[University of Waterloo]


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About the DB

Thursday, February 2, 2006

  • Staff face the annual appraisal
  • Groundhog Day: spring is coming
  • More on the state of the campus
Chris Redmond


[Arms joyously in the air]

A company of student actors is ripped in two by a rogue director: it's the FASS Company, and it's the plot of this year's FASS show, which opens tonight in the Humanities Theatre. FASS stands for Faculty, Alumni, Staff and Students, and the group has been doing a show at UW annually since 1962. "Split into two companies," we're told, "the students prepare newly-found Shakespearean plays for a competition being held at UW. The rogue director decides to foul the other company's work at any cost." See them act, see them dance, see them sing, see them make bad puns -- tonight and Saturday at 8, Friday at 7 and 10. Tickets are at the Humanities box office.

Staff face the annual appraisal

It's that time of year again, for staff members across campus and the managers they report to. Annual performance appraisals are to be completed and filed with the human resources department by March 17, says a memo from Alfrieda Swainston, manager of salary administration.

Appraisal is done on a 1-to-5 scale, on a form that assesses such "work performance factors" as client service, working relationships, communication, job knowledge, "taking the initiative to make things better", problem-solving and time management. The resulting merit rating is a factor in determining an individual staff member's annual May 1 pay increase.

Says Swainston's memo, sent to managers and administrative assistants a few days ago: "The Provostıs Advisory Committee on Staff Compensation committee members would like to remind managers to sit down with employees to discuss the content of the appraisal as well as to provide the employee an opportunity for discussion with their manager. This is also a time to review changes which may have occurred in job content and to assess whether or not job descriptions are reflective of the work being done and if the current grade should be reviewed.

"The goal of the performance evaluation exercise is to provide confidential, constructive feedback to staff members regarding their performance in relation to the requirements of their job description and the appraisal rating interpretations. The exercise serves to identify areas of success, areas that need improvement if necessary which have been raised over the past year, opportunities for job enhancement and a discussion of the working environment."

Managers were reminded that the form has changed a little from last year: the compensation committee added a line that asks employees, "Does your job description reflect what you do?" Other sections ask whether the staff member has "the tools and equipment to do your job" and whether communication and feedback from the manager are adequate.

The form ends with "mutually agreed upon goals and objectives" for the year ahead.

Copies of the appraisal form, as well as instructions for how to fill it out and rate staff members, are available on the HR web site. Swainston says anyone who didn't receive the memo and instructions, but should have, can get in touch with her (ext. 2950) or Brenda Ciesarik (ext. 6645).


Groundhog Day: spring is coming

Wiarton Willie, Punxsutawney Pete and others of their species will be much in the news today, as it's Groundhog Day, which comes each February 2. As the Wikipedia helpfully explains: "Tradition states that one must observe a groundhog's burrow on this day. If the groundhog emerges and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end; however, if the groundhog sees its shadow because the weather is bright and clear, it will be frightened and run back into its hole, and the winter will continue for six more weeks." On this campus, there are plenty of groundhogs (the one at right was photographed last year by Alex Frakking) but none, I'm afraid, that are celebrities. Several years ago I tried to bring the name "Waterloo Waldo" into popular use, with no success whatever. So we'll have to rely on individual initiative to predict the weather for the weeks ahead.

For the weeks just past, however, there's not much doubt: it's been mild, if not actually warm. "It was the warmest January ever experienced in the eight-year history of the weather station, and warmest by a large margin," writes Frank Seglenieks in his monthly report from the UW weather station. "The average daytime high was 5.4 degrees higher than average, and the average nighttime low was a phenomenal 6.8 degrees above what we would expect for January." Warm is a relative thing -- the highest temperature reached during the month was only 8.4 Celsius, not exactly summery, and "we have seen temperatures above this in half of the previous eight winters," Seglenieks says. "The warm temperature trend was seen all across North America, while Europe and Russia experienced record-breaking cold temperatures. This is a result of the arctic air mass that usually stays over northern Canada for the winter, moving over Greenland during January."

Which brings us to the subject of global warming, as Rajat Suri writes from the student Forum for Independent Thought: "You're loving the sunny days, balmy temperatures and lack of slippery snow. Wouldn't it be great if we could have this every year? No more winter driving accidents, no more mindblowing heating bills, no more snow plowing, no more bulky winter coats that weigh almost as much as you do. So what if we can't ski as much anymore or make that one cursory snowman a year? At least we'll be safer, wealthier and, yes, warmer. Yay for climate change! . . . Or not? Global warming is our hot topic for this Thursday, prompted by the mild weather as well as a recent report on global warming that makes some fairly dire predictions about the future of our planet. We invite you to take part in an investigation of climate change and where we are right now, as well as possible solutions to the problem (if we feel it's a problem at all). We'll examine the facts behind the issue, and try to approach it from a few different perspectives -- economic, political and scientific." The meeting starts at 5:00 tonight in the multipurpose room of the Student Life Centre.

Meanwhile, the seasons roll on, and the season called "midterms" is looming. Right behind it is February reading week (if you're in arts, science, AHS or environmental studies) or reading break (if you're in engineering or math): February 20-24 or 23-24, respectively. Looking a bit further ahead, students who expect to be on campus in the spring term will have undergraduate class enrolment appointments on Quest starting March 20 (with open enrolment beginning April 3). Appointment times are listed on Quest now.

And the registrar's office sends word that the undergraduate calendar for 2006-07 is now online, as are the "important dates" listings all the way through the spring term of 2007 -- when it will, undoubtedly, be warm again.

Technical speaker competition for engineering students, sponsored by Sandford Fleming Foundation, faculty-wide competition 10 a.m., Doug Wright Engineering room 2534.

Career workshop: "Successfully Negotiating Job Offers" 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

New Directions festival of short plays, tonight 7:00 "Featuring Loretta" and "Vanities", Friday 7:00 "Crimes of the Heart" and "Hello Out There", Saturday 2:00 and 7:00 shows, Studio 180, Humanities building, tickets 888-4908.

Fantasy Thursdays at Federation Hall: Pajama party, lingerie fashion show, doors open 9:00.

Business breakfast: Maurice Dusseault, earth sciences department, on his involvement with the petroleum industry in China, Friday 7 a.m., Renison College, tickets 884-4404 ext.620. Cancelled.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents John Holmes, Canadian ambassador to Iraq and Jordan, speaking Friday 11:30, John Aird Building, WLU.

Federation of Students candidates forum Friday 2:30, third floor, Math and Computer.

Warrior Weekend activities Friday and Saturday nights, Student Life Centre, movies, UW Superstar, Monte Carlo games, crafts, free refreshments, details online.

'The Adult Learner': workshop sponsored by Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology, Monday 1:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

UW board of governors Tuesday 2:30, Manulife Wellness Centre, Lyle Hallman Institute.

Mathematics exchange programs information session Wednesday 4:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

More on the state of the campus

Earlier this week I mentioned the series of German films that are being shown Tuesday nights in Modern Languages room 216, as part of a course on German film. "Owing to the extreme length of several of the films," writes Germanic and Slavic professor Paul Malone, "the showing time has been pushed back to 6 p.m. rather than 6:30." Visitors are welcome -- and there have been plenty -- but he's anxious that they should get there on time for future evenings.

Tomorrow's the ETA for the anticipated Blackworm virus (otherwise known as Kama Sutra, Nyxem, and various other names) on Windows systems worldwide. "We have at least one [on-campus attack] confirmed and expect others," IST's security arm said several days ago. "This worm is malicious -- it inserts itself into the startup sequence, disables and removes your Anti-Virus agent, installs a backdoor and is triggered to replace all files with certain extensions with an error message (data content will be destroyed) on February 3." Could be a busy day in IST. But staff there will start the day with a break to hear about something completely different: UW's north campus with its environmental reserve and new buildings and tenants in the research and technology park. Vice-president (administration and finance) Dennis Huber and some colleagues will speak at the event, tomorrow at 8:45 in the IST seminar room.

The student Mathematics Society has elected its new executive. "Although only 84 ballots were filled out," MathNews reports, "that was enough to decide who would make decisions for all 4,000 math undergrad students." Taking charge are Andrew Fransen as president, Elaine Wong as vice-president (academic), David Wheatley as VP (finance), and Alex McCausland as VP (activities and services).

Peter Stilwell, a former member of UW's staff, died January 30. British-born (he served in the Royal Tank Regiment), he came to Canada in 1951 and then joined UW's staff in 1967, initially in the department of physics, later as a technician in the science shops. He retired April 1, 1987. A memorial gathering will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at Coutts Funeral Home in Cambridge.

A UW continuing education course on "Project Management Applied Tools and Techniques" will run all day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. . . . The registration deadline is noon today (in the athletics department office) for Saturday's seven-a-side "Frozen Frenzy" flag football tournament. . . . There will be an information booth in the Student Life Centre next week to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week. . . .

Users had some difficulty finding the PowerPoint presentation about UW's benefits program which I wrote about on Tuesday. It is indeed on the web, with a link from the pension and benefits committee web page.


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