Friday, May 2, 2008

  • Look what the spring blew in
  • Messages from HR on health costs
  • Drops from the daily deluge
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Albino goose and an ordinary one]Look what the spring blew in

Better start this morning with an ornithological note. Yes, there is an albino goose visiting campus — several people have mentioned it and more than one has sent along photographs. The picture at left was provided by Joe Bevan of the Mapping, Analysis and Design unit in environmental studies, who says he’s told by those in the know that albinism affects only about one in 100,000 Canada geese. “It is quite beautiful,” adds Ann Simpson, manager of the Student Life Centre, who saw it on the Village green just across the ring road.

Other visitors — bipeds without feathers — are on campus as well, including participants in the UW-sponsored conference on “Cinema and Social Change in Germany and Austria” and the Military History Colloquium that’s co-sponsored by UW’s department of history. Both events got going yesterday and continue through tomorrow. In addition, the conference Centre in Ron Eydt Village is playing host to a group involved in the Canadian Board of Optometry qualifying exams, another group involved in the “Breaking the Wall of Silence” conference at Wilfrid Laurier University. The big crowd, however, is made up of girls and women attending a two-day conference of Girls’ Heart Point, a “Christian, conference-centred ministry focusing on “all the things that touch a girl's life”. More than 1,000 participants will attend daytime events in the Physical Activities Complex today and tomorrow, with several hundred of them staying over in REV.

Sunday will be the busy day in some of the other residences, with students in the thousands arriving in preparation for the spring term. Classes begin Monday morning, and services across campus, from libraries to food outlets, will be back on regular hours to deal with the rush of business.

There are some new arrangements for financial aid, says a memo from the registrar’s office: “The Student Awards and Financial Aid office will distribute Spring 2008 OSAP student funding beginning Monday from a new Loan Release Centre in Federation Hall. The Centre will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day from May 5-23. On May 8, 13 and 15 the Centre will be open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. In an effort to decrease waiting times, the office will continue to use a time ticket system. Time tickets will be given out starting May 2 at the Student Awards and Financial Aid office in Needles Hall. An email will be sent to all OSAP students explaining the new Loan Release Centre and time ticket system. Students may also check the web site. Students from other provinces and those students who receive US Funding or Part-Time Funding should pick up their funds at the Student Awards and Financial Aid office in Needles Hall any time, beginning May 5. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Students are reminded that they must have their Social Insurance card, government issued photo ID (WatCards are not acceptable) and must have their fees arranged to pick up their student funding. Students who were on a work term from January-April 2008 must also provide proof of gross earnings for that time period.”

Potential pharmacy students and professional pharmacists will be on campus over the weekend taking part in the admissions interview process for UW’s pharmacy school (the second group of students will begin classes in January 2009). • The “Shine Dance” competition is bringing hundreds of young dancers to UW’s Humanities Theatre, with events continuing through Saturday. • The Davis Centre and Dana Porter libraries are open for limited hours this weekend, just from 12 noon to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

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Messages from HR on health costs

As the premiums for health and insurance benefits continue to move upward, taking a bigger bite from UW’s budget and from individual employees, the human resources department is issuing a series of brief memos on ways of keeping the costs down.

The first of four memos on “cost effectiveness” in the health care plan is going out to staff and faculty today, with the rest to follow next week. Most people will receive them by e-mail, though staff in plant operations, food services and the residences, many of whom don’t have computers on the job, will get paper copies.

“The health care premium for eligible full-time employees is paid entirely by the University,” the memo points out. “It is a significant part of the University’s annual budget — over 6 million dollars a year — more than half of which is for prescription drugs.

“To ensure that we keep the costs manageable, we need everyone’s help.”

Premiums for the plan, which is operated for UW by the insurance company Great West Life, went up by 9 per cent as of May 1, to $57.28 a month for a single person or $182.80 for a family. These premiums are paid entirely from UW’s budget for full-time employees, with part-time employees paying a pro-rated share.

Today’s memo explains the concept of “coinsurance”, a key feature of the health plan: “You and the University and the employee share the costs of the Extended Health Care Plan — the University pays 80% of each prescription and paramedical (physiotherapy, massage therapy, etc.) service and you pay 20%.

“To make sure that the cost to you for your 20% share is not excessive, there is a limit to what you have to pay. This is called the out-of-pocket limit. In any given year, you will not pay more for your prescription drugs and paramedical services than $121 (single) and $242 (family).

“There is no maximum on drug benefits per year but there are annual benefit maxima for each paramedical service. The current annual maximum for each covered person is $585.

“The plan also pays for part or all of other eligible expenses which do not contribute to your out-of-pocket limit. These include semi private care in the hospital, private duty nursing, ambulance charges and out of Canada charges.”

