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Tuesday, January 21, 2003

  • Feds 'outraged' as bars are closed
  • New technology just too much trouble
  • First 'executive' MEng grad is noted
  • Other notes and events today
Chris Redmond

National Hugging Day

[Folded arms outside the doors]

Bombshelter staff and would-be patrons outside the Student Life Centre pub shortly after it was shut down about 6:00 last night.

Feds 'outraged' as bars are closed

UW officials shut down the Bombshelter last night, hours after telling the Federation of Students that the sale of liquor was about to be "suspended" at the Bomber and the other Fed-operated pub, Federation Hall.

At midday, a letter from provost Amit Chakma to Feds president Brenda Koprowski said he had "no option but to make a decision unilaterally" about the immediate future of the two Fed-owned pubs, since she and other Feds leaders were not prepared to meet with him on the subject. Liquor sales would end at midnight until further notice, Chakma's letter said.

Then about 6 p.m., orders came from Bud Walker, UW's director of business operations: the Bombshelter was to close immediately. Fed Hall wasn't scheduled to be open last night.

Before the dinner-time action, UW's office of information and public affairs issued a news release saying liquor sales were being cut off "in response to ongoing concerns about safety", and adding that "The suspension will remain in effect until a better management arrangement for the two facilities can be worked out between UW and its Federation of Students."

UW, in Walker's name, holds the liquor license for everywhere on campus, including Fed Hall and the Bomber, "and is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Liquor License Act," the release pointed out. "Concerns over pub safety have led the university to suspend the serving of alcohol."

"The safety and security of our students is of the utmost importance to us," said Martin Van Nierop, director of information and public affairs. "Quite simply, if we can't be sure that the campus pubs are being operated in a way that guarantees our students and other patrons can safely enjoy themselves, then we can't serve alcohol until their safety is assured. . . .

"This is an accountability issue. What we would like to do is work with the leadership of the student union to ensure the safety and security of all patrons to the Bombshelter and Fed Hall. But until they are ready to work with us toward that end, it would be irresponsible of us to continue serving alcohol."

Two weeks ago, UW officials put the food services department in charge of operating Federation Hall and the Bombshelter, following a New Year's Eve party at Fed Hall that led to more fights than the police could control.

Feds leaders had responded to yesterday's decision by announcing a "Bomber Shut Down Party" last night -- an event that didn't happen because of the early closing. They also launched a media attack that led to appearances on local TV news.

"Students are rightfully outraged," said Federation vice-president (administration and finance) Chris DiLullo in a news release. The Feds said it was the UW administration that "refused" to schedule a meeting.

Feds site with background information

Coverage on 'uwstudent.org' . . . and more

Story in today's Record

Says the Feds' release: "During the time of the university's partial management of the bars, the university's Director of Food Services, Mark Murdoch, was assigned to oversee the bars. Interestingly, he reported that the facilities were 'well-run and well-controlled'.

"We're concerned that the university hasn't listened to the report from its own member of the bar management team. If he decided that the bars were run properly, why do they need to be shut down?" And Koprowski called the action "nothing more than a simple power-grab by the administration".

The Federation said some 150 students who work part-time at the two bars will now be out of work. "Some of these students work so they can afford to attend university. Is this what the administration wants?"

Says the Feds news release: "The relationship between the student-owned and operated campus pubs and the university -- which holds the liquor license for the establishments -- are governed by two separate agreements, which the university appears to have broken."

New technology just too much trouble

The invisible costs of adopting new technology -- the training, learning and effort -- can be more of a barrier than the direct price, a research study by a UW professor suggests.

[Åstebro] As reported in a UW news release last week, the research -- by Thomas Åstebro, of the department of management sciences (right) -- deals with small companies in the American metalworking industry. His article, titled "Non-capital investment costs and the adoption of CAD and CNC in the US metalworking industries", was published in the winter issue of the RAND Journal of Economics.

Åstebro discusses why small firms are less likely than bigger ones to adopt new manufacturing technology such as computer-aided design (CAD) and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools. "These technologies are important for metalworking industries, offering potentially large increases in productivity and product quality," he points out.

Some policymakers have seen the lower adoption rates of new technology among small firms as a large problem for the Canadian manufacturing sector, since new technology typically increases productivity and Canadian competitiveness, he said. "There are several theories that try to explain this phenomenon," Åstebro said.

One popular idea is that large firms have greater economic opportunities to adopt new technology because these technologies typically have fixed costs of adoption. "If the costs of adoption are fixed, then larger outputs will mean lower average costs and a greater return to adoption."

But some new technology is cheap or even free, for the effort of downloading it from the Internet. So there are other explanations, such as that large firms replace their manufacturing equipment more often, or that small firms have more risk-averse decision-makers.

Åstebro had the idea of measuring the non-capital costs of adoption of CAD and CNC and relating these measures to the probability of adoption across large and small metalworking plants. He found that the costs of examining new technologies even before they were purchased were an average of $150,000 US in 1993.

