Friday, March 27, 2009

  • Ontario budget boosts co-op hiring
  • Engineers will take their obligation
  • About money, freedom, food and talent
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Ontario budget boosts co-op hiring

There was a little extra money for universities in yesterday’s Ontario budget — and a cherry on top, in the form of an increase to the tax credit that employers get when they hire co-op students.

Boosting the credit from $1,000 to $3,000 for each term a student is hired is expected to be a special blessing for UW, which operates the largest university co-op program not just in Ontario but in the world. Officials in the co-op education and career services department say the tax credit is already a selling point for co-op, and increasing it will be a big help as they struggle to find jobs for students in hard times.

CECS staff members Kirk Patterson and David Everest have been part of a multi-year lobbying effort, organized by the umbrella group Education at Work Ontario, that paved the way for the increase.

On other fronts, the budget presented by Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan offered “significant investments in postsecondary operating, infrastructure and research funding”, according to a supportive statement issued last night by the Council of Ontario Universities.

“Today’s investments demonstrate the Premier’s continued leadership on higher education and recognition of its importance in driving innovation, economic growth and social well-being,” said COU chair Peter George.

As the 2008-09 fiscal year nears its end, the government announced a commitment of $150 million in “immediate, one-time support” for colleges and universities. Details aren’t clear yet, but Bob Truman, UW’s director of institutional analysis and planning, estimated last night that Waterloo’s share would be a cheque for around $6 million.

“These investments will help our institutions to address some of the significant financial pressures they are facing and help them to protect knowledge sector jobs,” said COU’s president, Paul Genest. “We recognize these are difficult times for everyone and appreciate how far the government was able to go, though we acknowledge that fiscal restraint is still required at our institutions.” UW is looking to impose a 3 per cent cut on most spending for the fiscal year that begins on May 1.

The budget features tax cuts (plus the "harmonization" of the provincial sales tax with the federal GST starting next year) and infrastructure spending aimed at pulling Ontario out of the current economic slump. As one piece of that, the government committed $780 million for campus "renewal" and new buildings, to match Ontario’s share of the federal government’s recently announced funding for postsecondary infrastructure.

Universities are "ready for a building boom", as the Globe and Mail puts it this morning. “The commitment to campus renewal will help to address a large inventory of deferred maintenance projects at our universities,” a COU statement said, “including new roofs, boilers, plumbing and electrical systems – projects which may not be glamorous but which are essential to providing safe, healthy and high-quality environments for students, staff and faculty. Energy retrofits of our buildings will also reduce energy use, promote sustainability and contribute to the development of a greener Ontario economy.”

Under another heading, Duncan promised $300 million over six years for research infrastructure that will, COU said, “leverage Ontario’s portion of the new federal funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. There is an additional $100 million provided for biomedical research focused on genomics, to be delivered through the Ontario Research Fund.”

COU's Genest called these announcements “a tremendous complement to the other infrastructure investments announced today in support of campus renewal and quick-start projects on our campuses.” In addition, the budget promised money for 100 more spaces in the province’s medical schools, and another $10 million a year to expand graduate fellowships.

But the big issue is operating funds, which haven’t increased for a number of years apart from occasional special packages to encourage enrolment expansion. “We look forward to working with the government in the coming period to develop a long-term plan to succeed the historic Reaching Higher plan of 2005,” said Genest. He said a new funding plan, expected to appear a year from now, “is vital for ensuring that our university system is financially sound over the long term and able to handle expected growth in the system as well as provide an environment for cutting-edge research.”

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Engineers will take their obligation

There will be 900 more Canadian engineers before tomorrow is over, as graduating students from UW's faculty of engineering take part in the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and put on the Iron Ring for the first time.

Holding the Iron Ring ceremonies on a Saturday in March is a break with tradition, as for many years they’ve been scheduled on the last class day before February reading week. The change is intended to make sure that neither the event itself nor any high-spirited celebrations surrounding it can interfere with work in other parts of the university, says the associate dean (co-operative education and professional affairs) in the engineering faculty, Wayne Parker.

In helping to stage the traditional (and distinctively Canadian) ceremony, the Faculty of Engineering works with an independent agency, Camp 15 of the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, which will be conducting the Ritual in multiple ceremonies tomorrow. About 300 candidates are scheduled for a 1:00 ceremony, 300 at 2:00 and 300 more at 3:00, all in the Theatre of the Arts. The ceremonies are not open to the public.

The first Iron Ring ceremony at UW was held in the spring of 1963. The wardens’ web site gives this background: “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has a history dating back to 1922, when seven past-presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada attended a meeting in Montreal with other engineers. One of the speakers was civil engineer Professor [Herbert] Haultain of the University of Toronto. He felt that an organization was needed to bind all members of the engineering profession in Canada more closely together. He also felt that an obligation or statement of ethics to which a young graduate in engineering could subscribe should be developed. . . .

