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Thursday, June 26, 2003

  • New rules on disabled parking
  • Sagging stocks won't hurt pensions
  • Province extends student aid trust fund
  • Other notes and events today
Chris Redmond

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

[Isn't that a headlock?]

The Muskoka Club can, as they say, organize a binge in a brewery. They organized this one, at Waterloo's Brick, in late May. "The official party club of the University of Waterloo" is also into the corollaries of social activity -- networking and "community building" -- its web site explains.

New rules on disabled parking

Officials have issued new guidelines about parking permits for disabled people and those with medical problems, after finding out that some of the existing arrangements were blocking roads where emergency vehicles might need to get through.

"Recently the University of Waterloo was informed that some of our alternative parking spots will be removed effective with the Fire Department establishing new Fire Routes," says a memo from Barbara Schumacher, medical director of health services, who headed a "parking accommodations group" that looked at the problem.

She notes that UW intends "to insure adequate accessible parking, whenever possible, for those who are in need of accommodation". But with the city's new requirements, parking spots for disabled people are going to be in short supply -- so new guidelines were needed about how they'll be allocated.

"There are several options available to persons requiring assistance," Schumacher writes. They involve a permit to park in "designated accessible spots" in various places on campus -- but ones that don't block the way for emergency access. They also involve paying for a parking decal. Nobody parks free.

Says the memo: "With appropriate medical documentation, a temporary medical accommodation can be issued for up to four months or less concurrent with a school term, for special short term requirements. However, should your condition require an extension into the second term, a Ministry of Transport Disabled Person Parking Permit is required.

"If your medical condition requires ongoing parking accommodation, a Ministry of Transport Application for Disabled Person Parking Permit must be completed. This form can be picked up at Parking Services or at the local Ministry of Transport office."

Applications for "accessible" parking for students are processed by the office for persons with disabilities, on the first floor of Needles Hall. For staff and faculty, the contact is occupational health nurse Linda Brogden in health services.

An advisor in one of those departments will meet with the individual "to triage the request and determine appropriate accommodation to meet the needs of the individual while considering availability of parking on campus. . . .

"Collaboration with Parking Services and recommendations for parking on campus is provided, with consideration for other alternatives such as access to Mobility Plus Parallel Transit System, United Taxi, and pick-up and drop-off from family members."

Then parking services will issue an appropriate sticker. "Persons holding Ministry of Transport permits will be asked to photocopy and deliver to the appropriate office annually in August. Persons requiring short term accommodation will be instructed at the time of request what is needed and how often."

Sagging stocks won't hurt pensions

The pension and benefits committee will get a report today on how UW's pension fund did during 2002 -- not a great year for investments -- but officials are putting out a soothing word: a drop in the value of the fund won't mean a drop in people's pensions, now or in the future.

That's because UW has what actuaries call a "defined benefit" pension plan. Only a minority of employer pension plans work like this one -- the majority are "defined contribution" or "money purchase" plans, and in those cases, a drop in the value of pension fund investments does mean trouble.

But at UW, says David Dietrich of the human resources department, "a pension is based on a member's final average earnings and the amount of time a member has made contributions into the plan. Therefore, unlike other employers who have money purchase or 'RRSP like' pension plan designs, the current negative state in the stock market has no effect on the size of the UW pension."

It might, however, put the squeeze on the university budget as a whole, since the employer -- the university -- would be required to put extra money into the pension fund if assets fell below the level that was necessary to pay those calculated pensions. That hasn't happened yet, despite a 4 per cent drop in pension investments during 2001.

At the end of 2002, about 42 per cent of the pension fund was invested in stocks (23 per cent Canadian and 19 per cent foreign). Corporate bonds had 35 per cent of the fund, and "real return" government bonds 23 per cent. (When I touched on this subject in the Daily Bulletin last November 1, I got the breakdown badly wrong, and I've only now managed to get correct figures and publish them. My apologies.)

Dietrich also draws attention to another feature of the UW pension plan that isn't shared by most other plans: an annual cost-of-living increase, or COLA, for retired staff and faculty members, "to ensure that the purchasing power of UW pensions is maintained over time.

"COLA, as defined in the pension plan text, indicates a 2.23% change and therefore effective July 1, 2003, UW pensioners will receive a 2.23% COLA increase.

"The UW pension plan guarantees COLA increases up to 5%. If the COLA ever increases over 5%, as occurred quite regularly in the early 80's, then the Pension and Benefits Committee would decide annually whether the pension fund can afford to pay the full COLA. The UW pension fund has always been able to afford the full COLA. However, in the last 30 years, the full COLA above 5% was not awarded by the Committee on three occasions because government restrictions were applied to salary increases for active employees."

