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Tuesday, March 19, 2002

  • Programmers head for Hawaii
  • Faculty vote yes on new articles
  • Tough agenda for undergrad council
  • The talk of the campus
  • Notes for your Daytimer
Chris Redmond

Comet is back after 341 years


I'm trying to make a good Hawaii joke here. Something about palmtop computers, maybe? (But participants in the ACM contest can't bring their own hardware. Each team gets one machine, an IBM 6846 IntelliStation E Pro running Windows NT 4.0 and specified software.)

Here's a trivia question: What does Hawaii have in common with California and Texas, but no other American state?

Programmers head for Hawaii

A team of three UW students will be off to Hawaii tomorrow to take part in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest world finals this weekend. They're Graeme Kemkes and Denis Dmitriev, both mathematics undergraduates, and graduate student Ming-Yee Iu.

They earned their spot among 60 teams worldwide by winning the ACM East Central Regional Competition in November. There were some 120 teams in the East Central competition, of which four are heading for Hawaii. (UW's "Gold" team -- math undergraduate Lars Hellsten, engineering undergrad Gordon Chiu, and graduate student Min Yee -- came ninth.) More than 3,000 teams from 67 countries took part in regional competitions throughout the world this year.

No distractions, please: the contest is being held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach. For five hours on Saturday, the three-member teams are challenged to complete six to eight "real-world" computer programming problems. The problems are drawn from high school and college mathematics and computing, as well as from everyday knowledge and problem solving. The students rely on their programming skills and creativity during the battle of logic, strategy and mental endurance. Students attempt to solve complex problems using both traditional and new programming languages, including C, C++, Java and Pascal. Typically, eight or nine problems are given and six or seven are solved by each of the top teams. The team solving the most problems wins; teams solving the same number of problems are ranked by the time and number of incorrect attempts incurred in solving each problem.

This is the 10th consecutive year that Waterloo has qualified for the finals, an unequalled record. In each of the past 10 years, Waterloo has placed no lower than 10th at the finals. Waterloo won the finals in 1995 and 1999.

The contest is sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery, the biggest international association of computer folk, and by IBM Corporation "as part of IBM's efforts to develop and recruit the next generation of technology talent". IBM says the contest "will unite the world's brightest college students under the common language of code" with "a semester's worth of computer programming in one afternoon".

The contest, held in Vancouver last year, will have a record number of teams representing Canada at this year's event. Teams from Queen's University, St. Mary's University, University of Calgary, University of Toronto, and UW are taking part.

Faculty vote yes on new articles

The ratification vote for Articles 15, 16, and 17 of the Memorandum of Agreement between UW faculty and the university has been completed, the faculty association announced yesterday: "Over 90% of voting faculty supported the new articles. The new articles govern processes and procedures related to Program Redundancies, Financial Exigencies and Faculty Layoffs."

An association announcement said 19 per cent of eligible faculty members voted. "This low turnout may be attributable in part to the new online voting procedure. Some faculty members reported difficulties using the online interface."

The announcement said a total of 143 faculty members voted yes and 7 voted no.

The proposed Article 17, about layoff procedures, begins by stating that a faculty member can't "be dismissed, suspended, suffer employment contract termination, or otherwise be penalized . . . for budgetary reasons" under "normal circumstances". A layoff is "an exceptional action" and can only happen if there is a program redundancy or a financial exigency.

Article 15 deals with how an academic program can be declared redundant "for bona fide academic reasons". Article 16 is about "the extraordinary and rare condition in which substantial and recurring financial deficits in the total University budget have occurred or, on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles, are projected to be ongoing, thereby placing the solvency of the University as a whole in serious jeopardy".

With faculty members now approving the three new articles, they'll go to the university's board of governors for approval from that side of the agreement in the first week of April.

Tough agenda for undergrad council

Meetings of the senate undergraduate council are often taken up with rubber-stamping and double-checking, as its members do the detailed screening of even the smallest changes in UW curriculum and course offerings. But today's meeting could be lively, with some important and controversial issues on the agenda.

The meeting starts at 1:30 in Needles Hall room 3001.

The first item on the agenda is the proposal, as reported a few days ago, to offer (and require) academic credit for work terms in UW's co-op programs. The motion to be discussed begins with a philosophical statement: "Co-operative Education is a defining feature of, and a critical factor in the success of the University of Waterloo. Co-op work terms are an integral part of the total academic experience and should carry academic credit."

Then come these four sections:

  1. That, effective with the Spring 2002 academic term, each co-operative work term shall carry academic credit and have a unit weight of 0.50.
  2. That the following series of 10 courses be approved for use in all undergraduate co-operative programs:
    Course name and numbering: Coop 1-10
    Course Title: Co-operative Work Term
    Course Component: WRK
    Unit Weight: .50
    Common Course Description: Supervised and evaluated (by the Faculty) work-term employment in business, industry, government, education or social services.
  3. That Co-operative Work Term courses (1-10) be graded CR/NCR
  4. That, effective with the Spring 2002 academic term, the Faculty degree requirements and policies be adjusted to accommodate the work-term unit requirements for co-operative plans.
That last point, about requirements being "adjusted", means that more credits will be required for graduation -- the work terms don't replace any existing requirements but are added to them.

Bruce Lumsden, director of co-op education and career services, said earlier this month that the proposal has the unanimous support of UW's deans, and employers have reacted favourably as they've heard about it. It's "a positive evolutionary step in the development of the co-op program", Lumsden said, "a good thing to do".

But support isn't universal. I hear that the idea ran into quite a bit of flak at last week's meeting of the arts faculty council, with some professors wondering who was going to do the extra work involved in assessing credit for those work reports, and others sceptical about the merits of giving credit for a job that might or might not end up being related to a student's academic program.

