[University of Waterloo]


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Monday, December 20, 2004

  • 'Tis the week before Christmas
  • 'Darwin would have been aghast'
  • Deloitte gives 7 accounting scholarships
Chris Redmond

Wonders of Winter, in Waterloo Park

[Christmas ornament]

'Tis the week before Christmas

On this cold, cold morning, with the steam from the big smokestack rising rose-tinted into a pale blue sky, we enter the last working week of 2004. To clarify, for those who have just awoken from long winter naps or something: exams wind up on Wednesday, and the university is open for business through this Thursday, December 23. Then just about everything will be closed for a total of eleven straight days. The university reopens on Tuesday, January 4, 2005, when staff will be back at work and winter term classes will begin. The monthly payday for December will be Thursday, the 23rd.

Things are already looking holidayish on campus, though, and I don't mean just the door in the Humanities building that's wrapped like a Christmas package, or the animated moose, studded with holiday lights, in the concourse at Renison College. Parking lots are (more than) half empty, and -- now this is serious -- it's getting harder to find a cup of coffee. Several food services outlets have closed for the season already, apparently including Pastry Plus here in Needles Hall (I haven't actually gone down to check yet this morning). Among those still open are the residence cafeterias, of course, as well as Browsers in the Dana Porter Library, among others. Tim Horton's in the Student Life Centre will maintain its 24-hour-a-day operation until Wednesday evening, then open for just a few hours on Thursday before the full Christmas shutdown begins.

On to other matters: the secretariat issued a memo Friday announcing a revised version of UW's Policy 31 about employee travel. The changes are purely of a "housekeeping" nature -- for instance, the phrase "on-campus travel agency" has been changed to "contracted travel agency" since there is in fact no longer a travel agency on campus. And the "purchasing department" is now "procurement and contract services".

Carrie Stevenson of the local Easter Seal Society sends a suggestion for a last-minute "fiery" Christmas gift: "While the temperature may be dropping, it promises to heat up on Thursday, February 24, when the Waterloo Fire Department takes to the stage in the first Annual Hot Night in the City at UW's FED Hall. Fire fighters will model the season's hottest trends in this fashion show to benefit kids with physical disabilities while 600 enthusiastic women look on. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and make a great Christmas gift! Reserve your tickets today -- contact Carol Knipe at cknipe@mecheng1.uwaterloo.ca."

The registrar's office will be closed between 11:30 and 2:00 today. . . . A Christmas carol sing aimed at local alumni of Conrad Grebel University College is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Grebel's atrium. . . . Plumbing repairs are under way in the Doug Wright Engineering Building today, and washrooms in the "A" wing will be closed for the morning. . . .

"Warm up this winter," retail services is suggesting, with UW hoodies, priced from $43.99 at the UW Shop. . . . There are still some co-op students without winter term jobs, and postings will continue daily on JobMine from now through February, the co-op and career services department promises. . . . Maria Pereira, who started work in UW's food services department in January 1980, officially retired December 1. . . .

Here's a reminder that the December meeting of UW's senate, originally scheduled for today, has been cancelled.

Finally, a correction to something that was in Thursday's Daily Bulletin. Writing about the university's annual donor report, I quoted UW president David Johnston: "We publicly launched Campaign Waterloo in March, 2003, and with the help of our generous donors and enthusiastic volunteers, Campaign Waterloo continues to move steadily toward its $260 million goal." But in fact the campaign was launched in March 2004.

[Book cover]

'Darwin would have been aghast' -- by Patricia Bow

"It must be in my genes." You'll often hear people offer that remark as an explanation for habitual behaviour. Perhaps without knowing it, they are recycling Darwinian psychology for domestic use. Popularized over the decades, Darwinian psychology (also known as sociobiology or evolutionary psychology) attempts to explain the way we behave in terms of evolution and genetics.

It pervades popular culture, and that's regrettable, according to UW researcher Anne Innis Dagg. Her new book, Love of Shopping is Not a Gene: Problems with Darwinian Psychology (Black Rose Books) is a comprehensive critique of the theory.

Darwinian psychology is popular, Dagg says, because its message is "music to the ears of the many millions of nonscientific readers delighted to have their (often invalid) stereotypes confirmed" -- stereotypes, for example, of male aggressiveness, or of links between criminality and race. The message can have harmful effects. "When researchers in 1980 declared that girls were less inherently able to do math than boys, a fact later shown to be incorrect, there was a decline in the number of female college students expressing interest in technical courses."

She notes that proponents of Darwinian psychology tend to be politically farther to the right than their opponents, and that their findings "tend to foster a social climate that alienates rather than encourages disadvantaged people."

She states her own theoretical leanings in the introduction: that although we owe much to our genetic inheritance, how we behave is largely driven by culture and individual personality.

Dagg has no quarrel with Darwin himself. But, she says, he would have been aghast at the uneven quality of the research that shores up many of the sociobiological works on offer. "Opponents of Darwinian psychology claim that its practitioners tend to rationalize what they already wish for and/or believe," Dagg says. The resulting studies, she concludes, tend to be rife with illogicality and blinkered interpretations.

Among the problems undermining Darwinian psychology, she cites a habit of ignoring research that contradicts one's hypothesis (for example, in studies of infanticide by male lions); overuse of anecdotes as proof; equating animal behaviour with human behaviour (chimpanzees and humans engaged in war); citing references incorrectly; adopting a moral bias; and "bypassing accepted academic standards".

Dagg, a specialist in genetics and animal behaviour, has been at UW since the 1970s. Officially retired, she remains an academic advisor in the independent studies program and is a biological consultant to World Book. She has published approximately 20 books on wildlife biology, women, feminism, and education.

Deloitte gives 7 accounting scholarships

Seven top accountancy students have received scholarships from the Deloitte Centre for Tax Education and Research, based at UW. The winners of the $2,500 awards are Vikram Sidhu, 1A AFM (accounting and financial management); David Lin, 1A AFM; Jennifer Thai, 1A AFM; Olivia Chan, 2A AFM; Jayne Ho, 3A arts/chartered accountancy; Chris Witzel, 3A math/chartered accountancy; and Wendy Chiu, 4A arts/chartered accountancy.

The Deloitte centre is a partnership between UW's school of accountancy and Deloitte & Touche LLP, which calls itself "Canada's leading professional services firm". It has a mandate to improve the quality of tax education, as well as the quality and quantity of tax research.

"We offer our congratulations to the winners and our thanks to all participants for their time and effort," said Aviva Feldman, Deloitte's manager of tax and financial advisory services. "Our goal is to get Waterloo students thinking about the opportunities a career in tax opens for them." Over the last three years, Deloitte has awarded 21 scholarships to UW students, totalling $52,500.

The scholarship is open to accountancy students with a strong interest in tax and who plan to pursue a career in public accounting. Contest applicants were asked to submit a one-page essay on "How would you define excellent client service in the tax profession?" along with their academic transcript and resume. Award winners were chosen based on their communication, analytical, creative and time management skills -- all characteristics considered essential for a tax professional.


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