Monday, April 6, 2009

  • Thieves do it in a flash, police warn
  • 'There is enough money in the pension plan'
  • Notes here on a shovel-ready campus
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Police memo: 'In the time it took . . .']
Thieves do it in a flash, police warn

April could be the cruellest month, especially for the victims of laptop and wallet theft, UW police officials say.

“There’s always a spike at exam time,” says Staff Sergeant Chris Goss, who warns against leaving anything valuable unguarded in a library, study space, lab or just about any place else.

Losing a laptop “could be devastating,” adds police chief Dan Anderson, “especially if you’re like me and tend not to back up your data.” And a backpack, perhaps containing thousands of dollars’ worth of hardware plus exam notes, identity documents, books and money? “Your whole life is in there!”

Some people practically bring it on themselves, says Goss, noting one student who left his backpack in a corner in the Student Life Centre and hasn’t seen it since. “I was only gone for an hour!” he told police when he reported the theft.

Officers have been strolling through libraries and other campus areas lately, he said, sometimes leaving behind notes like the one pictured above, just to warn about carelessness. “No one should be leaving anything of value unattended,” says Goss. “We need people to be vigilant. . . . We don’t live in Mayberry any more!”

He said it’s not clear how many thieves are actually students and how many of them just dress to blend in. One set of closed-circuit photos has spotted a man “who seems to dress like a prof” and is picking up unguarded valuables from study areas, Goss said.

Police “continue to investigate” thefts that take place at UW, an official memo says, “and are interested in any information the campus community may have. If you can help, call Police Services at ext. 22222 on campus, or 519-888-4911.”

Anderson said the UW police are about to launch a web site with some new services, including a way for students to register the serial numbers of their computers and other valuables. That way, if something is stolen, at least there’s a better chance of identifying the owner if it’s recovered. The site will also have a way for people on campus to send in anonymous tips to the police, he added.

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'There is enough money in the pension plan'

UW pensions are safe, says a memo that’s being distributed today to all faculty and staff members as well as retirees. The full text of the memo is available online.

[Passmore]It includes a list of all the committee members — UW employees, retirees, officials, and members of the board of governors. For years the committee has been chaired by associate provost Catharine Scott, but the chair has just been taken over by one of the off-campus members of the board of governors, insurance executive and organizational consultant Janet Passmore (left).

“This seems an ideal time for the committee to communicate to the members,” says the memo, considering “the amount of press coverage that pension plans are receiving and the University’s recent announcement of a 3% budget cut,” plus the recent decision to raise pension premiums as of May 1.

Here’s the key message: “Many employees have asked committee members whether the Pension Plan will be able to meet its obligations and pay their pensions. The short and very direct answer is ‘yes.’ There is enough money in the Pension Plan to cover retiree pensions now and for years into the future. We believe that with prudent management, an improved financial climate and commitment from both the University and employee groups, the long-term future of the Plan is secure.”

At the end of 2007 the pension fund actually had a surplus, the memo notes. “With the rapid stock market meltdown of 2008 the Pension Plan lost about 16% of its assets,” although a large part of the fund is not invested in stocks, which helped “mitigate some of the losses”.

UW’s pension plan doesn’t have to file an official valuation again until 2011. “This gives us some time to recover some of the very significant losses which our Pension Plan investments experienced in 2008 and early 2009. However, the committee does not think it is prudent to plan on the basis that the Pension Plan will recover all of the 2008 and early 2009 investment losses in the next two or three years. . . . Accordingly, we have proposed a raise in the contribution rates starting in May,” both from the university (the employer) and from individual staff and faculty members.

More assurances: “We believe UW’s Plan is one of the strongest and most robust in the province and that this period of uncertainty and financial hardship will end. In the meantime, pensions will continue to be paid as promised. New retirees will receive their promised pensions and retiree pensions will not be changed. . . . Your pension does not depend on investment results.”

