Wednesday, June 2, 2010

  • Board updated on state of pension fund
  • Keystone party is set for tomorrow
  • Other notes on a summer's morning
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Board updated on state of pension fund

An official valuation of the university’s pension fund might — or might not — be filed with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario this year, the board of governors agreed last night.

The board looked over the “actuarial valuation” of the pension plan, a complex set of asset and liability calculations, and voted to leave it up to the pension and benefits committee to decide later this year whether a valuation should be filed. Under Ontario law, a registered pension plan has to file its figures at least every three years, and the UW plan last filed in 2008.

The committee will consider “external factors such as legislative environment, economic situation and the pension benefit guarantee fund assessment which will result from filing”, said a report from the committee’s chair, associate provost Janet Passmore.

“Given the negative financial position of the Plan,” she wrote, “filing the Valuation in 2010 will result in the university having to make special payments at a time when the university’s operating budget is already under stress. However, it is possible that, if the Valuation is not filed until 2011, legislative and/or economic changes may negatively impact the valuation and trigger even higher special payments.”

Those “special” payments are the result of the way registered pension plans work: employees pay premiums and the employer matches them — sometimes by more than 100 per cent — but, in the end, it’s the employer’s responsibility to put extra money into the fund if it might otherwise start to run short.

In the case of the Waterloo faculty and staff fund, there’s a shortfall of $108 million or $59 million, depending which of two accounting techniques is used. In particular, if the fund is seen as a “going concern” — that is, the university won’t be going out of business and neither will the pension plan — assets are calculated at $877 million and liabilities at $985 million. (The numbers are as of January 1, 2010.)

Of course many of those liabilities are decades in the future. A chart presented to the board meeting last night shows that 1,400 people (as of January 1) are receiving pensions from the fund, while there are 3,499 active faculty and staff paying premiums and building up pension rights for the future.

The premiums paid by those individuals are calculated from their overall salaries, and average 6.85 per cent of pay. The university pays $1.45 into the fund for each $1 that comes from employees — in other words, 9.94 per cent of total pay.

The board was told that, after a dramatic drop during 2008, pension fund investments gained 14.7 per cent in value in 2009. The money is invested in a mixture of Canadian and foreign equities (stocks) and fixed-income securities. There are also real-return bonds, which aren't included in the percentage calculation.

"While there has been much turbulence," Passmore told the board as she introduced the report, "our plan, on a relative basis, is quite stable." She said there's a "greater than 50 per cent" chance the committee will go ahead and file its financial report with the government in 2010.

At yesterday's meeting, the board of governors also approved, as expected, the 2010-11 operating budget, the May 1 staff salary settlement, and a project to expand the Health Services building, with the funds coming from a special student fee.

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Keystone party is set for tomorrow

Early June always means the Keystone Campaign "picnic" event, and this year's is scheduled for tomorrow on the green behind the Graduate House at the centre of campus. No, of course it's not going to rain — in fact as of right now, the forecast is looking nearly perfect.

The noon-hour party celebrates the contributions of thousands of staff, faculty and retirees to their segment of Campaign Waterloo. Or, as an invitation late last week told the campus, it's a time when "the uWaterloo community comes together to celebrate our collective successes by taking some time to relax and have some fun alongside the people we work with."

This year's event, the invitation says, "is a little different, as the volunteer organizers have been working to refresh the event — and the result is 'Keystone, Final Answer', a game show about uWaterloo. Come and enjoy an entertaining show, cheer for your colleagues or register your own team of four to play the game, and maybe win some prizes.

"As always, a complimentary BBQ lunch will be served." The even runs from 11:30 to 1:30 tomorrow on the green behind the Graduate House at the centre of campus.

A further memo announces that the two-hour period of the event has been, by arrangement with the president, "designated as paid time off for all daytime faculty and staff. . . . For those departments providing essential services, and thus obligated to remain open during this two hour period, please try to make arrangements so that as many people as possible may attend. We hope that everyone has the opportunity to celebrate their part in the Keystone Campaign’s success and appreciate your support and assistance."

