Thursday, January 22, 2009

  • Test next week for emergency alerts
  • No senate decision on 'teaching chairs'
  • Preparing for 2010 programming event
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Test next week for emergency alerts

by Martin Van Nierop, communications and public affairs

UW is ready to introduce several new communication methods that will alert the university community in the event of a campus-wide emergency. This new communication system, designed to operate in real time and with built-in redundancy, becomes operational this month and will warn the UW campus in the event of a major threat. It will engage only when UW declares an emergency.

The system will work in concert with a special UW Home Page used only for emergencies, which will be the site for all official information. The new warning methods include:

• pop-up messages/alerts to computer screens on Nexus and ADS systems, running a new “uw-emerge” system;

• emergency text messages to students, faculty and staff who have registered their mobile phone numbers with Human Resources or on Quest;

• broadcast telephone messages to all voicemail users.

On January 29 at 11 a.m. these methods will be tested for the first time across campus. This is only a test of the new system. The message the campus will see on pop-up screens, on text messages, and via voice-mail is: "This is a test of UW’s emergency communication system. Go to the home page for information."

On the home page, people will read:

This is a test of UW’s emergency communication system. When UW declares an emergency, information and instructions will appear on this home page. This test will conclude by 12:30 p.m. on January 29.

As well as the methods listed above, several others are likely to be introduced later this year: blast emails to all faculty and staff; text message alerts on all big-screen TVs across campus (such as those at the UW Shop, Student Life Centre, etc.); and new IP phones in many locations on campus, analogous to a public address system. “These new systems will enable us to get the word out very quickly in the event of a major emergency,” said Dan Anderson, UW’s director of Police Services.

Anderson, a 32-year veteran of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, recently came aboard as UW’s new police services director. He welcomes the implementation of these new communication systems that have been in the works for over a year.

He stressed that in a major emergency, it is outside authorities who will take command of the situation under Ontario’s Emergency Management Act. UW’s Police Service will initially respond, secure the scene and support the response, attempting to minimize collateral damage and initiating the recovery process. “We already have a close working relationship with the WRPS and the other emergency services in the area, such as fire and ambulance, so this emergency warning system for campus will enhance our capabilities for communicating quickly and effectively with the campus when dealing with a major emergency.”

When would UW declare an emergency? Essentially for an occurrence that poses an immediate serious threat to the safety of the campus population, including a major storm such as a tornado; explosion; fire; chemical spill; plane crash; a shooting or a report of an armed person.

In responding to an emergency, UW has two important instruments: Policy 60, Emergency Response, and a system of redundant communication. Policy 60 delegates authority to act and is based on four operating assumptions: (1) the first decision in response to an emergency is often the most critical and fundamental; (2) response to emergencies will be conditioned by caution and minimization of risk; (3) each emergency will have unique features requiring case-specific decisions and reactions; (4) redundant channels of communication will be instituted.

The UW main campus consists of 50 major buildings, 20,000 rooms, 7 million square feet of floor space spread over 1,000 acres. In addition UW has satellite campuses in Cambridge, for its School of Architecture; Kitchener, for the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; and Gage Avenue in Kitchener, for the distance and continuing education department.

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No senate decision on 'teaching chairs'

by Brandon Sweet

Monday’s meeting of the UW senate proved that a long agenda is no barrier to spirited debate, as nearly three hours after the meeting began, a proposal to approve the creation of 20 University Teaching Chairs was met with enough criticism and questioning that a decision was postponed for a month.

The Sixth Decade Plan calls for the establishment of 20 teaching innovation fellowships to “recognize teaching excellence and to promote the development of teaching excellence.” The fellowships, now renamed Chairs, are described as benchmarks for the plan’s goals of excellence in teaching.

According to the proposal document circulated in the senate agenda, a University Teaching Chair may be held for up to five years. A faculty member with this title will receive either an annual stipend of $10,000 or a grant of $10,000 per annum for teaching-related research. Four appointments would be made each year until a steady state of 20 University Teaching Chairs is reached, in accordance with the goals set out in the Sixth Decade Plan.

It was well past 7:00 p.m. on Monday by the time this motion — originating from the associate vice-president (academic) — came up for senate discussion. “We owe it to our students to be the best teachers and seek ways to improve our craft,” said pure math professor Frank Zorzitto, speaking in opposition to the motion. “Despite this, I think this proposal is a piece of fluff not worthy of spending $200,000 a year even in good economic times.”

Said Zorzitto: “Excellent teachers are not necessarily teachers of how to teach. And do we really want an award that includes service on committees as a criterion?”

The vagueness of the role and responsibility of the UTC recipients gave some other senators cause for concern. The proposal document describes the chairs’ responsibilities: “During their tenure as a University Teaching Chair, recipients are expected to interact with the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and share their expertise and enthusiasm for teaching with their department/ school and with the broader UW community. ...

“While the UTCs have no further responsibilities, many recipients have the capacity for innovative research, mentorship, development, and promotion around teaching and teachers on campus, especially in their own department/school. It is desirable to use the University Teaching Chair program to capitalize on this capacity, creating a group of UTCs who are beacons of teaching excellence on campus, disseminating their teaching-related research results, mentoring their peers, and generally promoting an environment and culture that values excellence in teaching.”

Other senators voiced opposition on grounds of exclusion, worrying that most of the recipients might be drawn from the humanities rather than evenly dispersed across all disciplines. Associate VP Geoff McBoyle disagreed, pointing out that the university already has a teaching chair in the Faculty of Engineering.

It was also argued that the $200,000 could be better spent improving teaching in more immediate ways – through improving classroom facilities or hiring more faculty members.

