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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

  • Senate gets update on pharmacy plans
  • Two profs on water quality council
  • Notes on provincial budget day
Chris Redmond

International Museum Day

[Man holding fish]

Something fishy dominates the spring issue of Alternatives Journal, published in UW's faculty of environmental studies. Articles in the issue have such titles as "Ocean Oil Threatens Fisheries" and "Fish Fat Facts", with topics that range from dioxins in Lake Ontario to the need for new forms of management in the fish industry. The magazine also touches on smog, tidal energy and Peruvian mining. The cover model is a cod, posing with federal fisheries minister Geoff Regan.

Senate gets update on pharmacy plans

UW's proposed school of pharmacy will have about 1,000 undergraduate students, provost Amit Chakma told the university senate last night. That would mean about 250 graduating pharmacists each year -- more than currently come from the University of Toronto's Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, and about as many as Toronto would be graduating after an expansion that's currently planned.

They'll have no trouble finding jobs, he said, noting that at present Toronto can meet only 30 per cent of Ontario's annual need for new pharmacists: "Ontario has the lowest ratio of pharmacists to population in Canada."

The school would also have 200 graduate students and 80 faculty and staff members, making it one of UW's biggest departments. Proposed is a building with "a minimum of 120,000 square feet", the size of the present Optometry building, "with a potential to increase to 200,000 square feet".

Chakma showed the senate a draft section of a report that will be going to Kitchener city council next month, as the city is asked to approve a $30 million allocation to build a "health sciences campus" for UW in the downtown area, probably at the corner of King and Victoria Streets.

That site has advantages for health sciences study because it's near Kitchener-Waterloo's two hospitals, Chakma said. But he and UW president David Johnston also said that if somebody were to drop $30 million on UW for the purpose -- which doesn't seem likely -- they'd be happy to build a home for the pharmacy school on UW's existing campus instead.

Kitchener is interested in a UW presence as part of economic redevelopment for the core area, and the university benefits from a demonstration that it's here for a wider area than just the city of Waterloo, the provost and president noted.

The report to city council reveals that in addition to a pharmacy school, the downtown campus would be the home for a small "Family Medicine Training and Research Centre", involving a group of local doctors in cooperation with the medical schools at Western and McMaster. Medical students would be based there while doing their internships in K-W -- a step towards bringing more doctors to the community, which is notoriously short of them.

Chakma also said a branch clinic for UW's school of optometry is a possibility.

Answering questions from senate members, he said the exact status of the pharmacy school is under discussion with U of T. It has been described as a "satellite" of the Leslie Dan Faculty, but would probably use Toronto's curriculum, UW's co-op structure and Waterloo faculty members, he said. A joint degree issued by the two universities is a possibility.

The next step, besides city council approval of the $30 million grant, will be getting the provincial government's okay. Chakma and Johnston said university officials are persuading the government that the new program would cost very little, since it's not adding students to the Ontario university system, just diverting them from other fields of study such as "general science".

Two profs on water quality council

Two UW faculty members were named last week to the Ontario government's new Advisory Council on Drinking Water Quality and Testing Standards, set up in the long aftermath of the Walkerton water scandal of four years ago.

[Two mug shots]

Peter Huck and Mark Servos

Provincial environment minister Leona Dombrowsky announced that Peter Huck, of civil engineering, and Mark Servos, of biology, will be members of the new committee, which is chaired by Jim Merritt, a former assistant deputy minister in the environment ministry.

Said Dombrowsky: "Our people's health is our most precious resource. We share a responsibility to protect it from harm. The Advisory Council will help us ensure that Ontario's standards for drinking water quality and drinking water tests are among the most stringent in the world. Our citizens deserve no less."

A government news release said that "with members drawn from key professional organizations with expertise in areas related to drinking water, the council will make recommendations to the Minister of the Environment on provincial drinking water standards and other measures to improve the safety and quality of Ontario's drinking water supply."

The council's mandate: "Review scientific and technical documentation of proposed standards; consult and provide feedback to the public; undertake additional consultation to clarify and address issues; and consider and make recommendations on adopting standards for contaminants that are not currently being considered through the federal-provincial process for developing Canada-wide drinking water guidelines."

The release said the council's first priorities will be "replacing the total coliform test with an E. coli test; the desirability of a turbidity limit that is lower than the limit specified in the federal-provincial guidelines; treatment standards for protozoa based on source water quality; and reviewing Ontario's standards for disinfection by-products."

Setting up the council will "satisfy six specific recommendations made by the O'Connor Commission" that reviewed the Walkerton disaster, the government said.

