lumsden said.

So a "process advisory committee", chaired by Rick Roach of the department's staff, is looking at other possible arrangements. "They will come up with a proposal that will change that four or five week process," Lumsden said. "We're not sure what the model will be, but it will be a different model." A proposal will emerge "in the next few weeks", he said, and then it will be put out for discussion. He's aiming for a decision by the end of April.

The "continuous" phase of placement, which follows the big match day, began as a scramble to find jobs for unplaced students and has now become much more extensive and formalized. It provides a possible model for a new schedule, with interviews extending over a longer period and students being matched with employers weekly or even oftener.

A major pressure on the co-op department has been the steady increase in the number of employers looking to hire students. At one time a few big employers -- IBM and the federal government, in particular -- took students by the dozen or by the hundred. Now it's more common for small employers to show up looking for that one ideal student for a job. The department has to find room for representatives of some 2,500 companies and agencies each term. (There are about 4,000 students looking for jobs in a typical term.)

No wonder, then, that Lumsden sighed with relief at the news late in February that the Ontario government will fund a "co-operative education centre" under its SuperBuild program. The new building, with a budget of some $8 million, will get the department out of its cramped quarters on the first floor of Needles Hall.

Besides a new building, what the department needs is a new computer system. Lumsden and his colleagues thought something was close last fall, but then the company that was developing the system, Academic Software Inc., pulled out. "We spent a good year and a half, two years, on that project," Lumsden laments now. "We do need to move on it. I want something up and running in 18 months, 24 months."

In the short term some work is being done on the existing system, Student Access; there will soon be a Web interface for students to use to get at the information they need. Already the capacity of the system -- the number of students who can use it at the same time -- has been increased.

"That is a short-term solution," says Lumsden, "because Access is not a vehicle to keep us in the 21st century."

Staff from co-op and the information systems and technology department are represented on a "group of six" that's meeting intensively to decide what to do next, Lumsden said. Yes, he said, there will be student involvement -- through more than just the traditional experience of IST hiring a few students to work on a project that's already well defined. Students will "develop aspects of the system", he promised, pointing out that students have a unique knowledge of how co-op works and so should have valuable ideas about the computer system for operating it. Besides, he said, "they want some ownership here! We need to involve students more than we have in the past."

By the end of April he's hoping there will be basic specifications for the project, so that work can start in May. ("We don't have the luxury of sitting back and ruminating on this for six months or a year.") There may even be students hired for the spring term to contribute to it.

Agenda for the technology conference

UW students are welcome -- free -- at some events of the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference, which begins tomorrow at UW.

Two of Friday's workshops are open to all, says conference co-chair Jonathan Kwan:

In addition, students are welcome to drop in at the "technology exposition" in Federation Hall, open from 10:30 to 4:00 on Friday. And tickets are on sale at the Federation of Students office for the gala party in Federation Hall that begins at 9:30 on Saturday night.

Otherwise, registration for CUTC "is now closed", the web site said yesterday. About 150 students from across Canada are expected as well as the Waterloo registrants.

"High profile keynote speakers will speak at the conference," organizers say, "including CEOs of major high-tech companies and other influential people from the industry." Names announced include Susan Puglia of IBM Canada, Mike Lazaridis of Waterloo-based Research in Motion, Bill Hawe of Nortel, and Brian Vink of Sybase.

Companies have been invited to set up booths at the Technology Exposition to present some of their technology to the roughly 150 students from across Canada who are attending the event, as well as UW participants. Students have also been encouraged to give talks, present research posters, and discuss issues facing them and the industry.

Talks are organized into five "tracks", dealing with the Internet, next generation hardware and software, graphics and multimedia, social issues, and entrepreneurship and innovation. There are also several social events; visitors from other campuses will even be invited to check out Boys & Girls Night at Federation Hall on Thursday. Noted UW graduate Ian Goldberg will speak at the Saturday night banquet that precedes the semiformal "gala".

Engineering contest corrections

Some information was missing or wrong in what I received, and passed along yesterday, by way of results from the Ontario Engineering Competition, in which UW engineers cleaned up in a big way.

First of all, that wasn't "M. Hemingway" who was one of the winners in the corporate design category; that was Darren Hemingway of systems design engineering.

And second, the winners in the team design category were omitted entirely. First prize went to McMaster, and third to the Royal Military College. The second prize went to a UW team of Toan Nguyen, Trevor Stephenson, John Cuddihy and Jason MacIntosh, all of systems design engineering.

Events and notes on Mardi Gras

Today is Pancake Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday -- under various names, the last day before the Christian penitential season of Lent. To mark the occasion, Ground Zero restaurant in the Student Life Centre is serving pancakes all day today -- buttermilk or blueberry. The restaurant, open 8:00 to 4:30, already has an all-day breakfast special, and manager Mike Ulmer predicts that "students will respond positively" to the pancake choice today.

Some things continue from yesterday. It's still preregistration week, with students choosing courses for the fall term or -- incredible as it may seem -- winter 2001. It's also International Women's Week, and although I haven't received much information, I understand that there will be related craft activities in the Student Life Centre at noontime each day and video showings, also in the SLC, at 6:00 each evening.

Students who are thinking of transferring to architecture this fall need to act soon; the "Application for Internal Transfer" form, which is available from the registrar's office in Needles Hall, must be returned by March 10.

Today's noontime concert at Conrad Grebel College is something a little out of the ordinary: "Jazz in the Afternoon", featuring Barry Wills of UW's systems design engineering department on piano, as well as Michael Wood on drums and Art Lang on bass. They'll play three of Wills's own compositions, as well as works by Cole Porter, Thelonious Monk and others. The concert starts at 12:30 in the Grebel chapel; admission is free.

At 3:30, in Math and Computer room 5136, the Institute for Insurance and Pension Research presents Steven Prus of McMaster University, talking about "Life Course Income Inequality".

There are two significant events on the University of Guelph campus today:

For both events there's a special invitation to people from UW.

The student History Society now has tickets available for the annual MacKinnon Dinner, to be held March 16. "As you know," a note says, "this evening provides an excellent opportunity for students and faculty to gather after a long year of work. This evening is always enjoyable for all who attend. This year we have the distinct honor to have Dr. David K. Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo, from the University of Toronto, as our keynote speaker." Tickets are $21 for students, $28 for faculty.

Looking a little further ahead . . . Canadian Union of Public Employees local 793 will hold its spring dance on Saturday, April 15, at South Campus Hall. Tickets can be purchased from union stewards or members of the social committee.

"Career Services," says a memo from Jayne Hayden in that department, "is looking for students to fill a variety of volunteer positions. Depending on the position you will gain valuable job search, marketing, and/or career-related skills by either promoting events and services or by helping other students in their career planning and job search. Open to regular and co-op students who are creative and possess strong interpersonal and communication skills. Applications available in the Career Resource Centre, NH 1115, or from our webpage. Deadline: March 16."

And we'll end with a wildlife note: I wouldn't have thought opossums lived in this vicinity, but Vivian Choh, a graduate student in optometry, spotted one beside the Optometry building last Wednesday. There's proof, as she took a photo of the little furry guy.


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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