“Haultain wrote to Rudyard Kipling, who had made reference to the work of engineers in some of his poems and writings. He asked Kipling for his assistance in developing a suitably dignified obligation and ceremony for its undertaking. Kipling was very enthusiastic in his response and shortly produced both an obligation and a ceremony formally entitled 'The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.' . . .

“The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with the simple end of directing the newly qualified engineer toward a consciousness of the profession and its social significance and indicating to the more experienced engineer their responsibilities in welcoming and supporting the newer engineers when they are ready to enter the profession. . . .

“The Iron Ring has been registered and may be worn on the little finger of the working hand by any engineer who has been obligated at an authorized ceremony of the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer. The ring symbolizes the pride which engineers have in their profession, while simultaneously reminding them of their humility. The ring serves as a reminder to the engineer and others of the engineer's obligation to live by a high standard of professional conduct. It is not a symbol of qualification as an engineer — this is determined by the provincial and territorial licensing bodies.”

In recent years UW’s graduating engineering class have typically shown their joy by dressing up in exuberant outfits and parading on campus before changing into business attire for the actual ceremony. The Iron Warrior engineering newspaper reports that plans are different this year, with the on-campus social event being “a costume Pubcrawl” today based at the Bombshelter in the Student Life Centre.

After the ceremony tomorrow comes the Iron Ring Stag — “the big engineering graduate party”, as the IW says — being held this year at Federation Hall. Amid the merriment, the Tool, mascot of UW engineers, will be introduced — and the newly ringed ones permitted to touch its metal for the first time ever.

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About money, freedom, food and talent

A meeting of "academic support" department heads and other managers is being held at 3:00 this afternoon in Needles Hall. Top officials invited them to come for an hour-and-a-half briefing on UW's budget for the new year, which was approved by senate last week and goes to the board of governors on April 7. No new announcements are expected.

A new association representing faculty members at St. Jerome’s University has filed an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board asking it to call a vote on unionization. The vote could take place Tuesday, according to religious studies professor David Seljak, who is president of the existing St. Jerome’s Faculty Association and also the new group, which calls itself the St. Jerome’s University Academic Staff Association. Seljak said yesterday that the SJU-ASA was formed March 3, and that membership cards signed by 19 people have been sent to lawyers who filed them with the OLRB on Tuesday. “We could have a vote of the 31 members of the bargaining unit as early as March 31,” he said. Seljak also said that “While the original motivations to seek certification were obviously linked to the current crisis,” in which faculty have voted non-confidence in St. Jerome’s president David Perrin, “many faculty — myself included — have come to believe that unionization is in fact a better way to go. . . The SJU-ASA is essentially a conservative organization, wishing only to protect the traditional values of academic freedom and collegial governance.” Faculty at the majority of Canadian universities are unionized, although UW’s faculty association has a Memorandum of Agreement without union certification.

Food Not Bombs — a branch of the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group — and “other food-focused campus groups” will hold a day-long event today “to educate and promote change on food issues”. Says a news release: “The event strives to make connections between food production systems, personal and community health, the environment and the economy with a focus on student consumer choices. The event will happen 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will include a free lunchtime serving of locally-sourced vegetable soup.” Volunteer Chaylene Grieve-Saunders explains that "We're trying to bring these issues home to UW. It's one thing to complain about wasted food, trade inequities in food commodities and food insecurity, but we're trying to make these issues relevant to our lives at UW. Specifically, we're asking how UW's practices around food affect the broader community and the world at large." Plans include a panel discussion with activists and academics “exploring the complexities of making ethical food choices” as well as the soup distribution. It all happens in the multipurpose room of the Student Life Centre.

"Congratulations," said an e-mail message this week to 3,697 students. "According to our records, you intend to graduate this spring." That's the good news. Then this: "If you have received OSAP or other government-sponsored student loans, it’s important for you to obtain repayment information early. This information will help you avoid defaulting on your student loans and protect your credit rating. The Student Awards & Financial Aid office is pleased to offer two Student Loan Repayment information sessions . . . presented by a representative of the National Student Loans Service Centre." The sessions — next Wednesday at 11:00 and 12:30 in Tatham Centre room 2218 — "will review loan consolidation, interest, your first payment obligations, who to call if you can’t make a payment, Ontario Student Opportunity Grant. It is your responsibility to contact the National Student Loans Service Centre at 1-888-815-4514 (for loans negotiated on or after August 1, 2000) or your financial institution (for loans negotiated before August 1, 2000) immediately following the end of your studies to arrange a loan repayment schedule. Failing to repay has serious consequences."

