Thursday, February 15, 2007

  • Tamil club's spending was 'legitimate'
  • Notes after Wednesday's snowfall
  • 'Intervention' boosts students' marks
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Canadian flag]Link of the day

Birthday of Canada's flag

When and where

Federation of Students and UW senate election last day; polls open online 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., on campus 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., information online.

Valentine's Day book sale of UW bookstore merchandise, last day, 8:30 to 4:00, South Campus Hall concourse.

'E-merging Learning Workshop' introductory session for faculty members exploring online learning technology, 12 noon, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

'Healthy Weights' seminar series winds up, 12 noon, details online.

Career workshop: "Interview Skills, Preparing for Questions" 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

'Mandarin Lunarfest' 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

'Amistad' movie showing, sponsored by International Student Connection, 7 p.m., Student Life Centre room 2143.

Women's studies, social work and other programs present Luz María de la Torre Amaguana, "Women's Participation in the Indigenous Uprising in Ecuador", 7:30 p.m., PAS room 2083.

Warrior sports: Basketball at McMaster (women and men) tonight; figure skating in OUA championships at Toronto, today and Friday.

'The Vagina Monologues' tonight 8 p.m. Bombshelter pub, Friday 8 p.m. Studio 180 (Humanities building), details online.

Pension and benefits committee Friday 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins gives the St. Jerome's University Graduates' Association Lecture, "The Apocalypse of John: A Great Book of Hope", Friday 7:30 p.m., Siegfried Hall.

Engineering II and III electrical power and heat shut down Saturday 6 to 10 a.m.

Biology graduate studies open house and information Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Biology I room 271, details online.

Fantastic Alumni, Faculty and Staff Day at Warrior men's basketball game vs. Laurier, Saturday 4 p.m., Physical Activities Complex, free ticket information online.

Reading week in all faculties February 19-23, no classes. PAC open as usual (schedule online), but Columbia Icefield closed all week. Quest unavailable to students from 12:01 a.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Wednesday for system upgrade.

Ottawa 50th anniversary celebration of UW and co-operative education, with president David Johnston and co-op and career services director Peggy Jarvie, Monday 6 to 8 p.m., National Gallery of Canada, details online.

Waterloo city council Monday 6:30 p.m., city hall, Regina Street, discussion of UW Environmental Reserve assessment addendum.

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System training and safety orientation available Tuesday 1:30 p.m., registration online.

Conrad Grebel University College presents sociologist Reginald Bibby, "The Elusiveness of Paradise: The Legacy of Canada's Baby Boomers", February 21, 7 p.m., Grebel great hall.

Spiritual Heritage Education Network presents Marjorie Paleshi, "Living Well, Dying Well: Two Sides of the Same Coin", February 21, 7:30 p.m., CEIT room 1015.

Safety orientation for new employees February 22, 10:00 a.m., registration online.

Arts alumni "Appreciation Night" at Brick Brewing Company, February 22, 7 to 9 p.m., $10, registration online.

Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian speaks on "Privacy by Design", sponsored by Engineering Society and other societies and faculties, February 27, 12 noon, Theatre of the Arts, registration online.

International Women's Day dinner March 8, 5:00 p.m., South Campus Hall, tickets $30 from Humanities box office, details online.

PhD oral defences

Systems design engineering. Slawomir Wesolkowski, "Stochastic Nested Aggregation for Images and Random Fields." Supervisor, Paul Fieguth. On display in the faculty of engineering, CPH 4305. Oral defence Tuesday, February 27, 9:30 a.m., Davis Centre room 1304.

Health studies and gerontology. Lorie Donelle, "Risk Comprehension of Online Colorectal Cancer Information: An Assessment of Health Numeracy." Supervisors, Jose Arocha and Laurie Hoffman-Goetz. On display in the faculty of health sciences, BMH 3110. Oral defence Thursday, March 1, 10:00 a.m., Matthews Hall room 3119.

Civil and environmental engineering. Joel Martinez, "Seismic Performance Assessment of Multi-story Buildings with Cold Formed Steel Shear Wall Systems." Supervisors, D on Grierson and Lei Xu. On display in the faculty of engineering, CPH 4305. Oral defence Monday, March 12, 9:30 a.m., Engineering II room 3324.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Chun Chiu, "Controlled Mechano-chemical Synthesis and Properties of Nanostructured Hydrides in the Mg-Al-H and Mg-B-H Systems." Supervisors, R. A. Varin and Z. Wronski. On display in the faculty of engineering, CPH 4305. Oral defence Thursday, March 15, 1:00 p.m., Engineering III room 4117.

Tamil club's spending was 'legitimate'

There's no evidence that the Waterloo Tamil Students Association (WATSA) misused any of its money over the past decade, says a report being made public today by senior UW officials.

The report details the results of two reviews, one confirming the WATSA finances and another recommending greater oversight of self-generated work placements overseas. The two reviews were launched late last summer after the much-publicized arrests of three UW graduates and one current student in connection with alleged support of Tamil Tiger terrorist activity in Sri Lanka.

Says today's statement: "Deloitte and Touche reviewed documents provided by the university, the University of Waterloo Federation of Students and WATSA covering a 10-year period ending August 2006. The review found nothing to suggest that funds entrusted to WATSA and its leadership were used for anything other than legitimate and intended purposes."

