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Tuesday, April 30, 2002

  • CS department gets new status
  • On-the-job injury rate goes down
  • Notes on the last day of the year
Chris Redmond

Swedes mark Walpurgis Night

[Olive helix]

Image of a DNA molecule, generated in the computer graphics lab in UW's CS department.

CS department gets new status

The department of computer science -- the one with the most students and faculty members at UW, and the one that draws the most public attention -- today celebrates its transformation from "department" to "school".

The new label, approved by UW's governing bodies last fall, is effective May 1.

The opening celebrations of the new school will take place today in the great hall of the Davis Centre, with an official ceremony scheduled at noon.

Earlier, starting at 10:30, speakers will explore "The Future of Information Technology", and a retrospective video, "CS at Waterloo: then until now", will be shown. Panelists to be heard this morning are Jim Ingratta of IBM Canada, Bill Buxton of Alias/Wavefront, and Nick Cercone, past chair of the CS department.

While the new school will still be part of the faculty of mathematics, the change in status provides computer science with a higher profile than in the past and reflects a trend occurring across North America, its proponents say. "Computer science as a discipline has evolved substantially since the formation of the faculty of mathematics, with a far broader scope and much deeper coverage than was imagined decades ago," said Frank Tompa, last chair of the CS department and (as of tomorrow) director of the new school. "The school of computer science will foster the growth and diversity of the discipline and its programs at the University at Waterloo."

The label "school" is already in use for four units in various parts of UW that have professional accreditation -- the schools of accountancy, architecture, optometry and planning.

[Tompa] Tompa (right) said that becoming a school within the math faculty will raise the external visibility of computer science to industry and government, as well as to academic units within other universities. "As demand for leadership and for support in computing has become more widespread, many internal and external expectations and obligations fall onto academic computer science units," Tompa said. "In response, many North American universities have formed schools and faculties of computer science, thus raising the visibility of their activities in computing."

He said the discipline of computer science has broadened dramatically over the last decades. For example, research and teaching now embrace applications in text management, machine learning, health and bioinformatics, finance and digital media. Also, the Web has spurred increased interest in distributed computing and networking. Software engineering has emerged as a cohesive sub-discipline.

"These developments have been largely incremental to the longer established aspects of the discipline, but their multidisciplinary nature requires and encourages strong ties with academic units across the university," Tompa said.

He said that to meet the changing nature of the field, the school is undergoing a substantial re-organization. As well, a new undergraduate degree program leading to a Bachelor of Computer Science degree (BCS) will provide more opportunities for Waterloo's students. The school continues to support the BMath (computer science), MMath, and PhD degree programs is has been offering for decades.

"Research and teaching will remain grounded in both mathematics and computer science," Tompa said. "The school will continue to attract and support those who are fascinated with newly-discovered principles, techniques and technologies."

Until 1975, the computer science department was called the department of applied analysis and computer science, which came into existence when the faculty of math -- the world's first -- was created in 1967. That year, the department had 13 faculty members. The new school of CS will have 63 faculty members, 2,175 undergraduate students and 215 grad students.

On-the-job injury rate goes down

The number of injuries to people who work for UW is going down, says the annual injury report from the university's safety office.

Although one incident at UW Place resulted in a staff member being off work for 103 days, "UW's lost time injury rate has continued to trend downward," says the report.

"The number of lost time injuries in 2001 (16) decreased from 2000 (27). The number of lost days in 2001 (260) decreased from 2000 (445)."

And the "lost days severity rate" is below the average for similar employers calculated by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the report adds.

A total of 192 staff and faculty injuries were reported during 2001, down from 240 in 2000 and 249 the year before. Some of the people who suffered accidents didn't even need medical attention, and most of the rest were fine by the next day; just 16 had to take time off work.

"Most injuries by month were recorded in July (23) and the fewest in May and August (9)," the report says. Presumably none of those July injuries were caused by ice, a traditional source of injuries on campus. But February saw 22 injuries, and November 21. Some 47 of the incidents, a quarter of the total, were classified as "falls on the same level".

