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Wednesday, January 2, 2002

  • January looks like a busy month
  • 'We have too much bureaucracy'
  • Foreign students' health insurance
  • The talk of the campus
Chris Redmond

We begin the International Year of Mountains

January looks like a busy month

Blink and you've missed it -- the Christmas holidays are over and the university is open again, facing a new term and a new year. Winter courses begin tomorrow; today, staff catch up on the e-mail, faculty turn in fall marks to the registrar's office, and students settle into their new accommodations or say hello to friends as they return.

Heavy machinery is digging up the ground right outside my office window -- in search of a cracked water pipe, I think -- and we'll await news of any other natural or man-made disasters on campus during the eleven-day shutdown. Meanwhile, life picks up where it left off on December 21.

Most of the food services outlets are open today for their winter term hours, though the Festival Fare cafeteria in South Campus Hall won't reopen until Monday. The key control office will be open over the noon hour, today through January 11, as well as the usual morning and afternoon hours, to cope with the beginning-of-term demand for new keys.

The libraries will begin their winter term schedule tomorrow (today, it's daytime opening only). Thursday and Friday there will be "hands-on instruction" sessions as part of international student orientation, being held both days.

Among the major events scheduled on campus this month:

So it's a new year with all the usual hopes, resolutions, tax changes, and difficulty in learning to write "2002" instead of "2001". Oh, about those tax changes: federal income tax rates and Employment Insurance premiums both went down as of January 1, but Canada Pension Plan premiums went up, so most employed people are expected to see little change in their take-home pay.

'We have too much bureaucracy'

Here's a new year's resolution for everybody who works at UW: we resolve not to work harder.

[Chakma] Yes, really. And the man in Needles Hall agrees. "People are working their best," says provost Amit Chakma (left). "In some cases they're close to burnout, and we cannot let that happen."

He made those comments in a chat on the Friday afternoon just before the holidays. It was the last working day of a year in which UW admitted a record number of students, brought in a record amount of research funding, held a record number of special events involving donors and governments, launched a record amount of construction -- and cut the annual budget once again.

"I don't believe we have room to do more," said Chakma, who by the end of December had been provost for five months. "Let's look at how we do things. Are we duplicating our efforts? Are we using resources properly? If we look hard, we'll find ways of reducing our activity. I'm not thinking of removing positions -- I'm thinking of reducing the pressure. We have too much bureaucracy."

He noted that as the top administrator, "I cannot dictate" what changes departments need to make. That has to be worked out in each individual case.

Chakma spoke about the job he knows best -- his own. "I'm asking myself," he said, "what it is that I don't have to do." For example, he went on, can paperwork systems be changed so that he doesn't have to sign approval on things that have already been approved by all sorts of other people? Can he be a member of fewer committees? Can committees meet less often?

"It's not easy" to make such changes, he admitted, "but we ought to be looking."

Among the provost's general suggestions on ways of reducing the work:

Foreign students' health insurance

"I have received some inquiries," says Darlene Ryan in UW's international student office, "regarding the amount of UHIP on the fee statement." UHIP is the University Health Insurance Plan, for overseas students who aren't covered by provincial health insurance.

She explains that on their winter term fee bills (payments were due late in December), undergraduate students are assessed for eight months of coverage, January through August, while graduate students are assessed for four months since they'll be paying fees again in May.

She adds: "Degree students must maintain continuous registration in UHIP until their programs are complete. There are no exemptions for going home for the spring term or refunds once the UHIP fee has been paid. Exchange students are an exception." Her office in Needles Hall can provide details about UHIP -- how international students can and should apply for coverage for spouses or children, how exchange students can claim that exemption from paying for eight months' coverage, how continuing international students can pick up a new UHIP card, and so on.

The talk of the campus

Shortly before Christmas, the Daily Bulletin had a feature about UW's museum and archive of games, in which I wrote that the museum had been in Matthews Hall since that building opened in 1972. Not true, says Judi Carter, of the faculty of applied health sciences, which is responsible for the museum. She notes that AHS wasn't even housed in that building through most of the 1970s; it was called Administrative Services then and housed, well, administrative services. So where was the games museum in the 1970s? "In a closet in the Math building! The collection could never be displayed until the faculty moved into this building."

The January-February brochure for the Skills for the Electronic Workplace program was distributed recently. Among the courses offered to faculty and staff this season: PowerPoint (at two levels), Excel, database management with Microsoft Access, and several courses on web page creation.Among the latter is "Creating Drop-Down Menus Using Dreamweaver and Fireworks", which will give people the skills to put nifty drop-downs on their pages much like the ones now in use on the UW home page. (You mean I could get as adept on the web as, say, Jesse Rodgers?)

Watch for more big research grants to UW in the coming months. Paul Guild, vice-president (university research), gave a briefing to UW's senate at its November meeting, in which he said this university had submitted 15 applications, worth a total of $79 million, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation at a deadline last May. Results are expected this month (with decisions not too long afterwards on matching funds for each successful project from the Ontario Innovation Trust). And various other proposals to federal and provincial programs are pending.

Bob Copeland, who manages the annual fund-raising program in UW's office of development, issued a progress report the other day, including this note of interest: "A new online pledge form is in the final stages of development, and will be ready shortly. This form is more intuitive for the donor, and much improved in appearance and layout. We started tracking web pledges in August, and we are averaging about 26 donations per month totalling $7,300 per month. For December, as of today's date, we have received 30 pledges online, totalling $12,515 (including one gift of $3,000)."

"It's Hagey time!" says a cheerful note from one of the amateur curlers on campus, Patti Cook of the waste management office. In other words, here comes the 32nd annual Hagey Bonspiel, a "fun and frolics" event aimed at faculty, staff and hangers-on. This year's event will be held Saturday, February 23, at the Ayr Curling Club; fee for the day is $37, with lesser prices for those who can't stay for dinner. Sign-up is possible on the web; call Pat Cunningham at ext. 3638 for more information.

And finally . . . as UW begins its 45th anniversary year, the Daily Bulletin begins a "Today in UW History" series. A box like the one at the bottom of this page will appear in each Bulletin during 2002, recalling a fragment of the university's past. This series is based on daily notes that first appeared during the 40th anniversary year.


January 2, 1975: As the university comes back to work after Christmas vacation, the Dana Porter and Engineering, Math and Science libraries close at midnight, rather than being open all night as in the past.

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