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Thursday, January 3, 2002

  • The rules about hiring foreigners
  • The rules about winter storms
  • What happened in the fall term
  • I wish you a very happy . . .
Chris Redmond

Weird reasons to celebrate this year: Wellcat Holidays

[Square hole in the snow]

Infra dig: Yesterday morning it was a little square hole like this; by today the excavation on the south side of Needles Hall looks more like one of the entrances to Mengroth, and work on the pipes continues.

The rules about hiring foreigners

New federal rules about hiring professors from outside Canada are good news for UW, says provost Amit Chakma, and will mean some new top-notch faculty members who would never have come here as long as the old rules continued.

"It gives us the freedom to expand our search process quite a bit," Chakma said in an interview just before Christmas. "This university is one of the top universities in the country, and we want to make it even better . . . to be able to recruit the best candidate."

A late-fall memo from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada explains that Ottawa "has suspended the two-tier policy that prevented universities from advertising or recruiting internationally until all avenues to recruit domestically had been exhausted. As you are aware, the two-tier policy placed severe limitations on universities' ability to recruit high quality faculty from abroad." Chakma agrees: "We shouldn't just be looking at the Canadian market, we should be looking at the world market."

Says the AUCC memo: "Human Resources Development Canada Minister Jane Stewart has announced a new policy with regard to universities' foreign recruitment efforts. . . . Universities will be allowed to advertise any faculty position simultaneously in Canada and abroad. They will not be permitted to advertise abroad without also advertising in Canada. All advertisements must include the statement: 'All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.'

"Universities will be able to do simultaneous assessments of written applications from Canadian and foreign applicants in order to devise a short list. Once the short list is developed, Canadians must receive preferential treatment insofar as those on the short list will have to be interviewed and if they meet the qualifications they should be offered the position before any foreign candidate. Given this requirement, it is critical that all future advertisements contain precise definitions of the requirements for the position, and that hiring committees are rigorous in their initial assessments of written applications.

"Vice-Presidents (Academic) or equivalent senior university officials will have to certify information to be provided to HRDC outlining the recruitment and selection process when requesting an employment validation for an academic position, including an explanation of the reason the position is being offered to a foreign candidate and a report on the top three Canadian candidates. The institution will report the reasons why a non-Canadian was chosen over the best three Canadian applicants. . . .

"This new policy supersedes the previous policy that exempted specific disciplines and sub-disciplines from two-tier advertising, in that all disciplines are now exempt."

Chakma said there's no danger that young Canadians will miss out on getting university jobs because of the new rules. They're in high demand, and there are nowhere near enough of them to fill the faculty positions that will be coming vacant over the next decade at universities all across the country. With competition for the limited number of new PhDs from Canada, "We'll end up with fewer Canadians no matter what we do," he said.

What the change means, Chakma went on, is that Canadian institutions can now compete for top faculty from outside the country -- people who until now have been going elsewhere while Canadian universities are tied up in paperwork.

Recruitment in the United States will still be difficult, he predicted, because American universities can pay so much more than Canadian ones can. But salaries in this country are competitive with those in Britain and Europe, and that's where he thinks UW should be looking.

For example, he said, a department like electrical and computer engineering could send a recruitment team to the United Kingdom for a week to see whether some first-rate people there might be interested in a move to Canada. "The change in HRDC rules now permits us to do this."

He noted that "if we are not proactive", the rule change won't do much for Waterloo -- but if departments put in some effort to look for top candidates, there are worldwide possibilities.

The rules about winter storms

Here's a reminder that if the snow falls heavily and the winds blow fiercely, there's a fixed procedure for determining whether UW will be closed and how people should find out.

Under the storm closing procedure, established in 1994, UW will be "closed" for the day if the Waterloo Region District School Board cancels classes at all its schools. If only rural schools are closed, or if buses are cancelled but schools stay open, the university will remain open.

UW follows the school board's lead since it has an effective system for evaluating weather conditions across Waterloo Region, and informing the public through the news media.

Says the procedure: "The university will 'close' because of severe winter weather when normal operation would pose a significant danger to students, staff and faculty while on campus or would prevent large numbers of them from coming to campus or returning safely to their homes in Kitchener-Waterloo and the immediate surrounding area."

It also says that for the university to be "closed" means that classes are not held, meetings and other scheduled events are cancelled, staff other than those employed in "essential services are not expected to be at work, but are paid for a normal day, examinations are cancelled, deadlines for assignments and other submissions are postponed until the same hour on the next business day on which the university is not "closed". The "essential services" listed are food service in the residences, policing, the central plant (powerhouse), snow removal (grounds crew), emergency repair and maintenance, and animal care.

