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Wednesday, April 4, 2001

  • Students are 'disappointed', board told
  • Income is still a question mark
  • Firm will sponsor UW computing competition
  • High schoolers stage improv drama
  • Notes in the middle of the week

[Three smiling faces]
Graduate students show off their work today through Friday as UW holds its first Graduate Research Conference. Preparing for the event are graduate student Candace Newman, associate dean of graduate studies Jim Frank, and Graduate Student Association president Bill Bishop. The conference will take place in several rooms in the Davis Centre, presenting research by some 144 graduate students -- thought to be the largest group showing their work at any grad conference across Canada.

Students are 'disappointed', board told

The board of governors yesterday approved a $25-a-term hike in the co-op fee, to be paid by students starting when the new co-op and career services building opens -- likely in the fall of 2002.

Approval came with some dissenting votes, and only after a painful half-hour discussion among board members, in which student representatives stressed that students aren't fully happy with the fee or the way it has been introduced. The $25 per term, to be paid by co-op students for a maximum of 25 years, is meant to pay for as much as half of the new building's cost, estimated at $8.7 million. The other half is coming from the Ontario government's SuperBuild program.

"This fee in no way, shape or form has widespread student support," said Chris Farley, president of the Federation of Students, who nevertheless said he supported the proposal. Later in the debate he referred to "students' sheer frustration with the co-op process" and emphasized the promise, made by UW management in a memorandum of agreement with the Federation last week, that the workings of the co-op department and job placement process will get a full review.

Robin Stewart, a former Federation vice-president and now a student member of the board, was vocal in the discussion, asking why there hasn't been a student referendum on the proposal. "I think a lot of students are disappointed that the university didn't engage the student body in this project," he said. "I think a lot of the fault here lies with our representatives. . . . What could have been a partnership is an imposed fee instead."

"It's the board's prerogative to set the co-op fee," vice-president (administration and finance) Dennis Huber reminded the meeting. "We have been dealing with the student body through their elected representatives," he added.

"Short of a referendum, there was as extensive consultation as the Federation has had on anything," said Farley. "I'm reasonably confident that the agreement we have is going to serve student interests." The review of the co-op program is a key provision of that agreement.

John Wetmore, president of IBM Canada and an outside member of the board, asked whether employers might be asked to help pay for the building, and Huber assured him that they'll be on the hit list when the FIftieth Anniversary Fund campaign starts. "The co-op building is the top priority in the capital campaign," the vice-president promised. And students have been told that anything UW manages to raise towards the building's cost will reduce the length of time the $25 fee is collected.

The Engineering Lecture Hall

Confusion continues about the new name of the Engineering Lecture Hall, being rededicated in honour of the alumnus who gave a seven-figure sum last year to help with renovation and expansion of the building. A few days ago I said in this Bulletin that the word was finally out: it would be Rod Coutts Hall, abbreviated RCH.

Well, no. There's a corrected revised change, says Marita Williams of the space utilization office. The real new name of the building, as of today, is R. J. Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall. The abbreviation will indeed be RCH.

Got that?

Income is still a question mark

Members of the board of governors were asking yesterday whether there's been any hint from the Ontario government about funding to support enrolment expansion when the "double cohort" surges out of the province's high schools in 2003.

And they got at least a hint of a hint about the answer: there may be news "in the next few weeks", said provost Alan George. He said that possibility was based on remarks made yesterday by Elizabeth Witmer, Ontario minister of the environment and MPP for Waterloo, at a breakfast meeting that was also attended by Laura Talbot-Allan, UW's new vice-president (university relations).

At this stage, though, university leaders are just guessing, and that makes it hard to put even a one-year budget together, let alone do any long-term planning, George said. He said it seems unlikely that there will be a commitment about 2001-02 university operating grants before the provincial treasurer brings down a budget in the second week of May.

The new fiscal year starts on May 1, and budget-makers were hoping to know weeks or months ago what the university's income will be for the new year.

As things stand, George brought only a few general comments, rather than a proposed budget, to the board meeting. He said the salary settlements with staff and faculty members, announced last week, will cost about $3.7 million in the coming year, giving UW a total deficit of $5.5 million on a budget of $220 million.

"The strategy will be," he said, "to have plans in place for a number of levels of budget reduction," and deans who were previously told to get ready for a 3 per cent "claw-back" are now also looking at bigger numbers.

The board gave approval to the staff salary settlement, as expected, and to tuition fee increases of 7 per cent in undergraduate engineering, optometry and computer science, 2 per cent in other programs, effective May 1.

Architecture professor Dereck Revington is featured in today's Gazette as the designer of the "luminous veil" suicide barrier that's to be installed along Toronto's landmark Bloor Street Viaduct.

Firm will sponsor UW computing competition

A reception Friday morning will celebrate a "partnership" by which Sun Microsystems of Canada will become the major sponsor of the Canadian Computing Competition, operated by UW's Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing.

