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Wednesday, March 21, 2001

  • Ontario task force says more money needed
  • People have their say about UWinfo
  • Drama department's 'The Club' opens
  • Afterthoughts and also-rans

[Report cover]

Ontario task force says more money needed

Colleges and universities in Ontario will need "additional sources of revenue beyond tuition fees" to cope with the growth of the next few years, says a five-member task force appointed by the provincial government.

How much more? Some $480 million a year within five years, says the final report of the "Investing in Students Task Force". The report was released yesterday, under the title "Portals and Pathways". It includes recommendations for more "public accountability", improved service for students, "cost-effective best practices", and more cooperation between institutions.

We are delighted, university leaders say

Report in today's Star

Limits on public sector pay increases, the Globe says

An appendix to the report lists various "efficient and innovative practices that could, if adopted system-wide, achieve cost savings of up to $74-$88 million". Total Ontario grants to colleges and universities are about $2.4 billion a year.

"In order to ensure we are prepared for the future, we must continue to 'raise the bar' in postsecondary education through innovation and the pursuit of excellence," said Jalynn H. Bennett, a Toronto consultant who chaired the task force. "The adoption of best practices to increase effectiveness and enhance cooperation and collaboration among institutions will help prepare colleges and universities for future growth."

Says a summary section of the report:

Ontario postsecondary institutions face many challenges as global competition for talent and investment increase, technology and e-learning continue to change how and where students learn, and students become more demanding consumers of education.

How Ontario responds to these challenges will determine how well our students and institutions succeed in the future, and provide the foundation for growth and continued success. Maintaining the status quo will not prepare us for the future. We must continue to "raise the bar" in postsecondary education through innovation and the pursuit of excellence.

Ontario has historically had higher participation rates in postsecondary education. The next five years will bring significant increases in enrolment of 88,000 more students. The changing mix of revenues over the last decade has resulted in students paying a greater share of the costs of their postsecondary education and institutions seeking more non-government sources of revenue. While the administrative operations of Ontario institutions have been responsibly managed and cost effective compared to other jurisdictions, we have reached a crossroad. The postsecondary sector will face many challenges as it tries to handle the record number of students who will soon enter the system -- institutions are ageing, faculty are retiring, and technology requirements are up.

Individual institutions have been cost effective and innovative, but future efficiencies must be achieved on a system-wide basis. There is a need for system-wide investment in technology, improvement of student-centred services, and collaborative ways for developing and delivering services. To meet growth needs in the future, additional sources of revenue beyond tuition fees will need to be found.

Recommendations for improved student service include "a seamless transfer system" to let students move easily from one form of post-secondary education to another; "a single window of information" for students considering applying for post-secondary education; simplified student financial aid policies; and collaborative development of e-learning programs. The task force also recommends that colleges and universities promote "open and transparent public accountability" by publishing an annual report with information about their mission, key strategies and accomplishments, audited financial statements, and outcomes on performance indicators.

People have their say about UWinfo

We've had more than 150 e-mail messages commenting on
the new UWinfo home page since it went up on the Web two weeks ago, and the first of two open meetings to hear more comments was held yesterday.

The second meeting is scheduled for today, at 11:30 in Needles Hall room 3001.

Besides reaction to the new page, the UWinfo team is hoping to get advice about how to proceed with a "permanent" redesign of the home page and the other parts of the UWinfo project. That includes reworking the organization of other central UW web pages and offering standards and tools for departments who want to make their pages part of a campus-wide Web look.

E-mail comments about the new home page since it appeared on March 8 have been both positive and negative. Some people like the graphic design -- "much spiffier than the old", said one message -- while others don't. One faculty member called it "arrogant and ugly". A number of people have been doubtful about the red lines that run across and down the page, seemingly at random. "I think they give the page the look of either abstract art or a sterile clean room," one message said. "Neither seems warm and friendly and I think the page should appeal to people on an emotional level."

Clearly the page appeals to some users, though:

Even though this may only be an interim page, it is an attractive gateway for the university. Finally we have a homepage to be proud of. As a graduating student now looking for grad schools to attend, I am spending a lot of time looking at people's websites. While first impression shouldn't matter a lot, it does -- I'm more likely to stick around longer at a website, and consequently want to attend a school, where information is easily accessible, the first page is attractive and somewhat advanced (i.e. no simple blue underlined weblinks), etc.

Frequently asked questions

Where is the weather link? Under the "News" menu at the top left.

How do I find a particular department? Under "Faculties and Colleges", under "Services", or with the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Where is the full list of departments? Under "Search". Or there's a shortcut: leave the keyword box blank and hit Go.

Where are the course web sites? Choose "Courses & Exams" in the quick-link menu at left.

On the other hand, several users said they preferred the old look of the home page, which was introduced in the fall of 1998. "I don't see why you have to change a good thing," said one message.

A number of people have complained about small type on the page, and about the way the page is designed to be seen as 640 pixels wide by 480 pixels high, leaving a large amount of blank white space on larger screens. "I have low vision problems," said one user, "and many users -- especially older users -- will have similar difficulty."

A number of users asked how accessible the page is to visually disabled users, and some have said they'll choose to use the "text" version of the page instead of the one with JavaScript menus and other snazzy features. "One page that works regardless of whether JavaScript is supported/enabled would be nice," said one such user. Said another message: "Comparing the java version and the text version side by side, I can't imagine why anyone would ever want to use the java version. It's slower and the signal-to-noise ratio is far lower. Unless it is to make work or amuse the designers, or to annoy people that look at it, I can't imagine what its purpose is."