Future memos will deal with other cost-saving features: the “trial prescription” feature of the plan, the role of generic drugs, and the “preferred provider” list of pharmacies.

It’s not just the extended health plan that is bringing cost increases as UW’s 2008-09 fiscal year starts. Premiums for the dental plan went up by 3 per cent, to $30.76 a month for singles and $92.56 a month for families. These premiums are also paid entirely by the university for full-time employees, with part-timers paying a pro-rated share.

Life insurance premiums have gone up by 10 per cent, HR says, “resulting in a new rate of $0.34 per month per thousand dollars of group insurance held. The University pays 100% of the group premium on 1X salary in life insurance. If an employee has 2X or 3X salary in group life insurance, UW pays two thirds of the amount beyond 1X salary with the employee paying the balance. The premium on any individual, age related insurance held beyond 3X salary is entirely paid by the employee.”

And premiums for long-term disability have gone up by 5.3 per cent: “The contract rate of 1.07% of base pay will remain unchanged, but the actual paid rate will increase by 5.3%, resulting in a new paid rate of 0.86% of base pay. The difference between the paid and contract rate is paid to the carrier from a surplus reserve in the plan. As this surplus is used up in the next few years, the paid rate will gradually be moved toward the contract rate. Employees pay the entire premium for the LTD benefit in order to provide a tax free LTD benefit.”

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Drops from the daily deluge

The Ontario Preliminary Competition for the 7th World University Students Chinese Competition was held in Toronto on Monday, and UW student Bryan Van Biesbrouck came home as the first-prize winner. “He will be sent to China, on behalf of Canadian university students, to participate in the final round competition later in the summer,” reports Yan Li, coordinator of Chinese language courses at Renison College. “Among the nine competitors, from other universities in Ontario, Bryan demonstrated his excellence in areas such as improvisation, and knowledge of artistic skills related with Chinese culture. He started to take China 101 at Renison College two and a half years ago and has finished China 302.” Li adds that two other UW students, not entered as competitors, participated in the vent as “friendly performers”: “David Dales's singing of a Chinese song, "Women Are Tigers", was warmly applauded. Tom Hazelton's speech in super-standard Chinese pronunciation impressed everyone. He was the champion in the 2005 contest in Toronto and went to Beijing on behalf of Canada.”

Professors Philip Beesley (architecture) and Rob Gorbet (electrical and computer engineering) have received the 2007 Far Eastern Digital Architecture Design Merit Award for their “Hylozoic Soil” project. FEIDAD recognizes global achievement in digital architecture. The project is an intricately detailed interactive sculpture environment fabricated at the architecture school’s Integrated Centre for Visualization, Design and Manufacturing. The sculpture includes a flexible, kinetic meshwork containing dozens of interconnected microprocessors controlling hundreds of actuated mechanisms that respond to occupants with waves of motion. The environment was exhibited at the Montréal Beaux-Arts Museum this past year and featured innovative use of shape-memory alloy actuators, flexible kinetic mechanisms, and digital fabrication. Numerous Waterloo Architecture and Engineering graduates and current students contributed to the project, including core team Hayley Isaacs, Christian Joakim, Kirsten Robinson, Will Elsworthy, and Jonah Humphrey. The award includes a cash prize to be presented in Taipei later this year, followed by publication by Birkhauser.

The faculty of arts has named Melinde Whitfield (speech communication) and Adam Halpert (psychology) as its valedictorians, to speak on behalf of graduating students at next month’s Convocation ceremonies. • Denise Simpson, who has worked since 1981 as a residence attendant at UW Place (formerly the Married Student Apartments), officially retired on May 1. • Arthur Carty, former dean of research and recently named executive director of the Waterloo Institute of Technology, has been named to the corporate advisory board of Bilcare Global Clinical Supplies.

A few days ago the Daily Bulletin reported on the efforts of four staff members in development and alumni affairs who took part in a fund-raiser for the World Wildlife Fund, climbing the stairs of the CN Tower at an impressive clip. There were other UW participants in the event as well, I learn, including Lukas Matthews, Rob Pringle and Dave Schulz, students from the direction of Conrad Grebel University College. “Lukas and Rob practised every other day for two weeks,” a reliable source tells me, “by climbing the stairs of the Dana Porter Library up and down nine times, which approximated the 1,776 steps of the CN Tower.”

The monthly everybody-talks-about-it report has arrived from the UW weather station, confirming that April was a warm month here in the bad-sledding zone. “The warmest April since 1991 with below-average precipitation,” says station coordinator Frank Seglenieks. “After a very cold March that left lots of snow on the ground at the beginning of April, the switch really turned on the 17th with 9 of the next 10 days reaching a high above 20 degrees. Even with this dry month, the wet start of the year means that we are still above average for 2008.” He adds that the winter of 2007-08 saw 257.5 centimetres of snowfall, “breaking the previous record of 245.3 cm in 1923-24.”


