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Thursday, May 2, 2002

  • Preview of the north campus park
  • Passwords, and how hard it is to vote
  • Young math prof wins fellowship
  • What's happening on campus
Chris Redmond

Ivory tower in flux, says Western economist

Rules on marks weren't approved

Yesterday's Gazette reported on proposed rules for situations where an administrator thinks the marks submitted by an instructor should be changed before they go on students' records. The proposal, from the senate undergraduate council, was discussed by UW's senate on April 15.

The Gazette item yesterday said the proposal was approved by senate. In fact, after spirited debate, it was sent to the six faculty councils for their comments.

Preview of the north campus park

An open house today -- actually two separate sessions, one on campus and one off -- invites people from UW and the community to review the infrastructure plans for the proposed Research and Technology Park on UW's north campus.

Construction of the first phase of the park is expected to start this summer, allowing for occupancy by the first tenants next year. Partners in the project are UW, the City of Waterloo, Region of Waterloo and the provincial and federal governments.

Today brings the first close-up look at what the designers have in mind, as approved by UW's board of governors last month. The general layout is shown on the map below. Members of the project team will be there to present the plans and answer questions, including representatives of Stantec Consulting Ltd., Urban Strategies, Inc., Region of Waterloo, City of Waterloo and UW.

They will have presentation boards to illustrate the plan of subdivision details and design guidelines. [Map] The research and technology park is to occupy about one-sixth of UW's north campus. Funding from municipal, provincial and federal governments was settled last year, to help build the infrastructure, including roads and utilities. Now UW is ready to make arrangements with developers who will fill in the available space with buildings, mostly for high-tech research.

The park "will consist of approximately 1.2 million square feet of floorspace", says the Guidelines document approved by the UW board. "The University of Waterloo, its partners and the community envision an environmentally sustainable research and technology park in a campus like setting overlooking the Laurel Creek valley lands. The quality and character of the UW Research and Technology Park will be consistent with the University's South Campus."

Today's first session, aimed at people from inside UW, runs from 12:30 to 3:30 in Davis Centre room 1301. The second session, for neighbours off campus, goes from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Beaupre room of the Albert McCormick Community Centre, 500 Parkside Drive, Waterloo.

Passwords, and how hard it is to vote

Voting in the election of a staff representative to the board of governors continues through May 10. Where and how to vote
If you're a staff member who chose "difficult" in Tuesday's Daily Bulletin poll about on-line voting -- after an effort to vote in the current election of a board of governors member, and a prolonged struggle with "authentication certificates" and passwords and "Secure Socket Layers" -- well, you're not alone.

"With some help from an IST friend and personal persistence, I managed to get it going for myself and three others," says a note I received from from a staff member at a pretty high level in in computer administration. If he has trouble, what about the rest of us?

And yet a solid majority of the people who answered Monday's poll said they find online voting "easy". (The figures are below.) How can this be?

As far as I can tell, the explanation is that students are finding the voting process straightforward because it relies on something they already have and use regularly -- their UWdir userid and password, popularly known as the "Quest password" because students have to use it every time they get up close and personal with the myQuest system.

Staff and faculty members mostly haven't found a use for a UWdir userid and password before. So staff are having troubles now in the board election, just as faculty did in this spring's ratification vote on new Memorandum of Agreement articles. (And, for that matter, there have been more than a few difficulties with online student elections.)

The poll results

How do you like electronic voting in UW elections?

It's easy, it saves paper, it's just fine -- 147
A bit awkward, but I'll get used to it -- 44
So difficult I can't be bothered voting -- 40
I don't know anything about it, or I just don't care -- 35

"Students are forced to use it pretty regularly," says Reg Quinton, security specialist in the information systems and technology department, noting that co-op students need the same userid and password to work with the Access job system. "On the faculty and staff side, the community is very scattered on systems, and not many of those systems are taking advantage of the central authentication server."

The what? Well, the central system, otherwise known as UWdir, that lists each person -- student, faculty, staff -- along with addresses and other information. UWdir also matches every individual with a userid (hence "UWdir userid") and stores the password that individual has chosen ("UWdir password").

