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Wednesday, April 3, 2002

  • Board approves budget and fees
  • Students note concerns about debt
  • Other notes from the board meeting
  • Research conference goes on; and more
  • Staff positions available this week
Editor:
Chris Redmond
credmond@uwaterloo.ca

'The adventure of a lifetime': applications welcome


[Red umbrella in a grey world]

Springtime in Ontario: more snow than an Ontario winter, apparently. The world was white and grey again yesterday, as photographer Barbara Elve found just outside Needles Hall.

Board approves budget and fees

For the first time ever, the Ontario government will be providing less than half of UW's operating revenue in the coming year. And that's "a disturbing trend", provost Amit Chakma told UW's board of governors last night as he presented the 2002-03 budget.

The board approved the budget after some discussion, including comments about tuition fee increases -- which were also approved -- and about the deterioration of quality that's happening as the university cuts spending a little more every year.

Chakma said he does take some pride in setting aside money for "new strategic investments", in spite of pressures that are leading to a 2 per cent general budget cut in the coming year on top of this year's 3.5 per cent. New investments include $1.5 million for the cost of teaching more students, as well as several allocations for specific projects such as converting many more "distance education" courses to an online format.

Board members asked why UW is even thinking of expanding enrolment when the budget is being pinched, and Chakma responded that without growth, he'd be calling for even more cuts -- by one calculation, 4 per cent instead of 2 per cent.

The provost reminded the board that what's at the root of the budget situation is government decisions, two in particular:

Meanwhile, the costs universities face are rising by at least 4 per cent per year, Chakma said. Ken Seiling, chair of Waterloo Region and a member of the UW board, said his rough calculation was that salary and benefit costs -- which make up most of UW's spending -- were actually going up by more like 6 per cent this year.

"We have made the determination," Chakma said, "that to retain high-quality faculty members, we have to pay competitive salaries." The tradeoff there is higher salaries but fewer people, he admitted, adding that he'd been given a "shocking" prediction by the dean of engineering: a loss of 13 faculty positions in the coming year in order to deal with the 2 per cent cut engineering will face.

UNDERGRADUATE FEE INCREASES (PER CENT)
  Canadian students International students
Regular programs Math and Science Computer Science, Optometry 15 15
Other 2 15
Other 2 10
Co-op programs Math and Science Computer Science 15 15
Other 2 15
Engineering and Software Engineering 15 10
Other 2 10
The topic of tuition fees came up repeatedly through last night's meeting, although by the time the board officially got to fee increases the meeting was into its fifth hour, stomachs were rumbling and debate was brief. With brief protests from three student representatives, the board voted in favour of the increases as the provost and the vice-president (administration and finance) had proposed them.

With increases for most undergraduates limited to 2 per cent, the hike for the rest -- those in engineering, optometry and computer science -- will be 15 per cent, the highest annual increase allowed under rules set by the board itself two years ago. (A chart above summarizes the undergraduate fee increases.) Chakma told the board that if it weren't for the government's 2 per cent limit, the 15 per cent increases wouldn't be necessary; he estimated that the campus-wide increase could be between 5 and 7 per cent.

He also commented on where the money from large fee increases goes: 30 per cent into student bursary funds, 20 per cent to the central UW budget, and 50 per cent "directly to the academic areas where the students are enrolled". Later Chakma noted that budget-makers are taking steps to help the less fortunate faculties as well. For example, the spending on online courses, which are mostly from arts, will give that faculty a surge of juice.

Students note concerns about debt

At several points in the meeting, student representatives, led by Federation of Students president Yaacov Iland, raised concerns about the level of tuition fees and their effect on the debt loads students carry -- which, in turn, could affect accessibility to university, they said.

"Will these students still be able to come to the University of Waterloo?" Iland asked in a last-minute protest against the 15 per cent increases approved for several faculties. At those rates, he said, "tuition is doubling in five years." As the board meeting raced to an end, he was passing out copies of a fact sheet from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance that says the average debt load of a new graduate is now $20,496.

Earlier, he had tried to introduce a motion calling on UW's administration to "work closely with students to find creative ways to reduce tuition increases". As the budget was discussed, officials said they're working on longer-term solutions to the problem, such as external fund-raising, but for now, fees are the only source of the money that's needed to maintain academic quality.

New fees have a wide range. The one-term tuition fee can be as low as $2,056 (Canadian students in regular programs in arts, science and some other fields) or as high as $11,858 (international students in optometry). The fee for Canadian students in engineering next fall will be $3,038, while international students in engineering, if there are any, would pay $11,358.

Other fee changes: a 44 per cent increase in the accountancy diploma program; 5 per cent for most graduate students; 10 per cent for the Master of Accountancy program; 5.2 per cent for the Master of Taxation program; 10 per cent for the Management of Technology at Distance program.

An ironic note: the student services fee is actually going down for the coming year, from $110.64 to $80 a term for full-time undergraduates, and from $83.54 to $80 for full-time graduate students. The reason: enrolment has gone up faster than the budgets of the departments that are supported by this fee, chiefly athletics, health services and counselling.