A smaller version of the games event will be held from 10 to 11 p.m. tomorrow in South Campus Hall, for staff who work evening shifts — mostly plant operations custodians. Organizers promise "a little uWaterloo Trivia" as well as refreshments.

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[Group portrait in the sunshine]

Thirteen exceptional undergraduates from across Canada are at the Institute for Quantum Computing for an intensive two-week workshop. The Undergraduate School on Experimental Quantum Information Processing (USEQIP) exposes third-year students to a wide range of approaches to quantum information processing. Led by IQC faculty members, the students are earning hands-on experience in this emerging and revolutionary branch of science. Among the topics tackled during the workshop: quantum mechanics, quantum cryptography, algorithms, error correction and quantum optics. When not working the labs, the students have been joining street hockey games in the IQC parking lot, and headed to Toronto on the weekend for a Blue Jays game.

Other notes on a summer's morning

Says a memo from university housing officer Chris Read: "As of today, all University of Waterloo residences that are working to fulfill the Fall 2010 first-year residence guarantee are at capacity for September 2010. All first-year students who submitted applications and deposits by our published first-year guarantee deadline of May 28 will be offered residence accommodation by one of the participating institutions (UW Residences, St. Jerome's, Renison, or St. Paul's). Housing applications for Fall 2010 received after May 28 will not be accepted. Students will be referred to our Off-Campus Housing Office. The Off-Campus Housing Office is committed to working with any student in this position to assist in their search for suitable accommodation. Over the course of the summer, you may be in a position to communicate with students who were not accommodated in their community of choice, or who were not accommodated at all because their application was not received by May 28. We ask that all Waterloo staff and faculty be understanding of any concerns and refer them to the UW Residences and Off-Campus Office in the Student Life Centre (Lower Level, ext. 32679). Those students who are being offered residence accommodation will be contacted by their assigned community very shortly."

In celebration of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry, Chem 13 News , published in Waterloo’s science faculty, will be offering a periodic table project for students at any grade level. Teachers are being invited to register their class for an element of choice, from Actinium to Zirconium. Each class will create a unique full-colour element tile along with a 100-word description of the design. After all element tiles are collected, they will be displayed at Waterloo and each participating school will receive a free poster of the finished project.  “We wanted to find a way for the University of Waterloo to become part of the International Year of Chemistry festivities,” says Richard Vollans, recruitment coordinator in science. “With the periodic table being one of the most iconic images in science, we thought this project would be a great way for students to get excited about chemistry.” Interest in the project has already come in from Chem13 News subscribers in Canada, the United States and internationally, he said.

Waterloo Mobile posted its 100th article for this year yesterday, a report on the Youth Smoking Survey that was also featured in yesterday’s Daily Bulletin. Its editor, Pat  Bow here in communications and public affairs, notes that Waterloo Mobile is an e-zine “that brings news, features, and selected events to subscribers on mobile devices. The idea is to deliver Waterloo stories to busy off-campus people — alumni, government and business leaders, friends and partners of the university — who may not have the time to check out news releases and other regular Waterloo publications. A subscription to Waterloo Mobile is free, and it’s easily downloadable from the web.” The university’s mobile publication started life in April 2008 as UW Mobile, a weekly digest delivered to BlackBerrys. It was created and commercialized by a group of students in computer engineering, software engineering, and economics, who formed Polar Mobile in 2007, a year before they graduated. Later renamed Waterloo Mobile, the feed is now available on a long list of BlackBerry devices, as well as Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. News stories are posted as they become available. Features and profiles about Waterloo researchers, students, and alumni also appear, as well as events of interest to alumni, partners, and community members, delivered in an “events” feed. Once the application is downloaded, subscribers can share it with others by scrolling down to the Extras section and clicking on the “Tell a friend about Waterloo Mobile” feature.