From a question-and-answer section: If I retire and take a pension, can the University reduce my payments unexpectedly after a few years? “No — your pension must be maintained unless the University goes bankrupt.”

If the University has to make special payments into the Pension Plan, does that mean there will be layoffs and other severe financial cuts? “Irrespective of whether the University has to make special payments, the general financial situation is expected to lead to budget cuts. The University is planning for these special payments now in order to avoid future layoffs.”

Is my pension safe? “Yes.”

Are you planning on changing our pension benefit? “No — we have no such plans. However, we cannot guarantee the future.”

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Notes here on a shovel-ready campus

[Tractor hanging in midair]We're in that in-between time just now: classes for the winter term have ended and exams have yet to begin. But one season continues at UW without interruption, and that would be the construction season. (Brickwork started last week here at Needles Hall, with scaffolding erected at the back entrance facing the Dana Porter Library.) The photo here shows — look at it closely — a piece of earth-moving machinery suspended between land and sky, on the end of one of the two mighty cranes that rule the Quantum-Nano Centre site. Alison Zorian of the dean of mathematics office took the picture from high in the Math and Computer building last week.

Before students face the exams for their actual courses, many of them need to write the English Language Proficiency Examination — enough to fill the Physical Activities Complex for four separate sittings tomorrow. "In order to ensure that all students get a seat," says Ann Barrett of the writing clinic, "we have designated times for students to write. Students should visit our web site to find out when they are scheduled to write." When the time comes, "students must bring their WatCards and something to write with, but must leave all aids (electronic or paper) at home."

After exam season, and potentially just about at the time instructors will be trying to upload marks and students trying to find out what they are, there's going to be a day-and-a-half shutdown of the UW-ACE course system. Can't be helped, says the information systems and technology department, as the changes need to be made before the spring term begins. "In order to upgrade UW-ACE from version 7.2 to version 7.3, the system will be down from 6:30 am on Tuesday, April 28, until 12 noon on Wednesday, April 29. Instructors who have used UW-ACE should find the move to the new version to be relatively seamless as no significant changes were made to the interface. Several new features and enhancements have been added, including, more sophisticated discussion forums, improved navigation, easier editing of page components and a wider selection of course themes. In addition, the ability to maximize the editing area when using the HTML editor has returned. Instructors who use UW-ACE will receive a follow-up e-mail in the next few days with a one-page overview of the changes and a list of training sessions being offered in their respective faculty." Questions: call ext. 33779 or e-mail chappell@

Attention Goldilocks: a basket of goodies is being raffled off by UW's finance office, as a fund-raiser for the Adopt-a-Family program; it's on display at the Needles Hall pastry counter, and tickets are on sale until Thursday. • The March 4 lecture by United Nations water expert Mark Serreze, hosted by UW's Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change, is now available as a webcast. • Grace Rockel, who started work at UW in September 1992 and was a secretary with the Centre for Sight Enhancement in the school of optometry, officially retired April 1.

And . . . the annual staff conference is under way today and tomorrow, and Katrina Di Gravio of the organizational and human development office says a total of 640 staff members have signed up to attend one or more sessions or the full two days. As this Daily Bulletin goes live, a woman who calls herself "the Moodivator", Carole Bertuzzi Luciani of Oakville, is speaking, or is supposed to be, in the Humanities Theatre. Other keynotes and workshops will follow, as well as the noontime "Passport to Health" session in the Humanities building. (The full schedule is on the OHD web site.) A few sessions will be repeated by special arrangement this evening, for the benefit of night-shift staff members. Even if you're not registered, Di Gravio says, you're welcome to drop by South Campus Hall between 12:00 and 1:30 today, where information booths from 16 UW services will be set up to spread the word about what they do, and in some cases provide brochures or souvenirs. Just don't hope to get in on the "grab and go lunch" — reservations for that feature of the conference closed last week.


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Link of the day

Opening Day

When and where

‘Single and Sexy’ auditions for 2009 production, 4:00 to 8:00, Humanities Theatre, information ext. 36358.