From UW's development office, John Heckbert reports that "The Keystone Annual Events Working Group is looking for talented UW staff members interested in participating in the celebration event happening June 3. Any UW staff member who has a passion for juggling, magic tricks, singing, ventriloquism, fire-breathing, playing music, sword–swallowing, or a similar pastime is encouraged to contact Sarah Dee (sdee@ before April 30, if they are indeed interested in sharing their skills with their colleagues."


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Extended library hours begin

March 29 through April 24, the UW libraries will be open for extended exam-time hours. For the Davis Centre library that means 24 hours a day, except for 2 to 8 a.m. on Sundays. For the Dana Porter Library, it means 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

An announcement from the libraries notes that service desks and related services will be closed at regular times (Porter at 11:00 pm and Davis at midnight), but "there will be attendants present to monitor the library environment and for security purposes, and they will also monitor for noise, cell phone use, and hot foods that are not permitted in the library environment."

Link of the day

'The doctor is in' for 50 years

When and where

11th Annual Financial Econometrics Conference sponsored by Centre for Advanced Studies in Finance, Davis Centre rooms 1301 and 1302. Details.

Travel slide show: Don Duff-McCracken on Algonquin Provincial Park, 12:15, Environment I room 221.

Federation of Students general meeting 1:00, Student Life Centre great hall. Details.

International Year of Astronomy lecture: William E. Harris, McMaster University, “Galileo, Shakespeare and Van Gogh: Creative Reactions to the End of the World” 7:00 p.m., CEIT room 1015.

9/11 Research Group presents “A Dynamic Fire Investigation into the Collapse of the WTC Towers” 7:00 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 116.

Conrad Grebel University College Bechtel Lectures: Ched Meyers and Elaine Enns, second of two lectures, “Restorative Justice and Theology”, 7:30 p.m., Grebel great hall. Details.

UW Choir spring concert “Voices of Light” 8 p.m., St. Louis Church, Allen Street East, tickets $10 (students $8).

Sugar and Spice party sponsored by Graduate Student Association to support K-W Outreach Program for children in need, 8 p.m., Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, 25 Caroline Street North. Details and tickets.

Warrior Weekend activities in the Student Life Centre, Friday and Saturday evenings: movies, food, crafts, dance show, UW Idol. Details.

‘Temptation’ sponsored by Association of Caribbean Students, Federation Hall, doors open 9:30 p.m., $14 at the door.

Biology I and II buildings fire alarm testing (bells will sound) Saturday 6:00 to 9:00 a.m.

Environment and Business Conference (third annual) hosted by Centre for Environment and Business, Saturday 8:00 to 4:00, South Campus Hall and other buildings. Details.

Music department open house and early entrance auditions for future students, Saturday, Conrad Grebel UC. Details.

SARA Gala: Awards ceremony and formal dinner with participating Chinese student organizations from UW and other universities, Saturday 6:30 p.m., Premiere Ballroom and Convention Centre, Richmond Hill. Details.

Classical Dance Conservatory “Terpsichore Showcase” Saturday 8:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

[Earth Hour logo]

Earth Hour energy conservation demonstration Saturday 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., UW participation coordinated by Sustainability Project, activities in the Student Life Centre.

TVO's AgendaCamp with Steve Paikin, Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Davis Centre. Live broadcast Monday 8 p.m. Details.

UW Stage Band spring concert “Early Thaw” Sunday 2:00, Conrad Grebel UC great hall, tickets $8 (students $5).

UW Chamber Choir “Love Songs for Springtime” Sunday 7:00 p.m., Waterloo North Mennonite Church, Benjamin Road, tickets $10 (students $8).

End-of-term recitals by UW music students continue Monday 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel UC chapel.

Joint Health and Safety Committee Monday 1:30, Commissary building room 112D.

Instrumental Chamber Ensembles spring concert Monday 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel UC chapel, admission free.

PhD oral defences

Earth and environmental sciences. Andrea E. Brookfield, “Simulation of Thermal Energy Transport in a Fully-Integrated Surface/Subsurface Framework.” Supervisor, Edward A. Sudicky. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Wednesday, April 8, 2:00 p.m., CEIT building room 1015.

Electrical and computer engineering. Bin Lin, “Strategic Location Planning for Broadband Access Networks Under Cooperative Transmissions.” Supervisor, Pin-Han Ho. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Thursday, April 16, 10:00 a.m., CEIT building room 3151.

Physics and astronomy. Dongping Qi, “On Near-Free-Surface Dynamics of Thin Polymer Films.” Supervisor, James A. Forrest. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Thursday, April 16, 1:00 p.m., Physics room 352.

Management sciences. Sachin Jayaswal, “Product Differentiation and Operations Strategy for Price and Time-Sensitive Markets.” Supervisor, Beth Jewkes. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, April 20, 11:00 a.m., Engineering II room 3324.

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