Wednesday, February 28, 2007

  • Consultant praises pension plan
  • $4 million for work on social problems
  • Senate seats open for faculty, grads
  • And notes in a few other veins
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

About the shortest month

When and where

'iLife Interactive' drop-in presentation by Apple, 11:00 to 3:00, Campus TechShop, Student Life Centre.

Canada Council officials explain Killam Research Fellowship program, presentation 9:00 a.m., Needles Hall room 3001; individual appointments available (e-mail

Free noon concert: "From Rameau to Bach" (soprano, flute and piano), 12:30, Conrad Grebel University College chapel.

Café-rencontre du département d'études françaises: Aimée Morrison, département d'anglais, "Le Clavier: Technologie Narrative", 14h30, Humanities salle 228.

Smarter Health seminar: Vimla L. Patel, Columbia University, "Why Not a Cognitive Science Approach to Understanding Clinician-Computer Interaction?" 3 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

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

Reception to honour recipients of Millennium Scholarships, hosted by president of UW, by invitation, 4:30, Festival Room, South Campus Hall.

Green Roofs over Waterloo lecture: Martin Liefhebber, Breathe Architects, speaks on "Buildings as Instruments of Change", 5 p.m., Rod Coutts Hall room 302, free.

Alumni in Palo Alto 50th anniversary celebration Thursday 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Stanford University faculty club, details online.

Render series on contemporary art: Dane Watkins, "Drawing and Animation in the Digital Environment", 7 p.m., Architecture lecture hall.

Warrior men's hockey playoff game 1 vs. Laurier, 7:30, Waterloo Memorial Recreation Centre, home game for WLU, broadcast on CKMS.

Memorial service for Meghan Reid, social development studies student, Thursday 11 a.m., St. Bede's Chapel, Renison College; funeral at the same hour, Tubman Funeral Home, Richmond Road, Ottawa.

Staff association town hall meetings Thursday 12 noon in Rod Coutts Hall room 301, 4:30 p.m. in Physics room 145.

Surplus sale of UW property, Thursday 12:30 to 2:00, central stores, East Campus Hall (off Phillip Street).

Department of English presents Julie Rivkin, Connecticut College, "The Perverse Library of Alice Munro", Thursday 4 p.m., Humanities room 232.

Athletics department reception to honour recipients of departmental awards and bursaries, by invitation, Thursday 4 p.m., University Club.

Waterloo engineering 50th anniversary celebration, Thursday 6:00, Royal York Hotel, Toronto, $125 per person, details online.

Arriscraft Lecture: Klaus Bode, BDSP Partnership, London, "Urban Density and Sustainability: Fact or Fiction?" Thursday 7 p.m., Architecture lecture hall.

Columbia Lake Health Club, Techtown building, north campus, open house Friday 9:00 to 8:00, Saturday and Sunday 9 to 6, more information online.

International Student Development Conference Friday-Saturday, Rod Coutts Hall, agenda now online.

[Actually pulling, not pushing, the bus]
31st annual bus push
organized by Engineering Society, this year in support of Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, Saturday, leaving Carl Pollock Hall 10 a.m. en route to downtown Kitchener.

DaCapo Chamber Choir, based at Conrad Grebel University College, "Midnight: Darkness and Wonder", Saturday 8 p.m., St. John's Church, Kitchener, tickets $20, students and seniors $15.

'Working through conflict' presentation sponsored by Employee Assistance Program, March 5, 12:00 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

Justin Trudeau, environment and youth advocate, Liberal candidate, speaks Monday 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre, sponsored by Arts Student Union, Diversity campaign and others, tickets $15 (undergraduate students $5).

Income tax information session for international students, March 7, 10:00 to 12 noon, Needles Hall room 3001.

Gradfest celebration, information for graduating students from UW departments, reception with UW president, "HK Expo" with information about opportunities in Hong Kong, March 7-8, Davis Centre, details online.

Explorations open house for grade 6-8 students, sponsored by UW faculty of engineering, March 12, tours at 5:00 and 6:45, registration and information online.

Positions available

On this week’s list from the human resources department:

• Financial aid systems analyst, office of the registrar, USG 6/7
• Secretary to the chair, systems design engineering, USG 5
• Project leader/application developer, health studies and gerontology "ideas for Health", USG 8
• Student accounts financial analyst, finance, USG 9/10
• Parking manager, police and parking services, USG 11

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

Consultant praises pension plan

UW has a "very healthy" pension fund, a "dedicated" committee managing it, and some features and benefits that almost no other pension plans in Ontario offer, a consultant told a crowd of staff and faculty members in the Humanities Theatre yesterday.

"You have a really good pension plan that the vast majority of employees in this province would love to have," said Hugh Mackenzie, who serves on the boards of several major plans including the Ontario Pension Board. He was brought to campus by the faculty association, the staff association, and Canadian Union of Public Employees local 793 to give an outside view of the university's pension plan in view of possible alterations to it and the realities of lowered investment returns.

