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Thursday, June 28, 2001

  • Architecture prof wins design award
  • Simon Fraser controversy under study
  • Thursday notes

Smog advisory in effect

Architecture prof wins design award -- by Barbara Elve

[Elmitt]Michael Elmitt's design prowess, his fascination with wood and love of boats has netted a major design award for the UW school of architecture professor.

His "Rowing Shell Reconsidered" was one of the winners of the 13th Virtu Canadian Design Competition for Home Furnishings and Consumer Products -- "Canada's premier competition for products designed for the residential environment" -- announced recently in Toronto.

Selections -- made by a jury of design professionals -- are based on "the originality and functionality of the work, as well as creative and appropriate use of materials, design philosophy and vision." Winning submissions will be on display through August 30 at the Chalmers Design Centre in The Design Exchange, 234 Bay Street, Toronto.

Elmitt, perhaps best known on campus for his furniture design, has been reconsidering his racing shell since 1986. "It's been a slow, deliberate process," he laughs. Inspired by an interest in rowing that goes back to his childhood on the River Witham in Lincolnshire, he competed nationally and internationally in Britain before coming to Canada in 1969.

Now a member and coach at the Cambridge Rowing Club at Riverbluffs Park in Galt, Elmitt has encountered a variety of athletes with an interest in rowing, but with physical limitations such as knee injuries that make it difficult to get in and out of the precarious craft.

To allow the rower to settle into the boat more easily, he removed the thin platform traditionally covering the interior floor of the boat, creating a lower centre of gravity for the rower, as well as storage space for safety equipment. The modification necessitated other adjustments, including changes to the wing rigger -- which holds the oars -- to provide greater structural integrity, and other fine tunings in the proportions and details to reduce the weight and increase the strength of the shell.

"Biomechanically, it made the act of entering and leaving the boat much easier," Elmitt explained, "making it possible for a wider range of age groups and physical abilities to enjoy rowing."

Working with boat builder Jurgen Kaschpur in London, Ontario, Elmitt crafted a prototype shell with a plastic hull covered in wood veneer that captured the Virtu award.

"We regard this as one of the few significant changes that have been incorporated into rowing shell design in 30 or 40 years," he said, noting that orders for the new shells began coming in a year ago.

Drawings for the design are on display at the River and Rowing Museum at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, and Elmitt expects his ideas "to be adopted worldwide by a whole host of boat builders."

While he says it's impossible to patent such a modification, "having it recognized by one's peers makes it all worthwhile."

Simon Fraser controversy under study-- a news release from the Canadian Association of University Teachers

CAUT's Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee has appointed an independent committee of inquiry to investigate events at Simon Fraser University concerning the decision not to appoint David Noble to the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in Humanities.

The members of the committee of inquiry are Howard Pawley, former premier of Manitoba and retired professor of political science at the University of Windsor, and Gordon Shrimpton, professor of Greek and Roman studies at the University of Victoria. They will begin their work in the next few weeks.

Professor Noble has alleged his academic freedom was violated when the university overturned the recommendation of the department of humanities that he be appointed to the J.S. Woodsworth Chair and directed the department to undertake a new search.

"Committees of inquiry are appointed to conduct objective investigations in cases where there are serious allegations involving violations of academic freedom or other rights," said AF&T committee chair Ian McKenna. "Our committee believes this case meets that criterion."

Burnaby-Douglas MP Svend Robinson has written SFU president Michael Stevenson to voice his deep concern about the rejection of the recommendation for Noble's appointment. "Behind the intricate maze of arcane technicalities that purport to justify the decision not to proceed ... lies a more fundamental reality," Robinson wrote. "The senior administration of SFU do not appear to want Dr. Noble on the SFU campus. Dr. Noble's long and distinguished record of exposing and confronting the growing corporatization of our public universities is clearly threatening."

A recent statement from John Waterhouse, vice-president academic at Simon Fraser, refutes claims that the administration's decision was influenced by the conflict between SFU's corporate partnerships and Noble's opposition to this activity.

"It has been suggested that the administration intervened on political grounds to 'block' the department's recommendation," states Waterhouse in an e-mailed memo. "This is a serious charge and is without foundation." Waterhouse went on to explain that the decision to reject Noble's appointment was justified by serious errors in the department's hiring procedure and the candidate's lack of sufficient references.

Waterhouse's statements have been disputed by Lawrin Armstrong, a history professor and member of the humanities search committee that selected Noble. "I have remained silent until now in the hope that the university's procedures would result in a satisfactory resolution of the process," states Armstrong. "The central contention of Waterhouse's memo is that the search process is void because the humanities department violated university appointment procedures. This is false. From the beginning of the search last September, the search committee and the department conducted a transparent and scrupulous process in close consultation with the Dean of Arts, John Pierce, and in accordance with the university's hiring policy for endowed chairs as it was interpreted for us by the administration."

Thursday notes

This morning, senate research council meets at 10 a.m. in NH 3004. And career services offers two one-hour career development workshops in NH 1020. "Interview Skills, Basics" begins at 10:30 a.m. and "Interview Skills, Questions" begins at 11:30 a.m.

There's no shortage of things happening this evening, beginning with tonight's MathSoc movie features Say it isn't So at 7 p.m. and Tailor of Panama at 9 p.m. The movies will be shown in DC 1302 -- admission is $2.

Engineering students will showcase their musical and spoken word talents tonight at 8 p.m. during TalEng. The event offers would-be musicians, spoken word artists and comedians the chance to take the stage at the Bombshelter pub in the Student Life Centre.

And at 8 p.m. in Hagey Hall Studio 180 there will be a performance of The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman. The production is directed by Joanne Cope, and produced by Act One. Additional performances will take place tomorrow and on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 for evening shows, $10 for matinees, and are available at the door.

Avvey Peters


[UW logo] Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
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