The P&B committee is meeting this morning -- starting at 8:30 -- in Needles Hall room 3004.

Province extends student aid trust fund

The Ontario government this week announced another $400 million to be spent on the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund "to enhance student financial aid over the next decade".

A news release quoted premier Ernie Eves: "Our formula is simple. Tax cuts support a strong economy and a strong economy increases government revenue. More revenue means more money to invest in priorities like quality post-secondary education so students can compete in the global economy."

'We commend government for enhancing this highly successful program,' says Council of Ontario Universities
As in the first phase of OSOTF, the province will match cash donations to post-secondary institutions dollar for dollar, so that combined, government and private investment should generate a total of $800 million in Phase II. It's a new incentive for university fund-raisers to bring in scholarship money, with each eligible gift bringing in its equivalent in special government funding.

Says the province: "Together with more than $600 million generated by the first phase, this will create more than $1.4-billion in trust funds that will enable 400,000 students to attend college or university over the next 10 years. Moreover, these funds create a legacy that will provide an ongoing source of student financial aid in the future."

The OSOTF was established in 1996 to enhance student financial assistance. All Ontario colleges and universities -- including UW -- participated in Phase I. The government matched $300 million in private contributions, resulting in the establishment of more than $600 million in permanent endowment funds. Investment income from these funds is used to finance student financial aid.

Says the government: "From the start of the program through April 2002, more than 58,000 students have benefited from more than $90 million in bursary assistance. . . .

"For this fiscal year, 2003-04, cash donations made on or after March 27, 2003 will be eligible for matching funds under Phase II. Up to $15 million in matching funds will be available in 2003-04 and will be distributed to institutions starting in January 2004. Up to $50 million in annual matching funds will be available in each of the three subsequent years."

[As the keyboard man applauds]

On stage with country singer George Fox, at the recent Lake Alive Festival at Puslinch Lake, is Nancy O'Neil, program coordinator for UW's Student Life Centre. O'Neil was there with the UW Drum Circle, which opened both days of the festival, and let it be known that she's a huge Fox fan. "His stage crew came and got me up on stage in front of everyone," she writes. "I played a few instruments with him and his band."

Other notes and events today

A noon-hour "Knowing Your Workplace" session is scheduled for today, dealing with the sick leave and disability benefits for staff and faculty. It's part of an occasional series run by the human resources department to provide information about UW as a place of employment. Anyone interested can attend -- 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

Also at noon hour, award-wining journalist Anthony Reinhart of the Record gives a presentation for a recently-formed group that's calling itself "A Press Club". He'll speak on "the art of digging in order to develop a feature story from a routine event", at 12:00 in the great hall of the Student Life Centre.

Today's career services workshops deal with "Interview Skills: The Basics" and "Preparing for Questions". . . . Kids about to move up to the academic heights of kindergarten will be "graduating" from the Klemmer Farmhouse co-op nursery school with ceremonies and celebrations at 5:45 tonight. . . . Members of the staff association are invited to join in a baseball game at 6:30 tonight at field 5A by Columbia Lake. . . .

A speaker from the National Research Council will talk tonight about "The World Trade Center: What Happened from an Engineer's Perspective". He is Venkatesh Kodur, described as "the only non-American invited to the site immediately following the events of September 11, 2001. He was part of the team that went through the buildings trying to assess what happened and recommend what changes need to be made to structures in the future." He'll speak, and show pictures, starting at 7:00 in Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 101. The talk is sponsored by the Grand River chapter of Professional Engineers Ontario.

Also at 7:00 tonight is a movie night with a galactic flavour, as "Mars Week" continues for Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. Location: POETS Pub in Carl Pollock Hall.

Tomorrow, when the sun is expected to be shining again after today's thunderstorms, the Midnight Sun solar car team will unveil the results of its work. Midnight Sun VII is finished, and just about ready for the American Solar Challenge across the United States next month. The car will be brought out for public show at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon outside the Tatham Centre.

And . . . there will definitely be some Waterloo people in Toronto's Pride Parade on Sunday afternoon -- "a queer community event", as its web site explains diversely, divinely and defiantly. "I'm trying to build as much support and awareness of the event as possible," writes Jeff Landeen of Gays and Lesbians of Waterloo, "to try and get people from UW and Waterloo at large to come down and support us." Gathering time is 1 p.m. Sunday, on Bloor Street between Church and Jarvis. For details, Landeen can be reached at jrlandeen@hotmail.com.


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