Mackenzie spent much of his hour-long talk explaining the advantages of a "defined benefit" pension plan like UW's — one in which the pension paid to a retired employee is based on a formula, and the employer, not individuals, bear the risks. The university's pension and benefits committee is committed to keeping the 38-year-old DB plan in operation, he said: "There's no doubt about that." A DB plan, he added, "allows all of us to take risks and to get returns that we wouldn't have the guts to get as individuals."

UW pensions are based on two main factors: an individual's years of service as an employee making pension contributions, and his or her top salary (usually just before retirement). The pension plan includes an early retirement incentive, full post-retirement indexing, and the right ("valuable" in certain circumstances, Mackenzie said) for someone to take a lump sum payment instead of a monthly pension.

Controversy has surfaced because of a "cap" or maximum on the pension it will pay out — a limit that's there to control what could otherwise be enormously high liabilities for pensions to a relatively few highly-paid employees. Beyond a certain level, individuals can be paying pension premiums for which they'll never see any benefits, and the P&B committee has been working on a new structure, described as a "notional account", to compensate for some of that unfairness.

There were a few snickers at the beginning of the meeting when Mackenzie noted that the cap affects the future pension of "anyone earning more than $145,000", a level that few staff members currently see. But he pointed out that as salaries rise over the years and decades, more and more people — especially today's young faculty members — are sure to reach that level eventually. (In 2005, according to UW's annual salary disclosure list, there were 56 employees paid more than $145,000.) Yesterday's audience of about 400 people visibly included a mix of faculty, staff and union members.

The "notional account" would in effect be a defined-contribution plan tacked onto the top of UW's DB pension plan for those high earners, Mackenzie said. Roydon Fraser, president of the faculty association, told the meeting there is a division of opinion on whether the proposal is "a strategic enhancement necessary to correct a wrong" or "a major shift in pension plan design, the thin edge of a wedge". He said employees have an obligation to "understand the implications" and tell the P&B committee — probably through their associations — how much they're prepared to pay for the pension structure they want.

While the pension plan itself provides excellent benefits, Mackenzie told his audience, there's room for discussion about who should pay the costs. "This is the sort of zero-sum conversation that you have with employers all the time," he said, suggesting that negotiations about the premiums — more coming from the employer and less from the employees, for example — can work just like negotiations over salaries or health benefits.

He did observe that the UW pension is a bargain for UW employees, who pay into the plan at the rate of 4.55 per cent on the first part of their salary (this year up to $43,700) and 6.5 per cent after that. The university pays the rest of what it costs to keep the pension fund healthy; it must at least match the employee contributions, and currently is chipping in about 165 per cent of the employee total. Ontario teachers get very similar benefits to those of UW employees, he said, but pay 11 per cent of their salary into their superannuation plan.

Three hours after the pension meeting, the Humanities Theatre was lively again — jammed by students, faculty members and others eager to hear former British Columbia premier Mike Harcourt, who's at UW this week as the TD Canada Trust Walter Bean Lecturer.

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$4 million for work on social problems

from the UW media relations office

UW has received a $4 million donation from a national foundation to set up a centre that will apply research to solve pressing social problems in Canada. On Monday the university signed a five-year agreement with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation to become a partner in the Montréal-based foundation's social innovation strategy.

As part of the agreement, UW will establish a Centre for Social Innovation, along with a chair for Social Innovation Generation at Waterloo. Work will be carried out in the areas of education, inclusion in a diverse society and the environment. For example, researchers will explore the isolation of people with disabilities, as well as how to involve citizens in efforts to address climate change.

UW worked with several local organizations and foundations to attract the social innovation initiative, including the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement, the Hallman Foundation, Lutherwood and the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

"We pride ourselves on being a different kind of university, rooted in the very best academic traditions, but with an exceptional commitment to engagement with our community and nation," says UW president David Johnston. "Clearly, the McConnell Foundation's initiatives and goals fit with our devotion to improving our country and our world."

Ken Coates, dean of arts, adds that social innovation is a key initiative for the faculty of arts and UW. "We have so much to contribute and the community is anxious for our suggestions," Coates says. "This partnership will help us redefine the role of social sciences and humanities scholarship for the 21st century."

The foundation is making a $10 million, five-year commitment to a major effort to strengthen social innovation in Canada. The aim of the McConnell-UW consortium is to encourage broad social change by creating a supportive environment for social entrepreneurship. Also involved is the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship in Vancouver.

Cross-cutting themes that the social innovation initiative intends to address include increasing the availability of funding for social innovation in Canada; exploring how innovative, community-based open source technology can enhance learning and strengthen social change networks; and developing capacities to work across sectors and to continuously innovate.