Huck holds an NSERC Chair in Drinking Water Treatment at UW. He has done extensive research in water quality and treatment in areas such as the robustness of water treatment systems, membrane and UV treatment, and the removal of Cryptosporidium pathogen loadings in watersheds.

Servos is the scientific director of the Canadian Water Network, a national network of Centres of Excellence involving 30 universities across Canada, based at Waterloo. In the biology department, his research focuses on risk assessment and risk management of emerging water quality issues such as endocrine disruption and pharmaceuticals in the environment. He is the former project chief for the Priority Substances Exposure Project for the National Water Research Institute.

Hurt Penguin book sale, South Campus Hall, 9 to 4 (continues tomorrow and Thursday).

'The Velveteen Rabbit', children's performance by Touring Players, 10:00 and 1:30, Humanities Theatre. (11:45 performance cancelled.)

'Printing and Scanning Made Easy', seminar at UW Graphics, 11:00, graphics conference room, call ext. 2210 to register.

Drought-Tolerant Perennials workshop by Lenore Ross, U of Guelph Arboretum, noon, Math and Computer room 2066, sponsored by Employee Assistance Program, preregister with Johan Reis, health services.

'Building Students' Learning Skills in the Transition to University", teaching resources workshop, 12 noon, CEIT room 1015 (note change of location), more information online.

'Cultural biology' distinguished speaker series, department of philosophy: Steven Quartz, CalTech, today and tomorrow, 3 p.m., Humanities room 334. More information online.

Notes on provincial budget day

The Ontario government -- "the McGuinty government", as most of its news releases call it -- will bring down its first budget in the Legislature at about 4:00 this afternoon. According to media leaks and predictions, the emphasis will be on health care and elementary education, but people in the higher education world will be looking for anything that finance minister Greg Sorbara says about tuition fees and, especially, government grants to universities and colleges. Some reports are talking about a budget freeze for most ministries other than health -- which "would be dismal news indeed, following on about two decades of disinvestment", UW president David Johnston told UW's senate last night. Today's budget might also slip in more information about the commission that the government has said it will create to do a comprehensive study of higher education; rumours are that it will be chaired by former premier Bob Rae.

The electrical and computer engineering department is holding a "distinguished seminar series" these days -- "with", its web site says, "an approximate frequency of one talk every month. The talks are mostly in the area of Wireless Communication, Coding and Information Theory." The organizer is faculty member Amir Khandani, who notes that there's something innovative about the series: if you can't get to a particular talk, you can catch up later electronically. An archive of talks, linked through the web site, provides not just the speakers' PowerPoint slides but an audio track of what they had to say. The most recent speaker, last Thursday, was Tom Luo of McMaster University; the series will resume June 14 with a talk by Uri Erez of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

New on the university secretariat's web site is an updated version of UW's Policy 5, the one that deals with staff salary administration. What's new, as of May 1, is the 2004-05 salary scales, showing the minimum, "job rate" and maximum pay for each level from USG 1 to USG 18. ("USG" is University Staff Group, a category that includes all regular non-union staff.) A recent report from the staff association says the Provost's Advisory Committee on Staff Compensation has been discussing adding some levels at the top of the scale, grades 19 through 21. Staff association leaders "have struggled with this concept," says the report, "realizing that, although those staff who are at the upper grades (16, 17, 18) have no room for advancement, the impact on the majority of staff may be minimal. . . . We have been unable to reach a consensus." The note appears in the package of annual reports that was circulated in preparation for the staff association's annual meeting on June 1.

Nominations are still welcome for UW's first Special Recognition Awards for staff, which are to be given out this fall. Students, faculty members and staff colleagues are all taking the opportunity to make nominations, says Trenny Canning in the university secretariat, who handles the paperwork. The awards, announced last fall, carry a $1,000 prize, and as many as 250 of them are to be given this year, using funds set aside for "recognition" as part of the annual staff salary package. Everybody at UW can submit nominations, and the awards aren't related to job performance as reflected in annual reviews and ratings. "Have staff gone out of their way to help you?" the brochure for the program asks. "Then nominate them." A nomination form is available online or in paper form.

And . . . a note comes from the faculty of science warning that big changes are coming to its web site next week. "These changes have been made in response to UW's evolving gold standards, current web practices, and new accessibility standards," I'm told. The current changes affect the science faculty's top-level web pages, and sites for prospective students, current students, alumni, staff and faculty, and educators. Sites for the individual academic departments will come later. A request from the computing folks in science: "Before the new website goes live, review any links that you may have on your published web pages or in your personal bookmarks. After the new website goes live, make the necessary updates to your links. The new site will be available at www.sci.uwaterloo.ca."


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