As well, he found there were large learning costs associated with their first adoption and that it would take six months to a year before plants were using these technologies efficiently.

Using data from a survey of 330 plants, he was able to eliminate the explanation that it is risk-aversion that explains why small plants are less likely to use new technology. The replacement of old machines was also not an issue. Instead, he found strong evidence that the "soft" costs of adoption explain the results. Small firms, as well as large, have to spend significant amounts of time and effort learning to use new technology, and these costs effectively deter many small firms from using new technologies -- at least as long as the technologies are complex to use.

"Policymakers interested in speeding up the diffusion of new technology may then consider various informational programs or subsidizing employee training to reduce these impediments to technology adoption," Åstebro suggests.

First 'executive' MEng grad is noted -- from WEAL, the engineering alumni newsletter

When Solaiman Taher graduated from the University of Baghdad in 1979, immediate opportunities in business and contracting enticed him away from his original dream of pursuing a postgraduate degree, but it stayed with him.

Solaiman left Iraq in 1980, and his journey toward a Waterloo master's degree brought him to Canada by way of the UK, where he worked in real estate, and Malaysia, where he founded two successful companies. When the Asian economy collapsed, he moved to Canada, started Dateprize Construction, and decided to return to his studies.

His research into Canadian universities led him to conclude that "Waterloo has a reputation as the place for engineering."

Fortunately, his queries reached UW Prof. Terry Hollands, who recognized that Solaiman's extensive industrial experience made him an ideal candidate for the flexible, modular "executive-style" MEng program being offered through the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Institute (ADMI), of which Waterloo is a founding partner. ADMI is designed for engineers working in industry, to provide them enhanced knowledge and skills in engineering design and manufacturing as well as business management skills.

So, Sotaiman registered with ADMI through UW in 2001, and 14 months later (while still carrying out his duties as president of Daleprize) his journey ended. This spring he finished his tenth course module, and became the first ADMI alumnus.

"It certainty was the right thing for me to do," he says, "it has already paid off." He credits the ADMI program's dual focus on technical skills and business acumen with his increased confidence in carrying out business. "We had the best professors in this program . . . the level of case studies is amazing . . . and you learn so much from the other participants [who each have advanced experience.]"

"My dream has come true."

Of interest on the web

  • The latest on making space for the double cohort (Citizen)
  • Minister's statement: 'move forward together'
  • Double Cohort Countdown: report from Council of Ontario Universities
  • Colleges also face application surge (Guelph Mercury)
  • Concern about 'group of 10' elite universities
  • Report on September demonstration at Concordia
  • The great deluge of e-degrees (Varsity)
  • City council gets update on research park
  • Huge climate and energy project at Stanford
  • Duke U campaign raises $2 billion
  • The Responsibility of Universities at a Time of Tension
  • Other notes and events today

    Two workshops are scheduled today in the LT3 technology centre. At 2:00, the topic is "Creating Successful Learning Technology: It's All in the Script". At 3:00 there are refreshments, and then at 3:30 the topic is "Tablet PCs: The Next Evolution in Human-Computer Interaction". More information is available from LT3's Peter Goldsworthy at ext. 7008.

    Jean MacKinnon of Certified Management Accountants Canada will be available at a drop-in session (11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Humanities room 289F) to talk about what the CMA designation means and "why it can help to enhance" students' careers. There will be a more formal information session starting at 6 p.m.

    The career services workshop series is continuing, today with "Interview Skills, Basics" at 10:30, "Preparing for Questions" at 11:30, and "Starting Your Own Business" at 4:30. More information and a sign-up sheet can be found on the career services web site.

    Peter MacKay, candidate for leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, will be at the Graduate House for about an hour starting at 4:00 this afternoon, says Rob Schmidt of the on-campus PC association. Everyone is welcome, but "please be on time," he suggests, "as Peter's schedule is tight." More information: rjeschmi@uwaterloo.ca.

    "The UW Simplicity Circle is starting again this term," writes math student Paul Nijjar. "We share our experiences and find practical ways to simplify and add meaning to our lives." Actually there will be two "circles" this term: one on Tuesdays at 6:30, which means the first meeting is today (in Davis Centre room 2306C), and one on Thursdays at 12 noon (starting the day after tomorrow, in the WPIRG conference room in the Student Life Centre). More information: pnijjar@uwaterloo.ca.

    The teaching resources and continuing education office sponsors a workshop at noon today on "Group Work in the Classroom". . . . It seems a little early for Mardi Gras, but that's what Mudie's cafeteria in Village I is advertising for this evening. . . . Mohamed Elmasry, UW electrical and computer engineering professor and noted leader of Canadian Muslims, will speak at a meeting of the Canadian Federation of University Women tonight at 7:30 at First United Church. . . .

    Tomorrow, fourth-year electrical and computer engineering students will show off their design projects: displays will be in the Davis Centre lobby from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The exhibition continues on Thursday.


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