While the consortium is geographically spread out, its activities will be tightly integrated. Responsibilities have been distributed. The McConnell Foundation will deepen its work on dissemination and the scaling-up of a number of promising social innovations across Canada. The foundation will also document and exchange what it is learning with other interested funders, practitioners, researchers and policy-makers. Meanwhile, UW will design and lead academic programs aimed at strengthening the capacity for social innovation, as well as develop new methodologies to engage researchers and practitioners across the country in collaborative work to find and test innovative solutions to social problems. And PLAN Institute, a non-profit in Vancouver with expertise in the area of policy and systems change relating to people with disabilities and their families, will share its expertise in levering policy change with organizations working on other social issues.

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Senate seats open for faculty, grads

a notice from the university secretariat

Nominations are requested for the following seats on Senate:

• One faculty member of the University to be elected by/from each Faculty of the University, term from May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2010
• Seven faculty members of the University to be elected by/from the members of faculty of the University, terms from May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2010
• One faculty member of the University to be elected by/from the members of faculty of the University, term to April 30, 2009
• One faculty member of Conrad Grebel University College to be elected by/from the members of faculty of Conrad Grebel University College, term from May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2010
• One faculty member of St. Jerome's University to be elected by/from the members of faculty of St. Jerome's University, term from May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2010
• Two graduate students of the University to be elected by/from the full- and part-time graduate students of the University, terms from May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2009.

Nomination forms are available from the Secretariat (ext. 3–6125) and from the Secretariat web site. At least five nominators are required in each case. Nominations should be sent to the Secretariat, Needles Hall room 3060, no later than 3:00 p.m., Friday, March 16, 2007. Elections will follow if necessary.

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And notes in a few other veins

Graduate students, as well as undergraduates, can expect to be voting next month on a proposed bus pass — a fee that all students would pay in return for unlimited free rides on Grand River Transit. Marek Ratajczak, president of the Graduate Student Association, said yesterday that "The GSA council has decided to call a referendum at the same time as the vote of undergrads that has been announced by the Federation of Students, likely in late March. "Both associations," he said, "will be on the same agreement with GRT and will be paying the same fee with the same implementation should the referendums pass. Once an implementation has been agreed upon by all parties, the final cost for the pass will be assessed and the question will be put to students in the referendum."

A note from Canadian Blood Services reminds the sanguinary among us that the next on-campus blood donor clinics are scheduled for Monday, March 19, through Friday, March 23 in the Student Life Centre. Appointments can be made now at the SLC turnkey desk. Says Sharr Cairns of CBS: "If anyone would like to donate sooner, Canadian Blood Services will arrange for transportation from UW to our Waterloo clinic at Bridgeport and Weber (in the Sobey's/Zellers Plaza), which is open 5 days a week. Please call us at 519-884-5646 to book your appointment and transportation to this clinic. Once again, our sincere thanks to all at UW for your continued support of the blood program."

A reminder from the university secretariat: "Adel Sedra's term as Dean of Engineering expires on June 30, 2008 and, as required by Policy 45, the process for constituting the Nominating Committee is under way. Nominations are requested for 'one staff member elected by and from the regular staff of the Faculty' (at least three nominators are required in each case). Completed nomination forms should be submitted to the Secretariat, Needles Hall, Room 3060, no later than 3:00 p.m., Friday, March 9, 2007. An election will follow if necessary."

Nina Li of Engineers Without Borders is promising "a day of full-blast excitement" on campus tomorrow, and I don't think she means the east winds and freezing rain that figure in the day's weather forecast. "EWB Day is a climactic moment," she writes, "It will feature screamer events hosted by members of the EWB, including a piñata smash at the SLC where bystanders get to read both shocking and interesting facts about hunger, water scarcity, and health and sanitation issues, then have a chance to smash the piñata of poverty. How much would it cost to achieve universal primary education? Why is the cost to achieve clean water and sanitation around the world almost equal to the amount that Europe spends on consuming ice cream? Also keep your eyes open for barely clothed individuals running around campus with letters P-O-V-E-R-T-Y painted on their chest (or back), ready to be splashed in the spirit of Splashing out Poverty." The piñata event is scheduled for 11:30 to 1:30 tomorrow outside the Student Life Centre, and the "splash" event starts at 12:00 in the same vicinity. Earlier in the day, members of the campus EWB chapter will be distributing the organization's newspaper at high-traffic spots on campus.

Pick Your Plan Week continues for undergraduate students, in advance of online class enrolment appointments starting March 19 (for spring term courses) and June 11 (for fall term courses). • Human resources sent out an e-mail note to staff and faculty yesterday reminding them that information about benefits for employees who choose to work past the "normal" retirement age of 65 is available in a chart online. • Today's Positions Available list includes the job of parking manager, which has been filled on a temporary basis (by Wayne Shortt of the UW police) since the previous manager, Elaine Carpenter, retired in January 2006.


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