But a high school student who visited UW for Campus Day wrote in to say that he loved the new page and it's exactly what members of his generation want to see from Waterloo. Said a similar message from a current student: "I love the new design! It finally looks like we have moved out of the mid-90's. It loads quickly, has a futuristic, techno look (which fits UW), the automatic drop-down menus are easy to mouse thru."

Comments are still welcome (e-mail uwinfofb@admmail) and will be considered as the UWinfo team plans the next generation of UW's home page.

Drama department's 'The Club' opens

What happens when seven men come together in a posh gentlemen's club to revel in the time-honoured tradition of male camaraderie? Plenty -- especially when all the men are played by women -- in "The Club".

The drama department production of this "musical diversion" by playwright Eve Merriam opens tonight at 8 p.m. at the Theatre of The Arts, Modern Languages building, and runs through Saturday. Combining a wicked sense of humour with 32 songs from the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras, "The Club" offers an exploration of contemporary sexual politics.

Starring in the production are Emily Boutet, Dale Boyer, Kristin Heffner, Rachel Molnar, Mia Praught, and Erica Sedge, backed up by a creative team which is mix of students and professionals. Both set designer Jenna Pollard and musical director Sharon Adams are senior students in the drama department, as is stage manager Melanie Klodt.

Several professional theatre people are also involved. New to the team is director Robert More, a professional actor and playwright with more than 25 years' experience including membership in both the Stratford Festival and National Arts Centre companies. More makes his home in Stratford, and for the past seven years has been the artistic director of Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover, Ontario. Since 1998, he has become known to Kitchener-Waterloo audiences for his productions at Waterloo Stage Theatre.

"Not only is the cast wonderful to work with, the production team is also right on top of it," says More. "The technical standards of the University of Waterloo drama department are excellent, and I'm very impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of the drama students involved who are responsible for all production elements."

Tickets for "The Club" are available at the Humanities box office, phone ext. 4908.

Staff nominations invited

Word has gone out from the staff association to its members: nominations are due by April 19 for positions on the association executive for the year that begins June 1. Needed: a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer, two directors, and a president-elect (who will become president in 2002-03).

"UW staff, and the University as a whole, are dealing with changes in the workplace: budgetary concerns, increases in workloads, and pockets of low morale," says a flyer. "If you are committed to making things better for your fellow staff members, and maintaining and improving the working environment of one of Canada's best universities, please consider nominating someone for one of these positions, or seek a nomination for yourself."

Afterthoughts and also-rans

Class enrolment (preregistration) continues for the rest of this week. . . . Central stores will hold its regular surplus sale from 11:30 to 1:30 today at East Campus Hall. . . . A seminar on nutrition will be held at 4:30 at health services, and last-minute information should be available at ext. 3544. . . .

Paula Dimeck of applied health sciences will give the first of two "stress management and relaxation training" sessions at 12 noon today in Engineering Lecture Hall room 211. The event is sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program.

The music department at Conrad Grebel College has a noon-hour concert today that I understand is of some importance: the very seasonal "Stabat Mater" of the late Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Musicians include Stephanie Kramer (soprano), Richard Cunningham (counter-tenor), Karol Gostynski and David Woolfrey (violin), Dan Zondervan (viola), John Helmers (cello), and Catherine Robertson (organ). The concert starts at 12:30 in Grebel's chapel; admission is free.

The Women in Mathematics Committee presents a talk this afternoon by Jo Atlee, director of UW's new software engineering program. She'll speak on "Practical Formalisms for Modelling Software", and here's an abstract of what she has in mind:

An important aspect of software engineering is being able to precisely document intended and actual software behaviour. In other engineering disciplines, "precise documentation" means mathematical descriptions and models. In contrast, mathematical methods are not widely used to document software -- primarily because software behaviour can depend on a large number of conditions, making it difficult to express the behaviour in a compact mathematical description.

Parnas Tables are a collection of tabular templates that address this problem by decomposing software behaviour into several sub-cases, each of which is simpler to express and to comprehend. In this talk, I will introduce Parnas Tables and describe how to use them to model software behaviour and how to evaluate whether they are correct. I will also review some industrial applications that have benefited from using Parnas Tables.

The talk starts at 3:30 in Math and Computer room 5158, and is "aimed at upper-year undergraduates and graduate students".

"Cultural Caravan" takes place in the Student Life Centre from 4:30 to 8:00 tonight. Says Ryan Eagles, clubs director for the Federation of Students: "Singing, dancing and various entertainment will be presented. Food from around the world will also be available for a nominal fee. A portion of the proceeds will go to help the India Relief Fund."

Scheduled for tomorrow is (or are?) "Las Noticias de Hoy", a show described as "the third annual Spanish Theatrical Interlude at UW". It happens at 7:00 Thursday night in the multipurpose room of the Student Life Centre; "refreshments will be served."

Also tomorrow night, and I'll be saying much more about this one in tomorrow morning's Bulletin, is the last "2020" lecture of this term, a talk on "Beyond the Clash of Civilizations" by Azim Nanji, who is director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. The talk takes place Thursday (not Wednesday, as originally advertised) at 8 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre.

Advance note: the Graduate Student Association will hold its annual general meeting on Tuesday, March 27, at 6 p.m. in Needles Hall room 3001.

And of possible interest any time in the next ten days: "From now until March 30," says James Skidmore of the Germanic and Slavic department, "there are displays on German cultural identity on show in the Modern Languages foyer. These are poster presentations developed by students in German 292, Survey of German Literature and Culture. The four themes are The Brothers Grimm, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, the Weimar Republic, and Günter Grass. The students have put in a good deal of work on these displays, and I hope as many people as possible will take a few moments to view their efforts."


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca | Yesterday's Bulletin
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