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Link of the day

A hundred years ago in Faulkner

When and where

International Green Energy Conference June 1-3, Arts Lecture Hall. Details.

Library workshop: “RefWorks Introduction” 10:00, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Career workshops Wednesday: “Business Etiquette and Professionalism” 10:30, Tatham Centre room 1208; “Career Interest Assessment” 2:30, Tatham 1113. Details.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Designing Exams” 10:30, Needles Hall room 1116 (note corrected time and place). Details.

Jim Reimer, retired professor, Conrad Grebel U College, speaks on building peaceful relations with Iran, 2:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 105.

Innovators in Action speaker series sponsored by Social Innovation Generation: Penny Milton, Canadian Education Association, 7:00, The Museum, 10 King Street West, Kitchener. Details.

In Motion School of the Performing Arts, recital 7:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Accelerator Centre one-day conference: “Innovation, Emerging Technologies and Global Markets” Thursday. Site visits to WatCar and Giga-to-Nano lab; lunch keynote speaker Frank Tompa, school of computer science. Details.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Teaching Dossiers” Thursday 10:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Touring Players children’s show “The Name of the Tree” Thursday 10 a.m., Humanities Theatre.

Early Childhood Education Centre family picnic Thursday 5:30, Waterloo Park.

Annual Child Care Festival organized by four day care centres, guest performer Erick Traplin, Friday 9:45 to 10:30 a.m., Village green.

Club That Really Likes Anime weekend of shows, Friday from 4:30, Saturday from 2:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 116. Details.

Printmaking fair and sale Saturday 10:00 to 4:00, Design at Riverside gallery, Architecture building, Cambridge, admission free. Details.

Retirees Association bus tour, “Castle  Gardens and Wings” (Casa Loma and Canadian Air and Space Museum) June 9, details 519-885-6719.

Ring road closed between PAS building and Needles Hall, because of Environment 3 construction work, June 10 to July 12.

Retirees Association annual general meeting June 10, 3:30, Sunshine Centre, Luther Village, information 519-888-0334.

Alumni networking event at CBC headquarters, Toronto, guest Denise Donlon of CBC radio, June 14, 6:00. Details.

‘Yoga on the Green’ led by Sandra Gibson, health services, sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, June 15, 12:00, outside Graduate House.

100th Convocation June 16-19, Physical Activities Complex: AHS and environment, Wednesday 10 a.m.; science Wednesday 2:30 p.m.; arts Thursday 10:00 and 2:30; mathematics Friday 2:30; engineering Saturday 10:00 and 2:30. Details. Special session Sunday, June 20, 9:45 a.m., Perimeter Institute, for MSc (physics) graduates.

UWRC Book Club discusses The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, Wednesday, June 16, 12:00, Dana Porter Library room 407.

Last day for 50 per cent tuition refund for spring term courses, June 18; “drop, penalty 1” period ends June 25.

Mahler Conference 2010: “A Symphony Must Be Like the World” June 19, 2:00 to 7:00, Conrad Grebel UC. Details.

25-Year Club annual reception June 22, 6:00, Physical Activities Complex, by invitation, information ext. 32078.

Canada Day holiday Thursday, July 1; UW additional holiday Friday, July 2; offices and most services closed, classes not held.

Canada Day celebrations on the north campus, children’s activities, music, arts and crafts fair, fireworks, 2 to 11 p.m. Details.

Canadian Undergraduate Mathematics Conference hosted by Waterloo July 6-10. Details.

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department:

• Administrative coordinator/ financial assistant, Institute for Quantum Computing, USG 5
• Receptionist/ administrative assistant, Institute for Quantum Computing, USG 4
• Bombshelter assistant kitchen manager, Federation of Students, USG 5
• Assistant supervisor, night shift, residence, food services, USG 5
• Assistant chef, University Club, food services, USG 5
• Research coordinator, office of research, USG 8

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin