Friday, March 13, 2009

  • Two-year plan: a cut and another cut
  • Future students coming on Tuesday
  • Drops from the daily data stream
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Group in a semicircle with lots of happy faces]

Toasting success and reviewing memories, fourth-year students in applied health sciences got together on Tuesday for a final big event before exam time and (ulp) graduation. The third annual Grad Class Send-Off, held at the University Club, featured guest speakers Mano Watsa, basketball coach and youth program organizer, and Bob Hunter, a vice-president of the Toronto Raptors, both UW graduates. The photo shows some of the students with recreation and leisure studies professor Ron McCarville, centre. A take-home gift bag included, besides goodies, some helpful information about making the transition from student to alumni status.

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Two-year plan: a cut and another cut

The senate finance committee gave quick approval yesterday to UW’s $435 million budget for the coming year, after hearing provost Amit Chakma summarize how it deals with the university’s restricted income and ever-rising costs.

“We are going to continue with our hiring freeze, and restrain any major discretionary expenditure,” Chakma told the committee, which includes UW’s deans and other top officials as well as representatives of faculty and student members of the UW senate.

“It’s not an absolute freeze,” he said, “but we will only fill positions when it’s necessary or when it’s contractually required. Capital projects will continue, but projects that are under our control, where we need to use operating money, those we will postpone.”

That kind of restraint is reflected in an “expenditure reduction” on most of UW’s spending: 3 per cent in the new fiscal year, which will begin May 1. “I am hoping that we might be able to do it without laying off any people,” Chakma said about the budget cut. “But we are still getting information from our units about how they are going to do it.”

He warned that “there will be additional pressures on our budget” in the following year, including the need to put extra money, at least $2 million annually, into the pension fund to keep it healthy. As a result, the provost said, officials are planning for a 5 per cent budget cut for 2010-11, although they have time to look for new sources of income and can hope that conditions will improve.

“If we can generate more revenue, if we can reduce expenditures, then that number can come down,” he said. He noted that new salary settlements for both faculty and staff members will be due in May 2010, and every percentage point that can be saved in annual scale increases means around $2.5 million to the university’s budget. Increases on a par with the scheduled May 2009 scale increase, 3 per cent, are “certainly not sustainable” for next year if things don’t change, he said.

In response to a question, Chakma agreed that the 3 per cent “expenditure reduction” is really more like 1.8 per cent on the total budget, because “only 65 per cent of our budget can be cut.” Departments are told to slice 3 per cent from their spending, but UW can’t do the same thing to its hydro bill, for example, or to health benefits for employees. The cut is also not applied to scholarship funding or the budget for library materials.

And the cut is more than outweighed by spending increases elsewhere in the budget, including money for salary increases and spending on new activities as the university grows. The bottom-line spending in 2009-10 is forecast to be up by about 6.9 per cent from this year’s $405 million.

“If you want good news,” said Chakma, “our overall income is still increasing by 5.7 per cent. In the world context, this is not bad.” He observed that apart from $2.5 million in new money for additional graduate student places, “government grants are not growing,” with the total from the province expected to reach $191.4 million, compared to this year’s $188.9 million. “Most of our revenue growth is coming from student fees,” the provost said: $194.8 million in the new year, compared to $176.0 million this year.

The most conspicuous change on the spending side of the budget involves scholarship, bursary and graduate student support funding. Some costs that have previously come from one-time funding of various kinds are being rolled into the main budget, the provost said. “With this budget we’ll be spending about $30 million of operating money for student support. This figure does not include the money that we generate from endowments.”

It also means that UW leads all Canada’s universities in the percentage of its operating expenditure that goes for student support. (Other institutions cover more scholarships from their endowment funds.) “Can we sustain it?” the provost asked.

He said there will be “only a few areas where we will make investments,” such as library materials, getting an additional $400,000 to make the total $7.0 million. Some extra funding for co-operative education will come from the co-op fee rather than general revenues.

He said the board of governors finance and investment committee has given the okay for a deficit of as much as $3 million this year, and with the help of one-time funding here and there, the bottom line is below that figure, at about $2.4 million. The budget, as approved by the committee, will go to the UW senate on March 23, and to the board of governors on April 7.

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Future students coming on Tuesday

The campus will be bustling on Tuesday — and crowds are expected to be especially thick at South Campus Hall — as UW holds the annual March break open house, aimed at high schoolers who are making the final decision about whether to attend Waterloo next September.

Says Kim McKee, manager of the visitors’ centre: “This campus-wide event gives applicants, prospective students, parents, and school personnel the opportunity to participate in activities that will increase their interest in and level of commitment to the University of Waterloo. We also hope that this day will increase the number of applicants who confirm their offers of admission to UW.”

Just among Ontario high school students, there are more than 7,800 who have picked a UW program as their first choice for university next fall. Thousands of such applicants, along with parents and other family members, will hit the campus for next week’s event, an annual fixture on the Tuesday of the schools’ March break week.

Parking could be at a premium on Tuesday, and there will be plenty of extra people on campus (and eating lunch in the cafeterias) as visitors find out what it’s like to be at Waterloo. "Our students tell us that visiting the campus is the best way to see for themselves what the University of Waterloo has to offer," says McKee.

In a news release issued earlier this week by UW’s media relations office, she promises “an exciting day with lots of information to help students decide which university is best for them."

Says the release: “Students who have applied to UW will find the open house to be informative as it showcases Waterloo's academic and program strengths, world-leading co-op program and leadership opportunities. They will also be able to experience Waterloo's strong sense of community.”

Most activities begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and continue until 3 p.m. Students and their parents can pick up an event guide when they arrive at SCH. (In previous years, headquarters for the open house has been at the Student Life Centre, but organizers weren’t keen to have their event sharing space with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the SLC and its Bombshelter pub.)

“Retail Services management have offered booth space in the Bookstore,” says McKee, “and we will also be able to use Visitors Centre space for admissions, financing, and general information areas. Other information booths will be set up in the concourse so that visitors can find out more about student life, Food Services, the City of Waterloo, and Housing and Residences. The Residence Life presentation is taking place in the Festival Fair dining room from 9:00 to 10:00 and from 2:30 to 3:30.”

From SCH, visitors can head off on walking tours of the campus. Residences, including the four colleges, and other student services departments are offering tours or drop-in visits all day. In buildings across campus, the six faculties will hold program-specific activities, tours and information sessions.

There will also be a session aimed at international students, covering admissions, financing, student life and student services.

A separate open house will be held for students and parents interested in UW's school of architecture in Cambridge. They will be able to speak to faculty members, attend a program session, tour the school and view current students' admission portfolios, at the Architecture building on Melville Street South in Cambridge.

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Drops from the daily data stream

A UW graduate student is the first person to become "landed" in Canada through the Kitchener immigration office, now that a change in federal rules allows new Canadians in the "skilled worker" category to do their paperwork within the country rather than overseas. Eman Al Abadleh, a master's student in management sciences who comes from the United Arab Emirates, received her documentation as a "permanent resident" in this country last month. "I went to the the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in downtown Kitchener," she says proudly, "and landed there, and they told me that you are the first student we have processed under these new regulations. Happy me!" In the past, Darlene Ryan of Waterloo International explains, international students and visiting scholars have often been able to change their status after coming to UW — thus allowing them to stay permanently in Canada — but the process has typically involved a trip to a port of entry, such as Niagara Falls, so that they were physically outside the country while making their applications.

More than 3,300 international students at UW received e-mail this week inviting them to take part in the Canadian Bureau for International Education Survey of International Students in Canada for this year. "This survey is being conducted at 20 colleges and universities across Canada," said a message from Waterloo International. "The survey will provide international students with an opportunity to provide important feedback and suggestions about their educational experience at the University of Waterloo and in Canada generally. We anticipate that the survey findings will allow universities and colleges to better understand international students and enhance their educational experience. By completing the questionnaire, you will be automatically entered into a draw to win $100. The questionnaire should only take about 20 minutes to complete, and you may find that it will give you a good chance to review your university experiences in Canada."

A note from the engineering faculty's e-newsletter: "Ray Cao believes there's no time like the present for starting a business. Despite [Cao]today's tough economic times the fourth-year Waterloo systems design engineering student says there are many great opportunities available — you just need to look for them. Cao (right) speaks from experience. He's president of the Impact Entrepreneurship Group, Canada's largest student-run organization dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship among youth. Since Cao has been involved with the group he's grown it from 35 students in Waterloo to 120 youth leaders across the country. His passion for entrepreneurship has been recognized with both the 2007 and 2008 UW engineering co-op student of the year award, a UW President's Circle award and an inaugural Waterloo Region Record Top 40 Under 40 honour. When he graduates this spring Cao plans to begin practising what he's been preaching by starting his own business. Cao's company, to be called the EightyTwenty Group, will build software solutions to help make companies more productive."

From the same source: "Team RICE, comprised of four Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology students, was a third place winner in the recent RBC Next Great Innovator Challenge. The team was one of five semi-finalists in the challenge that started with 161 teams from 24 schools. The students, who presented a model for Islamic banking in Canada, were awarded $5,000 in prize money."


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Link of the day

It's Friday the 13th again

When and where

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference continues, Hilton Toronto Hotel. Details.

Arts Student Union elections for executive positions, final day, 8:30 to 4:30, ASU office, Arts Lecture Hall room 120.

Rainbow Reels Queer Film Festival co-sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, through Sunday, Princess Cinema, Waterloo. Details.

Blood donor clinic today 9:00 to 3:00, and Thursday 10:00 to 4:00, Student Life Centre, book appointments at turnkey desk or call 1-888-236-6283.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering graduate studies information session 11:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 302.

Study in China summer program information meeting 12:00 noon, Renison University College cafeteria.

Travel slide show: Larry Lamb on South America, 12:15, Environment I room 221.

Knowledge Integration seminar: Catherine Booth, Loblaws, “Wanted: Solution Integrators”, 2:30, Environment II room 2002. Details.

Philosophy colloquium: David DeVidi, UW, “The Prospects for Mathematical Pluralism” 3:30, Humanities room 373.

Fine Arts Film Society “classics of the Asian erotic film”: “Macho Dancer” (1988), 7 p.m., East Campus Hall room 1220.

Simulated first aid exercise for UW Campus Response Team, Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. across campus. Details.

Self-defence workshop sponsored by Campus Recreation, Saturday 1:00 to 3:30 p.m., Columbia Icefield, fee $35, register at athletics office, PAC.

Erie Shores wind farm tour. Jim Wilgar will demonstrate how the Port Burwell area turbines work. Saturday, bus leaves Davis Centre at 9 a.m. Free; e-mail for details.

UW Juggling Festival performance Saturday 7:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Arts Gala 2009: Saturday 8 p.m., Federation Hall. Tickets $20 in ASU office, Arts Lecture Hall room 120.

Staff annual performance appraisals due at human resources department Monday, March 16.

Earth Sciences and Chemistry building elevator out of service March 16 through April 20 for modernization.

Teaching workshop: “Teaching Philosophy Statement” Monday 10:00, Tatham Centre room 2218. Details.

Fantasy author K. V. Johansen reads at St. Jerome’s University, Monday, March 16, 4:00 p.m., room 3027.

Hallman Lecture: Benjamin Hunnicutt, University of Iowa, “The Forgotten Dream of Progress, the Healthy Alternative to Work Without End” Monday 4:30, Hallman Institute room 1621. Details.

Head shaving and dyeing event to raise funds for ROOF, agency for homeless youth in Kitchener, Monday 4:45, Renison UC great hall.

Jewish Studies lecture: Linda Safran, University of Toronto, “The Arts of Passover from Antiquity to Today” Tuesday 7:30 p.m., Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome’s University.

Brown Bag Lunch session from Staff Association and Credit Union: “Let's Talk Mortgages” Wednesday 12:15, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Drama department production of “Mad Forest” by Caryl Churchill, March 18-21 at 8 p.m. and March 21 at 2:00 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets from Humanities box office, 519-888-4908; preview performance by invitation, March 17 at 7:00.

‘Dragons’ Den’ series on CBC television visits in search of aspiring entrepreneurs to appear during the new season: auditions Thursday, March 19, 11:00 to 6:00, Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, 295 Hagey Boulevard. Details.

Employer panel: “Hot Tips from the Pros” Thursday 4:30, Tatham Centre room 2218. Details.

Graduate Student Association annual general meeting Thursday 6:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 301. Details.

FIRST Robotics Competition for high school students, March 20-22, Physical Activities Complex; public competitions Friday 9:30 to 4:00, Saturday 9:30 to 4:15, admission free. Details.

UW’s Indian connection presents the semi-formal Tashan, including fashion show and Indian dinner, Friday, March 20, 7:00, Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, tickets on sale in Student Life Centre.

Science and Business Students Association presents "Fusion: The Economy of the Future” Saturday, March 21, 8:00 to 5:00, Rod Coutts Hall. Details.

PhD oral defences

Optometry. Barbara E. Caffery, “Sjogren’s Syndrome: A Clinical and Biochemical Analysis.” Supervisor, Trefford L. Simpson. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Friday, March 27, 11:00 a.m., Optometry room 309.

Physics and astronomy. Joel R. Brownstein, “Modified Gravity and the Phantom of Dark Matter.” Supervisors, J. Moffat and R. B. Mann. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Tuesday, March 31, 3:00 p.m., Physics room 352.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Nathan Kotey, “Measurement and Models Related to Solar Optics in Windows with Shading Devices.” Supervisor, John Wright. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, April 6, 7:00 p.m., Engineering III room 4117.

Electrical and computer engineering. Jamshid Abouei, “Delay-Throughput Analysis in Distributed Wireless Networks.” Supervisor, Amir Khandani. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Tuesday, April 7, 9:00 a.m., CEIT building room 3142.

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