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Link of the day

Yom haShoah

When and where

‘Reaching for Nothing: Water’s Thirst’ interdisciplinary work by composer Peter Hatch, visual artist Dereck Revington (UW school of architecture) and dance choreographer David Earle, 8:00 p.m., Perimeter Institute, tickets $29 (students $19), 519-883-4480. (Report in the Record.)

Going Green workshop series sponsored by Grand House student co-op: “Black Water, Grey Water and Living Machines” May 3, “Natural Landscaping” May 10, details online.

Auditions for “A Shadow Shall Fall”, this year’s film from FBN Multimedia, Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Humanities room 334, information online.

Senate executive committee Monday 3:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Welcome reception for new students Monday 4:30 p.m., Student Life Centre multipurpose room, with information about UW services and a chance to meet other new students, information ext. 35643.

Graduate Student Association reception for graduate students to meet new GSA executive, Monday 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., Graduate House.

Jewish studies lecture: Menachem Kellner, University of Haifa, Israel, “The New Face of Anti-Semitism: Anti-Israel Obsession and Academic Boycotts” Monday 7:30 p.m., Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome’s University.

Cisco ‘careers and certifications’ open house Tuesday 10:00 to 2:00, Davis Centre rooms 1301 and 1304, details online.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel University College, one-day workshop on “Coaching for Success”, Wednesday, May 7, details online.

President David Johnston Run for Health (3rd annual), Wednesday, May 7, 4:30 p.m., 5-km run or 2.5-km walk around ring road, relay teams welcome, registration free, details online.

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics lecture: Gerard ’t Hooft, Utrecht University, Netherlands, “Science Fiction and Reality”, Wednesday, May 7, 7:00 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, ticket information 519-883-4480.

Surplus sale of UW equipment at central stores, East Campus Hall, May 8, 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.

Math alumni reception at Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators convention, Thursday, May 8, 5:00, Sheraton Parkway North, Richmond Hill.

Graduate Student Leisure Research Symposium (16th annual) Friday, May 9, Lyle Hallman Institute auditorium, details online.

Leadership expert and author Robin Sharma speaks at Wilfrid Laurier University, Friday, May 9, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Theatre Auditorium, tickets $40 online.

Spin-a-thon to support Sears National Kids Cancer Ride, Saturday, May 10, Columbia Lake Health Club, 340 Hagey Boulevard, information online.

Da Capo Chamber Choir, based at Conrad Grebel University College, concert “Three Reaching Beyond”, including premiere of “Moonset” by Jeff Enns, Saturday, May 10, 8:00 p.m., St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Kitchener, tickets $20 (students and seniors $15).

Learning about Teaching annual symposium May 12-14, details online, including Presidents’ Colloquium Monday May 12, 2:00, Humanities Theatre: Marilla Svinicki, University of Texas at Austin, “Changing Students’ Attitudes about Who’s Responsible for Learning,” reception follows, all welcome.

Rev. Graham Morbey, Christian Reformed chaplain to UW for 28 years, retirement reception and celebration Wednesday, May 14, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Paul Martin Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University.

UW Retirees Association annual general meeting Wednesday, May 21, 1:30 p.m., Ron Eydt Village room 102.

TD Canada Trust Walter Bean Visiting Professor in the Environment: Tavi Murray, Swansea University, Wales, “Warming Climate, Melting Ice”, Wednesday, May 21, 3:30, Humanities Theatre, reception follows.

You @ Waterloo Day open house for students considering offers of admission from UW, Saturday, May 24, displays and booths in Student Life Centre 9:00 to 2:00, campus tours until 4 p.m.

Spring into Song fundraiser for UW Well-Fit, with the Twin City Harmonizers and Grand Harmony, Sunday, May 25, 2 p.m., Humanities Theatre, details online.

‘The Basics of Starting a Business’ organized by co-op and career services, Monday, May 26, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology outreach room, Accelerator Centre building.

Spring Convocation: applied health sciences and environmental studies, Wednesday, June 11, 10:00; science, June 11, 2:30, arts (some programs), Thursday, June 12, 10:00; arts (some programs), June 12, 2:30; mathematics, Friday, June 13, 10:00; computer science, June 13, 2:30; engineering (some programs), Saturday, June 14, 10:00; engineering (some programs), June 14, 2:30, details online.

Matthews Golf Classic for staff and faculty, retirees and friends, Monday, June 16, Grand Valley Golf Course, details online.

25-Year Club annual reception Tuesday, June 17, 6:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex, by invitation, information ext. 32078.

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