The injury report notes that while walking seems to be the most dangerous activity on campus, housekeeping and custodial services comes right behind. There were 46 injuries to people walking, 43 to those involved in custodial work, and 20 to people carrying out 'storage and handling" duties.

In the past year, UW paid 34 cents per $100 of salaries as premiums for WSIB ("workers' compensation") insurance -- a total of $460,000, some of which will be refunded because the accident rate was lower than expected.

Accidents to students and campus visitors aren't included in any of those figures because such incidents are not necessarily reported to UW authorities. However, "student reporting procedures were revised, which has improved injury reporting," the document notes. A total of 131 student and visitor injuries were recorded during 2001, down from 148 the year before.


How do you like electronic voting in UW elections?

  It's easy, it saves paper, it's just fine
  A bit awkward, but I'll get used to it
  So difficult I can't be bothered voting
  I don't know anything about it or I just don't care


Notes on the last day of the year

"The Library has received a limited number of free copies of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," writes Susan Moskal from the Dana Porter Library, "plus a booklet entitled Your Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Special Edition. Envelopes containing both the Charter and the book are available on the 5th floor of the Dana Porter Library on a shelf directly behind the Government Publications Information Desk. Please help yourselves!"

A report in the Staff News newsletter gives a glimpse of something that almost happened, but didn't. From the report of the staff training and development committee: "A lot of work went into researching soft skills e-learning alternatives. Norm Farb, a co-op student, did a great job on a report summarizing e-learning companies. Bob Hicks and Katrina Di Gravio attended the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Conference held in June 2001 in Orlando. The conference provided the opportunity to learn more about e-learning experiences and alternatives. The STD committee decided to work with McGraw-Hill on a project to provide soft skill training via e-learning at the University of Waterloo. A pilot was scheduled to start early in 2002. Unfortunately, just before Christmas 2001, McGraw-Hill announced they were going to get out of the e-learning business. This was very disappointing and it meant we were back at square one. Our contract with Element K to provide web-based computing skills training expired in October 2001. It was too expensive to renew our contract with Element K. We are continuing to look at other e-learning alternatives for both soft skills and computing skills."

The effects of government funding cuts: a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
The University of Toronto has rushed to offer reassurance to students who are planning to go there this fall, after a U of T vice-president said publicly that the government's discount funding means the university is no longer planning to expand its admissions in the face of next year's "double cohort". "Every student who has an offer of admission will be able to attend this university," said provost Adel Sedra, a day after Sheldon Levy, vice-president (government and institutional relations), told reporters that without increased funding from the province, the university would not be able to implement its plans to take more students. A U of T news release adds: "Levy said he also wanted to clarify that his concern about future funding would have no impact on any students already offered admission to U of T."

"Christina Mills has joined the scientific staff of the Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation (CBRPE) based at the University of Waterloo," UW's news bureau reports. "She is CBRPE's Visiting Scientist and Hallman Visiting Professor in the faculty of applied health sciences, said Roy Cameron, centre director. Mills has been director general of Health Canada's Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control since its creation in July 2000. She was previously director of the Cancer Bureau at Health Canada and this year is president of the Canadian Public Health Association and vice-president (Canada) of the American Public Health Association. CBRPE's mission is to conduct and support research and program evaluation that contributes to improved cancer prevention and care."

Finally, I'd like to quote a few words of e-mail that I received the other day, after the Bearinger Road crash that killed two engineering students. An arts student writes: "This just reminds me of another incident about three or four weeks ago, when a fourth year female engineering student was almost killed when she crossed University Avenue at the railway, just east of the engineering buildings. The traffic lights were re-installed a few days later. But unfortunately, very few people obey the traffic law. I also noticed some students ignore the traffic lights at University Avenue and Seagram Drive, the south entrance of the campus. I am afraid more accidents will occur sooner or later. Could the University do something about this?"



April 30, 1977: The staff association holds its spring dance in South Campus Hall, with music by "Sound Vibrations".

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