The password might be the same string of letters and numbers that's used to sign on to a computer system whenever you check your e-mail, or it might not; that's pretty much up to you. But you do need to have one if you want to vote, and as time goes on you'll need it for other things as well, Quinton warns.

He said a new face to the Human Resources Management System is due in November, a web site that will let individual staff and faculty members carry on many of their dealings with the human resources department, such as address changes and checking that their pay has been deposited. Guess what userid and password will be needed for communication with that new system?

Young math prof wins fellowship -- from yesterday's Gazette

Combinatorics and optimization professor Jim Geelen has been awarded a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship for 2002.

The fellowship program was established by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in 1955, with fellowships intended "to enhance the careers of the very best young faculty members in the United States and Canada working in specified fields of science". Grants of $40,000 for a two-year period can be used in a variety of ways to further the research aims of the recipient.

Geelen is one of four winners who are faculty members at Canadian universities. He completed his doctoral studies in 1995 at UW, and was the recipient of the Doctoral Prize of the Canadian Mathematical Society in 1996. He has been a faculty member at UW since 1997.

"In combinatorial optimization we are interested in choosing the best solution from a discrete set of alternatives," says Geelen in describing his research. "For example, we may want to find a schedule minimizing the number of conflicts, find a minimum cost tour of a given set of cities, or solve routing problems for airlines in order to maximize their profits.

"Many such problems cannot be solved efficiently in practice. Problems that can be solved efficiently can typically be modeled using geometry or linear algebra. My research is directed toward describing the combinatorial structures that can be modeled geometrically."

This year there were more than 400 nominations and a total of 104 Sloan Research Fellowships awarded in six fields: chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics.

Computing courses this month

The Information Systems and Technology department (IST) is offering computing courses in May to UW faculty, staff and students. The following courses are open to UW students:
  • Creating a Web Page Using HTML and Unix
  • Using PowerPoint for a Class Presentation
The following courses are open to students, faculty and staff:
  • Introduction to Corel Draw
  • Overview of Macintosh OS X
The following courses are part of the Skills for the Academic e-Workplace program, and are offered to faculty, grad students, and staff with instructional responsibilities:
  • Scientific Computing with Mathcad
  • Scientific Computing with Matlab
  • Statistical Analysis with SPSS
  • Course Web Page Creation
  • Posters with PowerPoint
More information and a registration form can be found on the web.

What's happening on campus

The annual Graduate Student Research Symposium in the department of recreation and leisure studies runs today and tomorrow in the Clarica Auditorium, Matthews Hall. "We invite everyone interested in any aspect of leisure research to attend the Symposium and take advantage of this unique opportunity for scholarly and professional growth," organizers say.

The plant operations department sends word that a complete paint job of the first and second floors" is under way in the Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall, now that construction of the new upper level is finished. "Please use caution in the building," a memo says. "Work will be completed May 31."

People interested in being involved with the Bike Centre this term should drop by the centre (Student Life Centre room 101A) today between 12:30 and 2:30 to fill out a timetable. "The main responsibility of a volunteer is a two-hour shift once a week," says organizer Ted Harms, who's a staff member in the UW library. He also notes that there will be a bicycle auction tomorrow at noon at the SLC, with at least 15 bikes "in all styles and sizes" offered for sale.

The Germanic and Slavic department is offering something a bit unusual today: the film "Continental Divide, Emigration Austria-New York" with commentary by Helmut Konrad, a visitor from the Karl Franzen University, Graz, Austria. The event starts at 2:00 in Davis Centre room 1304.

And tomorrow: a panel discussion on the physical causes of water contamination, with three speakers -- UW's Bob Gillham and Peter Huck, and Michael Goss of the University of Guelph -- who were expert witnesses at the recent inquiry into the Walkerton water disaster. The session will start at 1:30 Friday in Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 105.



May 2, 1983: Maclean's magazine describes UW as "destined to become the darling of both government and industry"; U of T computer scientists are outraged.

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