Curt Warkentin, development officer for the mathematics faculty, said the reception (10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Math and Computer room 5158) will also be an opportunity to welcome back to campus Jim Mitchell, a distinguished UW alumnus and Graham medallist for computing innovation. Mitchell, vice-president of Sun Laboratories and a Sun Fellow, graduated from Waterloo in 1966 with a BSc in mathematics.

"Jim's vision and efforts have been very instrumental in forging this partnership," Warkentin said.

A number of Mitchell's classmates from his days at Waterloo have been invited to the Friday event, as well as current UW students who are CCC medallists or members of UW's successful ACM programming teams from the past few years.

Established in 1995, the CEMC administers all divisions of the Canadian Mathematics Competition, the Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge and the Canadian Computing Competition. As well, the centre promotes interaction in the form of conferences and seminars between university and school mathematicians and computer scientists, sponsors the writing of manuscripts on enrichment topics in mathematics and computing, and arranges for visiting fellows to the centre. The centre also develops and tests experimental materials in the schools.

Another UW competition has also received some outside support. It was announced last week that the George and Helen Vari Foundation of Toronto has pledged $15,000 -- $5,000 a year -- to the high school French Contest. The money will help provide more prizes, including an educational trip to France for the first prize winner each year.

High schoolers stage improv drama

Local high school students take to the Theatre of the Arts stage tonight through Friday for the Waterloo Regional Improv Games -- part of a national competition for quick-thinking actors.

"The drama department has generously agreed to offer us the Theatre of the Arts at charity rates," says Jeremy Taylor, regional director for the Games, a competition that began in Ottawa in 1978 and has been adopted in many parts of Canada since then. This year brings it to southwestern Ontario for the first time.

The preliminary round of the tournament begins tonight and ends Friday, with the final night of play, for the best five teams, following on Saturday. "Although the tournament is centred in Waterloo, twelve teams of high school students from London to St. Catharines are jumping at the chance to build confidence, develop their theatrical abilities, and collaborate with other young actors," says Taylor.

Teams of no more than eight students will compete to produce high-quality, spontaneous theatrical scenes. The teams' play will be judged by members of the local theatre community, and the most successful team will go the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to compete against schools from across the country.

Tickets are available at $5 per night from the Humanities box office, phone 888-4908.

Faculty association meets

The UW faculty association will hold its annual general meeting at 2:30 this afternoon in Physics room 145. The agenda includes the results of the recent election -- with word, presumably, on who the new president of FAUW will be -- and reports from the association's many committees, as well as an update on negotiations with the UW administration about various sections of the Memorandum of Agreement.

Notes in the middle of the week

With winter term exams about to begin, the spring term is just over the horizon, and the documents are in the mail: "It was decided less than one week ago," says Carmen Roecker of the registrar's office, "that our schedules for the spring 2001 term would run March 30 rather than the originally scheduled run of April 6. Schedules will be mailed starting today," to students' home addresses.

And from the finance office: "Undergraduate fee statements are being mailed to the home address on record. Graduate fee statements are being mailed to the mailing address on record. The due date is April 24, 2001. Late fees begin April 25, and the last day to register is May 31."

As things wind down, the Festival Room cafeteria in South Campus Hall is closed for the season -- as I discovered when I showed up there on Monday looking for lunch. Other food services outlets are still open, for the time being anyway, and I see that Brubakers in the Student Life Centre is featuring "Wacky Wednesday Chicken Kabobs" today.

Susie Castela, secretary in the department of geography, is in trouble: "This morning [Tuesday] I lost my wallet. I have some very important receipts that I desperately need." She's willing to give a reward to whoever finds the wallet, likely in the ring road area from Humanities to Environmental Studies I, and gets it back to her. She can be reached at ext. 2433.

A surplus sale of UW property at central stores, East Campus Hall, is scheduled from 11:30 to 1:30 today.

The day also brings a cancer control seminar, "Using Geographic Information Systems to Explore Relationships Between Tobacco Policy and Demographics in Alberta", by Candace Nykiforuk, graduate student in health studies and gerontology. She'll speak at 12:30 in Matthews Hall room 3119.

An open house is scheduled this afternoon at the new distance education offices, 335 Gage Avenue in Kitchener. Several hundred invitations to the event have been sent to people across campus; the event runs from 3:30 to 5 p.m. (Information: ext. 5797.)

A tour of the stars -- well, at least a tour of the observatory atop UW's Physics building -- starts at 8 p.m. Tours will be held on the first Wednesday of every month, with times shifting as sunset shifts, the astronomy research group advises.

"Thanks for Caring" opens tonight in Studio 180, the black-box theatre in the Humanities building, presented by "the I Can't Believe It's Not Theatre Company in association with UW Drama". The show continues at 8 p.m. tonight through Saturday; admission is $5 at the door (information 742-8145).

Coming tomorrow afternoon: a celebration of recent grants to UW from the Ontario Innovation Trust, starting at 1:30 in Chemistry II room 064. I'll hope to have more information in tomorrow's Bulletin.


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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