Social work seminar: Frank Wagner, University of Toronto, “Ethics, Schmethics, What’s the Buzz?” 4:30 p.m., Renison UC chapel lounge.

K-W Little Theatre auditions for “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” (performances in July) Monday-Wednesday 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 116. Details.

St. Jerome’s University presents Mary Juergensmeyer, University of California at Santa Barbara, “Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State” 7:30, Siegfried Hall.

Columbia Lake Health Club open house Tuesday-Thursday, 340 Hagey Boulevard. Details.

Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing competitions: Euclid Contest for grade 12 students, Tuesday; Fryer (grade 9), Galois (grade 10) and Hypatia (grade 11) contests, Wednesday. Details.

Faculty Association annual general meeting Tuesday 2:00, Math and Computer building room 4020.

UW board of governors meets Tuesday 2:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Techno Tuesday: Mark Morton, Centre for Teaching Excellence, “eBook Readers”, Tuesday 3:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Live and Learn Lecture: Tim Kenyon, department of philosophy, “Saying Uncle: Speaking Under Torture or Coercion” Tuesday 7:00, Waterloo Public Library main branch.

Winter term examinations April 8-24. Unofficial winter term grades appear in Quest beginning April 27. Grades become official May 25.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel UC, full day workshop, “Transition with All Family Members”, Wednesday, St. Jacobs. Details.

Easter luncheon buffet at University Club April 8 and 9, 11:30 to 2:00, reservations ext. 33801.

Heritage Resources Centre lunch-and-learn series: “Exploring the Link Between Heritage and Sustainability”, Wednesday 12:00 noon, Environment I room 354.

Town hall meeting with the president, provost and vice-president (external relations) for faculty and staff members Wednesday 3:00, Humanities Theatre. Details.

Waterloo YMCA unveiling of plans for new building on Fischer-Hallman Road and recognition of major gift, Wednesday 5:00, University Club, by invitation.

Beyond Borders education and service experience program at St. Jerome’s University, information night, Wednesday 7:00, St. Jerome’s cafeteria.

Good Friday holiday April 10: UW offices and most services will be closed.

Senate long-range planning committee Monday, April 13, 3:00, Needles Hall room 3004.

Bridging the Gap pre-retirement workshops. Six weekly sessions Tuesday, April 14 through Tuesday, May 19, 7 to 9 p.m., Rockway Centre, 1405 King Street East, Kitchener. $60 plus GST. Details.

Surplus sale of UW furnishings and equipment April 16, 12:30 to 2:00, East Campus Hall.

UW-ACE instructor user group April 16, 1:30, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Pension and benefits committee April 17, 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Pharmacy building community open house Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 10 Victoria Street South, all welcome. (Official opening ceremony, by invitation, April 17.)

QPR suicide prevention presentations April 20, 11:30 to 1:00, Math and Computer room 4068, register ext. 33528.

Friends of the Library Lecture by Prem Watsa, chancellor-designate of the university, April 20, 12:00 noon, Theatre of the Arts.

UW Senate meets April 20, 4:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

UW Retirees Association spring luncheon April 22, 11:30 a.m., Luther Village, speaker Mike Sharratt (department of kinesiology) on “Optimal Aging for Older Adults”, tickets $25, information 519-885-4758.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 27-30, Davis Centre. Details.

Fee payment deadline for the spring term: April 27 (cheque, money order or fee arrangements), April 30 (bank transfer). Details.

Spring term classes begin Monday, May 4.

Presidents’ Colloquium on Teaching and Learning, speaker Gary Poole, University of British Columbia, “But Will That Be on the Test? Encouraging Deeper Learning” May 4, 2:00, Humanities Theatre, reception follows.

Faculty workshops on teaching with Gary Poole, University of British Columbia, May 5: “Using Door-Opening Concepts in Our Teaching” 9:00, “We Can Promote Deeper Learning” 2:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

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