Says the policy: "Classes will not be held during 'closed' periods, and assignment deadlines must be extended. Faculty members and academic departments do not have the authority to make exceptions to this rule."

If there is a major winter storm on a day when the schools aren't open -- this week, for example -- the closing decision will be made in the early morning by the provost. When work has already begun for the day, UW will close "only in extreme circumstances", the procedure says.

A closing of the university will be announced on the UW home page. And the UW news bureau will report it to local radio stations, which have been asked to broadcast it quickly and often, "since the University of Waterloo attracts a large number of people from across the region and beyond".

What happened in the fall term

Some highlights from the Daily Bulletin, September through December:
  • Federal government joins in funding research park -- after Ontario also makes its contribution
  • Study finds UW contributes $1.1 billion a year to the region -- and $1.5 billion to Ontario overall
  • Deans make preliminary plans to expand enrolment -- after record first-year class arrives
  • Students vote yes on new building funds -- but results may be invalid
  • Grad students vote yes on endowment fund and prepare for research conference
  • Supporters buy new Cambridge site for school of architecture -- old factory to be refurbished
  • Co-op department plans changes to interview process -- and will survey students; many unemployed for the winter term
  • Political science student wins Rhodes scholarship -- second in UW's history
  • Maclean's ranks UW top in its category -- and still tops in two reputational fields
  • Memorial walk comes one month after September 11 -- co-op students allowed to return from US
  • Review says academic programs try to do too much -- but excellent quality is noted
  • UW introduces 'bold plan' for Campaign Waterloo -- Keystone Fund is the first step
  • Students get used to Quest, with registration on-line -- some grumbles over teething problems

    I wish you a very happy . . .

    New co-op students -- those who are about to interview for their first work term, that is -- will be attending Co-op 101 sessions in the Humanities Theatre over the next few days. The first ones start today at 10:30 and 3:30.

    Experienced as dean of science for eleven years, biology professor John Thompson started in a new role on January 1. He's now associate vice-president (university research), a new position created to "be responsible for the development, encouragement, management and operation of the University of Waterloo's major projects. He will also provide advice and otherwise contribute to the development of the University's research and scholarship strengths and areas of expertise, encouraging interdisciplinary research activities across campus."

    Want to make a little money? Got a strong back? The plant operations department sends a reminder that it will be looking for snow shovellers any morning that the white stuff has fallen on UW pathways and stairs. The pay is $8.50 an hour. "Show up," says Les Van Dongen of the plant ops grounds section, "at the grounds show in GSC (by the big smokestack) at 7:30 any morning that there is snow. We provide shovels. Be dressed to work outside." For more information, he can be reached at ext. 4010.

    You like to talk? "I would like to suggest the founding of an informal society of UW researchers who are interested in running a series of talks across all disciplines," says a note in the faculty association's Forum newsletter, signed by Achim Kempf of the applied math department. "The idea," he says, "is that about once a month one of us gives a talk on some fascinating topic relating to his or her own research, in terms understandable to all, and yet on a high level. . . . Previously, as a postdoc at Cambridge (UK), I founded and ran such a society for a number of years -- it was great fun! . . . I would suggest that we hold a first meeting in January." Anybody interested can reach him by e-mail, akempf@math.

    Enrolment figures for UW's first-year students were circulated just a few days before Christmas, with the final calculation as of the November 1 official date. Peter Burroughs, director of admissions, says the total number of year one full time students "admitted, confirmed and registered" was 4,518. "With only relatively few exceptions, all Plans and Faculties met or exceeded their November 1 registration targets."

    A correction to something I said yesterday comes from Julia Richards in the music department at Conrad Grebel University College: "Thanks for the publicity for the noon-hour concerts in today's Bulletin. Unfortunately, we have had a cancellation. Instead of Rebecca Campbell performing on Wednesday January 16, we will present Greensleeves Renaissance Ensemble, with Shannon Purves-Smith on lute, viols and recorders; and Stephanie Kramer on vocals. Other members of the ensemble are TBA. Both Shannon and Stephanie teach for the music department -- Shannon teaches recorder, and Stephanie Kramer is our voice instructor."

    Right now, in case you hadn't noticed, classes for the winter term are under way. Reading week will be February 18-22 (in engineering and math, just February 21-22), and exams begin April 8.


    January 3, 1979: The Gazette publishes the draft "Third Decade" planning report for discussion across campus.

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