But the motion had some support. “It’s better than the Distinguished Teaching Awards, because it encourages studying teaching, not just teaching,” said James Skidmore of Germanic and Slavic studies. “Researching teaching is reputable.”

After a few minutes of debate, a motion to postpone the topic until senate’s February meeting was passed, and the open session of the meeting concluded at approximately 7:30, an hour later than the norm for most senate sessions, which begin at 4:30 p.m. The reason for the unusually late hour was that the previous meeting, on November 17,, had been dominated by of a major discussion of the proposed Abu Dhabi campus. That left several agenda items, including the UTC proposal as well as presentations by both the Federation of Students and the Graduate Students Association, to be tackled at this month’s meeting.

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Preparing for 2010 programming event

a news release from UW’s media relations office

A special public launch event tomorrow will celebrate the International Olympiad in Informatics that — as announced two years ago — will be coming to UW in August 2010.

On Friday at 1:30 p.m., organizers invite students, staff, faculty, other partners and the general public to attend the launch event in the Davis Centre. Research In Motion is the title sponsor of IOI 2010.

David Johnston, UW president; Thomas F. Coleman, dean of mathematics; David Yach, RIM's chief technology officer for software; and Troy Vasiga, IOI 2010 director and a professor of computer science, will speak and answer questions about the “olympiad”.

"Waterloo will be the first Canadian university to host the IOI and organizing the event is a major undertaking," says Coleman. "The university hopes that many firms and organizations will attend the launch event to find out more about IOI 2010 and partner with UW to help present Waterloo on the world stage as a first-class destination in the technology sphere."

The annual week-long competition, which has been held since 1989, features 400 of the world's top computer science high school students, who are selected through national computing contests. About 250,000 young people from some 100 countries compete each year to represent their country. IOI 2010 runs from August 14 to 21 next year.

The IOI is the world's premier high school computer programming competition. Its goals are to bring together, challenge and give recognition to young students from around the world who are the most talented in informatics (computer programming), as well as to foster friendship among these students from diverse cultures.


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Link of the day

Healthy weight

When and where

Minister of state for science and technology makes "a special announcement" for Communitech, UW's Stratford Institute and the Corridor for Advancing Canadian Digital Media, 9 a.m., Stratford city hall.

President’s New Year’s Luncheon for tenants in the Research and Technology Park, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard, remarks 12:15, raffle prizes to support R+T Park Tenants Fund at KWCF.

Computer Science Club presents Joel Solsky, software developer, “Computer Science Education and the Software Industry” 12:00, Math and Computer room 5136.

‘Law School Bound’ workshop organized by Career Services, 12:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1208; ‘Preparing for the LSAT’ 1:30 p.m. Details.

‘Teaching English Abroad’ workshop organized by Career Services, 2:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Faculty of Science presents the 3rd annual Arthur Carty Lecture: Nina Fedoroff, Penn State University, “Seeds of a Perfect Storm: The Global Food Security Crisis”, 3:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre, free.

Independent studies thesis project presentation (“formal game design including board games”) by Orin Bishop, opportunity to play original games, 3:00, Modern Languages room 104.

German film series: “Triumph of the Will” (1934), 6:00, East Campus Hall room 1220.

Faculty of Arts presents Anne-Marie Zajdliki, Masai Centre for Local, Regional and Global Health, “A Canadian Physician’s Dream for Africa” 7:00, Humanities Theatre, tickets $10 at Humanities box office.

Engineers Without Borders national conference continues in Toronto; public “freeze” to draw attention to fair trade, 7:15 p.m. on downtown streets.

Warrior men’s hockey at Laurier, 7:30 p.m.

Last day to drop courses with 100 per cent fee refund; drop, no penalty period ends, January 23.

Knowledge Integration seminar: Brendon Larson, environment and resource studies, “Tales from a Biologist Turned Metaphorophile”, Friday 2:30 p.m., Environment II room 2002.

Federation of Students election nominations close Friday; all-candidates meeting at 4 p.m., Student Life Centre multipurpose room. Campaign runs January 27 through February 9; polling February 10-12.

Optometry building heating and ventilation shut off Friday 5:30 p.m. to midnight.

‘Medical School Interviews’ career workshop Saturday 12:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 2218. Details.

Chinese New Year buffet at the University Club, Monday 11:30 to 2:00, $18.50, reservations ext. 33801.

Education Credit Union seminar on “Tax-Free Savings Accounts and Your RRSP” Tuesday 12:15 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Communitech breakfast forum with Thomas Homer-Dixon, Balsillie School of International Affairs, January 28, 7:30 a.m., Bingemans Conference Centre, Kitchener. Details.

Employer interviews for spring co-op work term begin January 29.

QPR suicide prevention training sessions January 29 and February 23, 11:30 to 1:00, Math and Computer room 4068, register at ext. 33528.

Infusion Angels Innovation Centre“Independents Day”: “mingle with fellow gamers, industry leaders, and explore the gaming world,” information about entrepreneurship, prizes, food, January 29, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Federation Hall, register by e-mail: events@

Montréal alumni reception February 2, 6:00 p.m., Wienstein & Gavino’s, Crescent Street. Details.

UW board of governors meets February 3, 2:30 p.m.

Job Fair 2009 sponsored by UW and other post-secondary institutions, February 4, 10:00 to 3:30, RIM Park, Waterloo. Details.

Doctors Without Borders founder Richard Heinzl speaks, sponsored by UW International Health Development Association and other agencies, February 5, 7:00 p.m., Federation Hall, free.

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