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Thursday, May 4, 2000

  • Wet books become frozen assets
  • Controversy over federal 'chairs'
  • The talk of the campus

[Into the freezer]

Wet books become frozen assets -- by Barbara Elve

Bins full of books in a Village 1 freezer tell the chilling tale of a broken pipe in the Dana Porter Library which caused serious water damage on the weekend.

Bound periodicals from the second and third floors of the library make up the bulk of the volumes being frozen in the food services facility for later freeze-drying. (At right, Isabelle Dyet of the food services staff in V1 checks out a bin of books.)

According to Lorraine Beattie, director of library resources management, staff discovered the disaster Sunday morning. A broken pipe in the south wall of the seventh floor caused some water damage in fourth-floor offices, major flooding in the third-floor periodical collection, and damage to the second floor in the recently renovated user services staff area.

On the second and third floors, "water pressure caused the ceiling tiles to fall in," says Beattie. "The materials that were thoroughly wet were immediately packed into plastic tubs (20 to 30) and transported to food services' walk-in freezer," with the assistance of food services staff who responded by sending a truck and driver to help.

"The materials that were not wet, but were located in the area of the third floor where the damage occurred, were removed from the shelves and placed on book trucks out of harm's way," she adds. "Other ranges of shelving were covered with heavy plastic sheeting to protect them from continuing dripping.

"Plant operations staff responded promptly and efficiently," and the custodians called in to help with the clean up had vacuumed up the standing water by Sunday afternoon. Crews are at work this week replacing ceiling tiles, repairing areas damaged by water, and identifying and repairing or replacing any equipment ruined.

As for the books in the freezer, library staff are assessing what needs to be replaced or restored. A conservator is being consulted, and "food services will need their freezer space back as soon as possible," Beattie adds.

The broken pipe was on the same floor as another pipe that broke a couple of week ago, she noted, although on the opposite side of the building. Beattie will be speaking with plant operations personnel about what action could be taken "to address the fact that our pipes are all aging and to prevent similar mishaps in the future."

Controversy over federal 'chairs'

There's some discord to be heard as work goes ahead to appoint some 2,000 academics to federally-funded "research chairs" at Canadian universities.

The research chair program may actually make the funding problems of universities worse instead of better, says a letter to industry minister John Manley from the president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Thomas Booth.

Says Booth: "Although increased funding for post-secondary education is urgently required to meet the core needs of universities and colleges, the Research Chairs, as proposed, do little to address the problems arising from the ongoing public funding crisis. Your plans for implementing the Research Chairs initiative may exacerbate these problems as well as have other unintended (and undesirable) effects on universities. . . .

"Only 20% of the chairs will be for the humanities and social sciences even though this figure does not adequately reflect the proportion of research activity in these fields. For example, about 41% of university graduate students study in the social sciences and humanities. The under-representation of Research Chairs in these fields threatens to change the character of universities and shift the balance among disciplines.

"Based on our calculations of the CAUBO data, roughly 65% (or up to 1,285) of the chairs will be allocated to ten universities, while the remaining 80 universities will have to vie for the rest. The fact that the bulk of the chairs will be allocated to just ten universities raises serious concerns that larger universities will 'poach' faculty from smaller institutions, exacerbating the differences between large and small institutions.

"We estimate that the 2,000 new chairs will require the equivalent of 50 new university buildings for offices and labs. . . . If private partners can not be found, it appears universities will have to provide infrastructure support. . . .

"The federal government's support for the chairs is only guaranteed for three years, even though the announcement in the federal budget referred to a five-year program initially and the program outline states that Tier I chairs will be appointed to seven-year terms. In any case, universities may have to absorb the estimated additional $300 million per year cost of 2,000 new tenured faculty if the program is not renewed."

Booth's letter says the program should be rethought through "a new consultative process, that includes representation from CAUT, to redesign the program so that it better meets the needs of the university community as a whole".

Meanwhile, Manley has appointed a chair for the Canada Research Chairs program steering committee. He's Marc Renaud, president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The program is to be jointly administered by the SSHRC and the other two federal granting councils -- the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research -- and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

"The appointment of Dr. Renaud," said Manley in a news release, "ensures that the Canada Research Chairs program is ready to help Canadian universities attract and retain the global research stars of today and recruit Canada's research stars of tomorrow."

[Sausages coming up]
Must be summer: Joe Maillette of food services fires up the grill at noontime outside the Math and Computer building.

The talk of the campus

A few hundred more visitors come to campus today to make use of conference facilities. The largest group is some 1,000 participants in a youth convention for the Western Ontario District of the Pentecostal Assembly of Churches, including 750 who will be staying in Ron Eydt Village tonight through Saturday. Also on hand for a couple of days is a small group from St. Charles College in Sudbury; and coming in for the weekend will be several groups (trainers, coaches and would-be players) from the Ontario Hockey Association.

The department of statistics and actuarial science sponsors a talk today by Jeff Wu of the University of Michigan, who will address "A System of Experimental Design" at 3:30 p.m. in Math and Computer room 5158.

Alumni achievement: This month's issue of Report on Business Magazine, part of the Globe and Mail newspaper, presents what it called "Canada's Top 40 Under 40". Two of the 40 winners are UW engineering alumni -- Christopher Erickson (BASc in chemical engineering, 1989), now president of 724 Solutions Inc., and Ross Mitchell (BASc in electrical, 1984), vice-president of Broadcom Canada Ltd.

A recent report to the UW board of governors gave an update on the appraisals of graduate programs that are done every few years by the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies. "Periodic appraisal briefs were submitted during the past year [1998-99] for four programs," says the report. The programs and decisions were as follows: Electrical & Computer Engineering, Good Quality. Health Studies & Gerontology, Good Quality. Physics, Good Quality. Russian, Good Quality." From previous years, three programs -- German, French, and Management Sciences -- were judged "Good Quality with Report", meaning that there are outstanding issues, often related to the retirement of senior faculty members. Those "reports" are due in the next couple of years. "The program in Philosophy was previously classified as Good Quality with Report. The report was submitted during the past year and the program is now judged to be Conditionally Approved with report, which will be superseded by the next periodic appraisal due July 2002."

Ralph Chou of UW's school of optometry writes that "Long-time faculty and staff may remember Hugh McDonald (class of 1973), who was a clinical supervisor and instructor here at the School in the late 1970s. Hugh left the School in 1980 to take up practice in Haileybury, and several years later, left Ontario to practice with his brother, Bruce, in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. Hugh was killed in a car crash early Tuesday morning as he was returning home from Edmonton. The funeral is on Friday. He is survived by his wife, Gail, and several siblings."

Finally, a follow-up to one of the most dramatic stories from American campuses last year: the collapse of "the bonfire" at Texas A&M University in November, which killed 12 people. A special commission investigating the disaster delivered its report this week on the design and supervision flaws that led to the collapse of the huge log structure.


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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