On the other issue raised by the arrests, a co-op work term spent in Sri Lanka by one of the students, "A university committee reviewing international work experience found that opportunities for self-employment overseas should undergo more rigorous pre-approval and ongoing oversight. Where distance makes a staff visit impractical, the university will ask a traveling professor, trusted alumni or other appropriate professional to conduct an on-site visit."

Amit Chakma, vice-president (academic) and provost, "has accepted the report, and our senior administration found the work to be detailed and thorough,” says Martin Van Nierop, director of communications and public affairs. “We are satisfied that an independent auditor has confirmed the integrity of our Tamil student group, and look forward to implementing the recommendations related to students working and studying abroad.”

Deloitte and Touche’s financial audit revealed that $9,200 was received and disbursed by the federation on WATSA’s behalf during the 10-year period. WATSA raised $7,500 of the money and the Federation provided the balance. Approximately 60 percent of the club's spending was for the rental of on-campus facilities. The balance covered a donation to the non-profit Tamil Children’s Endowment Fund as well as reimbursement of individual expenses and small-dollar items.

The report says WATSA received no funds directly from UW. Direct payments to individuals related to "normal course transactions for bursaries, scholarships, engineering endowment funds and student awards".

The committee reviewing work experience overseas endorsed the existing assessment and pre-approval process for the small number self-employment work terms abroad. The committee stressed the importance of ensuring that all procedures — which include a designated contact person and on-site visit — are rigorously followed, and suggested ways of ensuring compliance.

"The university will monitor effectiveness of the process on an ongoing basis," says today's statement. "After three years, it will review the number of self-employed, out-of-country co-op work terms to determine the effectiveness of the measures."

The committee also recommended that the university establish clear requirements on pre-departure training for all students studying or working overseas. Once developed, the training will be required for all students participating in university-sanctioned international activities.

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[A dozen spectators as sled goes by]

A Waterloo student team brought home the $2,000 award for "Best Concrete Mix Design" in the annual Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race, held in Winnipeg at the end of January. Doug Ryan, a field coordinator for co-op and career services, dropped in at the competition and took the photo of the UW sled in action. UW's entry came fourth overall.

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Notes after Wednesday's snowfall

"We could still use more help shovelling snow," says Les Van Dongen of UW's grounds crew — not right this minute, maybe, but next time snow falls. Van Dongen and his colleagues "were not overwhelmed", he says, by the turnout of students to help with snow clearing after recent storms, such as yesterday's overnight snow dump.

The work pays $10 an hour; anybody who's interested can call 519-888-4010 to get on the list, then be prepared to show up at 7:30 any morning that there's snow to be cleared from walkways.

UW stayed open yesterday, following the lead of local schools. So did the Waterloo campus of Wilfrid Laurier University, though the Brantford campus was closed. Sheridan College in Oakville and McMaster University in Hamilton also closed.

The Warrior basketball games (both men's and women's teams) that were scheduled to be played at Mac last night were postponed until the same time tonight.

The blood donor clinic scheduled for the Student Life Centre yesterday didn't happen because Canadian Blood Services trucks couldn't get to Waterloo from Hamilton; today's clinic, 10:00 to 4:00, is expected to go ahead.

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'Intervention' boosts students' marks

from the UW media relations office

A one-hour intervention designed to increase students' sense of belonging in post-secondary education improved the academic achievement of black American students even eight months later, and may offer similar promise to minority groups in Canada.

The relatively simple intervention reduced the gap in grade point average between black and white American students by 90 per cent, says a new research study by Gregory Walton, a post-doctoral fellow in the UW psychology department. He thinks it could be used to help reduce academic shortfalls in Canada. The study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is one of the first to test the effectiveness of a psychological intervention in reducing the racial achievement gap in students' classroom performance.

Black American students have lagged behind white Americans on test scores and grades for decades. Closing this gap has long been a priority for educators and policy-makers. The new results suggest new directions for educators and policy-makers seeking to improve opportunities and achievement for ethnic minority students.

"Given the promise of the new results, an important question for researchers and educators is understanding how these processes play out in other settings, for example, among ethnic minority youth in Canada, among women in math and science, or at different age groups," says Walton, who is lead author and was a graduate student at Yale University when the study was conducted.

In the study, white and black American first-year college students were randomly assigned to the one-hour intervention group or to a control group. In the intervention group, students were told that most students at their school worried at first about whether they belonged on campus, but that these worries lessened with time and that eventually almost all students felt they belonged. Control group students were exposed to irrelevant information about peers' social-political attitudes.

Compared with students in the control group, black students who received the one-hour intervention went on to study longer each night, to correspond with professors more, to sustain higher levels of motivation in the face of adversity and, over the longer term, to earn better grades.

"The intervention communicates to students that their experiences in college are normal — that everyone has tough times in the first year of college," Walton says. "People whose group is negatively stereotyped and underrepresented in school may wonder if they belong there — if others will include them in quality relationships. The intervention conveyed that a negative event, like social rejection, doesn't necessarily mean that you don't belong. Hearing this message early in their studies helped minority students sustain high levels of motivation in the face of adversity."

Walton says the intervention helped students become more resilient to the stresses of college life by preventing them from "globalizing" the implications of a bad day into a general conclusion about their fitness for college.

"This research shows how the problem of the racial achievement gap may arise from interpersonal concerns — about one's sense of being at home and belonging in school," says co-author Geoffrey Cohen, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. As well, notes Walton: "Even brief interventions that target psychological processes can have powerful effects on academic performance."


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