When the undergraduate council finishes dealing with that issue today, it can move on to continue last month's discussion of when and how deans can change the class marks submitted by instructors. That topic was handed to it by the provost following an incident in the math faculty last year that led to a formal grievance and, again, much controversy.

Also on the agenda for today's meeting: a discussion of service teaching, new courses and course changes from arts and applied health sciences, and a proposal for respiratory therapy and chiropody programs operated jointly by UW's kinesiology department and the Michener Institute in Toronto.

The talk of the campus

Some of UW's big individual donors are marking their calendars for next Monday, as they'll start the week with a President's Circle "breakfast seminar". It's a by-invitation event, part of the "donor recognition" program, says Wendy Rose of UW's development office. The President's Circle members are being offered "a stimulating series of breakfast seminars", a flyer explains; the speaker at this one is Stu McGill of the kinesiology department, talking about research that "is questioning many generally accepted facts and ideas about low back injuries and their prevention". I'll say more about McGill -- and about the President's Circle -- in a couple of days.

The Catholic rock band "Critical Mass", based at UW, is going from strength to strength, says David Wang of the electrical and computer engineering department. He sends this report: "We are gearing up for World Youth Day and it has been incredible busy. The big news is that we are on the official World Youth Day 2002 compilation CD. The CD features other terrific Catholic artists such as Tom Booth, Tony Melendez, Susan HooKong Taylor as well as music from all over the world. It looks like we will be a part of all the World Youth Day activities as well so hopefully we'll see you all there. The World Youth Day CD will be available in Canada at any major record store as will the Critical Mass Completely album. If the store doesn't carry it, just tell the store to check with indiepool and they can order it in for you. On a sadder note, we have now discontinued the CD Faith Looks Up. If you have a copy, hang on to it!" Critical Mass will next be heard in concert on April 20 in Burlington.

The career services department is looking for volunteer student career and marketing assistants for next fall and winter. "Gain valuable experience," a flyer suggests, "by helping other students in their career planning and work search. Receive in-depth training on various aspects of the work search, including resumé writing and interviewing. Volunteer 4 hours per week." More information is available at the department office in Needles Hall, or on-line.

And applications are due this week for positions next year as Student Ambassadors, the people who take future students on tours and do similar chores to present UW to the world. The job pays $9 an hour and you also get a UW jacket out of the deal. Wanted are students who are "energetic, team-oriented, an excellent communicator, dynamic, enthusiastic", and able to work four hours a week. The Visitors Centre in South Campus Hall has more information.

From a recent news release: "The Ontario government will invest up to $5 million to provide supports to postsecondary students who have disabilities, Dianne Cunningham, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities announced today. The government will establish the Enhanced Services Fund to help college and university students with learning disabilities get help from learning strategists, assistive technologists and related technology. All colleges and universities will be eligible to apply for funding. Funding will also be used to set up a mobile assessment team on a one-year trial basis, which colleges and universities could call upon as needed." In addition, the government will allow disability-related educational expenses in the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) needs assessment when determining eligibility for the provincial component of the Bursary for Students with Disabilities."

The subject is power

Ontario's controversial electricity deregulation is the topic of two forums this week organized by the Civics Research Group. The group is hosting the Wednesday and Thursday sessions from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Centre for Core Area Research and Design, 70 King Street East in downtown Kitchener. The research group is an outreach initiative of the Heritage Resources Centre in UW's faculty of environmental studies.

Notes for your Daytimer

"Fantastic goodies" are promised today (my waistline is advising me to stay away) as food services holds a "meet our baker" event in its PAS Lounge outlet. The star is Paul Gatcke, the department's head baker, who will be at PAS from 11:45 to 12:45 giving "samples, bite-size of course", of the bake shop's creations.

But man does not live by muffins alone, and some people have a hard time getting enough to eat. The Jewish Students Association is sponsoring a food drive -- "Bring a Can to Campus!" -- today and tomorrow in the Student Life Centre, 9:30 to 4:30. Proceeds will go to the House of Friendship shelter and the Anna Kaljas Home.

Careers in health informatics will be the topic at an event tonight -- 4 to 7 p.m. in Davis Centre room 1302. "Please join us," says a note from the computer science department, "for an hour of speakers and discussion followed by a reception with refreshments. . . . We are expecting 10-20 potential employers to attend." On-line preregistration is suggested.

Artist Robert Enright will speak tonight, in an event co-sponsored by UW's fine arts department and Waterloo Regional Arts Council. Topic: "The Bodies of Eric Fischl: Corporeal Ghosts and Visceral Hauntings". Enright's lecture will be given starting at 7:30 at the Walper Terrace Hotel in downtown Kitchener.

The St. Bede Lectures continue at Renison College. Tonight, Rev. Claudine Carlson, adjunct lecturer at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, speaks on "Lent -- the Heart of the Lutheran Tradition", at 7:30 p.m. at the Renison chapel.

Also at 7:30, Ramesh Thakur of the United Nations University will speak on "The International Commission on State Sovereignty: The Responsibility to Protect". The talk, sponsored by the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, will be given at the University Club. Information: ext. 2765.

Tomorrow is going to be a particularly busy day -- here are some of the daytime events:

And Wednesdayn the evening brings a whole lot more, including opening night for the drama department's production of "The Crucible Project".

On to Thursday: it'll be Customer Appreciation Day in retail services, with special sales in the UW Shop, the bookstore and Techworx.



March 19, 1980: Jim Leslie and Ted Dixon of the physics department, who founded UW's correspondence program, resign from heading it in a dispute over the appointment of a registrar's office official.

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