There's no change to the $400-a-term co-op fee.

Other notes from the board meeting

The board of governors officially approved the proposed May 1 salary increases for staff members, both union and non-union, after officials spent a few minutes explaining the salary system to outside board members. The board also approved an increase of 3.5 per cent in the rates paid to graduate teaching assistants, as of May 1.

They also approved a "statement of purpose on undergraduate student financial support". Federation president Yaacov Iland, along with other student representatives on the board, said they liked the first sentence just fine --

The University intends to ensure that all qualified students admitted to full-time undergraduate programs have adequate financial assistance to complete their studies.
-- but weren't sure UW has the resources to carry through on the commitment as it's set out. Provost Amit Chakma and registrar Ken Lavigne said the document is just a statement of what's already done, and can be used to help persuade potential students that they can indeed afford to come to Waterloo.

Joe Berridge, of consulting firm Urban Strategies, gave the board a quick tour of planned development on the north campus, before the board voted approval of the plans. "High-tech buildings have incredibly high parking requirements," Berridge warned the board, promising that parking lots will be concealed behind trees and broken up by green space as much as possible. "This is, I think, quite a watershed event," said board chair Bob Harding when the vote was taken. President David Johnston said digging should be starting this spring, and tenants could be moving into the first buildings "within 12 to 15 months".

Provost Amit Chakma announced that UW has reached an agreement in principle with the new Waterloo-based Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, by which its scientists will have faculty appointments at UW -- giving them some of the privileges of Waterloo professors -- and do "some minimal teaching" in UW's physics department.

Approval was given, as expected, to an increase in pension plan premiums as of May 1. They'll rise to 60 per cent of the normal level, for both individual employees and the university itself. Plans are for premiums to reach 80 per cent of normal level next year and 100 per cent in 2004.

. . . And considerably more, which I'll report in the coming days.

QUICK POLL

If a Daily Bulletin audio summary were available by telephone, would you listen to it?
  Yes, daily or even oftener
  Sometimes
  Not likely

   

Monday's results

Have you personally been affected by the Ontario public service strike?
Yes, it's caused major problems, 58
Yes, some small annoyances, 114
No, not so far, 236
I didn't even realize there was a strike, 66

Research conference goes on; and more

The Graduate Student Research Conference continues today, with presentations on such topics as wearable computing equipment, "gain-scheduling controllers for nonlinear chemical processes", and plankton "communities" in oil sands. Today's keynote speaker (1 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302) is Michel Gingras of the physics department: "Geometric and Random Frustration in Condensed Matter Physics: From Glasses to Ices".

[Imberger] Water researcher Jörg Imberger (right) of the University of Western Australia speaks today at 4:00 (and note that his lecture has been moved from a previously announced location to Biology I room 271). His topic is "Where the Water Flow: Energy Flux Paths in a Stratified Lake". Imberger asks: "Where do pollutants go when they are dumped into a lake? How does the rotation of the Earth affect the water temperature of our beaches? How can we improve the environmental quality of a reservoir, and the river below it? To answer these questions, we must understand our lakes, estuaries, and reservoirs as dynamic systems driven by energy from several sources. . . ." The talk is presented by the Canada Trust Walter Bean Visiting Professorship in the Environment, and a reception follows the lecture.

The Gays and Lesbians of Waterloo "coming-out discussion group" will meet at 7:00 in Humanities room 373, to talk about "Crushes and Infatuations".

"The first-ever Softly Spoken Lies is finally here," writes math student Aylwin Lo, adding this background: "Softly Spoken Lies is an anthology of art and writing about and/or by men. Inspired by Voices of Womyn, a publication of the UW Womyn's Centre, the objective is to provide a venue for communication between and about the male sex (or gender) while aspiring to remain inclusive and non-patriarchal. And there's a launch party involved!" The party starts at 8:30 tonight at the Graduate House; admission is free, and organizers are promising "DJs, Music, Spoken Word, and an improvised mishmash of the three", as well as the first copies of SSL itself.

Reminder: an exhibition of work by this year's fine arts graduating students continues until Friday at the gallery in East Campus Hall.

Ballots are due by noon tomorrow in the election of five members to the faculty association board of directors (there are six candidates). The annual general meeting of the association will be held Friday at 11 a.m. in Physics room 145.

A memorial service will be held Friday for Stephanie Chisholm-Nelson, a third-year chemistry student who died on campus March 5. The service is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome's University.

Staff positions available this week

There's no Gazette issue today, so copies of the weekly Positions Available list from the human resources department will be circulated to all departments by campus mail. Here's a summary of the vacancies listed this week: More extensive descriptions of each job are available on the HR web site. More information is available from HR at ext. 2524.

CAR

TODAY IN UW HISTORY

April 3, 1984: President Doug Wright announces that in future professors on sabbatical leave will receive three-quarters of their normal salary rather than the previous two-thirds.

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