Thursday, June 3, 2010

  • Sixth Decade progress after three years
  • Neighbourhood issue 'at a critical point'
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Keystone graphic]

The weather's kind of iffy, so today's Keystone Campaign "picnic" event has been moved indoors, to the Student Life Centre. With food, music, games and a speech or two, the event — originally planned for the Grad House green — celebrates the contributions of thousands of staff, faculty and retirees to their segment of Campaign Waterloo. It runs from 11:30 to 1:30, and those two hours have been, officials say, "designated as paid time off for all daytime faculty and staff". A smaller version of the event, for staff who work evening shifts, will be held from 10 to 11 p.m. in South Campus Hall.

Back to top

Sixth Decade progress after three years

President David Johnston gave “an early mid-course review” of the university’s current ten-year plan at Tuesday’s meeting of the board of governors, and declared that progress is “good” on most counts.

“It was well conceived at the outset,” Johnston said about the Sixth Decade Plan, “and continues to serve as a good broad guide.”

The document — “Pursuing Global Excellence:  Seizing Opportunities for Canada” was prepared by the senate long-range planning committee and approved by the senate and board of governors in 2006 as a plan for the years 2007-2017. It calls for “cultivating, nurturing and promoting excellence in all reaches of the enterprise by achieving an even greater degree of academic distinction, becoming more academically and socially relevant, and having its initiatives supported by the necessary resources.”

More than the Third, Fourth and Fifth Decade plans that preceded it, the Sixth Decade plan has been regularly cited as a guide for setting priorities and making decisions. Johnston reminded the board on Tuesday that the plan demands “a willingness to make choices . . . leadership in creativity, innovation and risk taking”, and told the meeting that with many unusual ventures over the past few years, “we have not had a resounding failure!”

Still,  he said, “I do worry that universities generally have a risk-averse culture,” and Waterloo has been “slow to move” in some areas, such as the adoption of learning technology.

Johnston said some of the specifics mentioned in the plan are “stretch goals”, such as the intention to have all undergraduate students involved in a research or “inquiry-based learning” project of some kind, as part of an emphasis on integrating teaching with research.

Other weaknesses, he said, are in student support services (he called last fall’s vote against paying for a Student Services building “a disappointment”) and student “engagement”. Progress is uneven in building research intensity (the amount of research funding per faculty member) and, thanks to financial hard times, “the trajectory is in the wrong direction” on UW’s goal to reduce the student-faculty ratio from the present 27:1 to 20:1.

The plan promises that Waterloo “will continue to strive to improve its resources through vigorous fund-raising efforts, and to improve its financial stability through diversification of its sources of income and the continued building of its endowments.”

That, Johnston said flatly, “is the weakest part of our plan. Can we obtain the resources to achieve our dreams?” Bringing in $100 million a year in gifts, which is what would be required to reach the plan’s target of “20% of the operating budget”, is another “stretch”, the president acknowledged.

In some areas, though, goals are near or have already been reached: “excellent students” are being recruited every September, academic integrity programs are being introduced, grants from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research have been doubled, graduate enrolment is rising (and undergraduate enrolment has already reached the 2017 goal), alumni programs are being expanded, and the budgeting system provides for regular “reallocation” of funds through an annual campus-wide cut and targeted increases.

Johnston said “engagement” with local governments — not just Waterloo and Kitchener but now also Cambridge and Stratford — is good, although “the current dialogue with Waterloo on housing strategy” is “difficult”.

The plan calls for individual academic programs to rank high in their discipline; any new program, for instance, should have “the potential to be one of the best in Canada and at least among the top quarter of similar programs in North America”. In most cases it’s “yet to be determined” how programs will be assessed, he said, adding that it’s not clear how the university will respond if a program is found not to measure up. However, “we have put in place the progress” for reviews, he said: “The ambition is significant.”

Some very positive notes: Waterloo’s “well-rounded graduates” are “our proudest accomplishment”. Campaign Waterloo will surely raise a billion dollars by the end of the decade (it’s more than half way there already). Waterloo enjoys “probably the best built and maintained of all 19 Ontario campuses”. And, Johnston boasted, “we have the best senior administrative team of any university.”

Back to top

Neighbourhood issue 'at a critical point'

University officials are calling for “a new way of thinking” about housing in the area surrounding the Waterloo campus, and particularly the controversial Northdale neighbourhood, which will be the focus of discussion by Waterloo’s city council next week.

"That debate is at a critical point," president David Johnston told the university's board of governors on Tuesday, referring to the city's whole "housing strategy" for neighbourhoods near the main UW campus and the adjacent campus of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Northdale — the area bounded by Columbia, King and Lester Streets and University Avenue, north of WLU — is a neighbourhood made up primarily of houses that were once occupied by families but are now rented to groups of students. The result is dissatisfaction on both sides: frequent noise and garbage complaints from the remaining long-term residents, grumbles of expensive and low-quality housing from student occupants.

Similar issues have come up in Northdale and other neighbourhoods for years. In 2004, the city shifted towards what was described as “nodes and corridors” development for more intensive student housing along Columbia, University and Phillip, and an attempt to stop the conversion of family housing.

Plenty of construction has been seen, most of all on Columbia Street, but difficulties continue, especially in Northdale. In April, staff sent a report to city council about that one neighbourhood, and a presentation about the report is planned at council’s meeting this Monday, June 7.

Chris Read, the university’s housing officer, briefed the UW senate about the issues last month, and has provided this statement summarizing the official university viewpoint:

“The report, from our perspective, presents two directions – one largely maintains the status quo, the second outlining a new vision presented by a group of residents (HUG Waterloo).  This has become an important issue recently – permanent residents continue to voice frustrations about living alongside students – and City officials are working towards finding a solution acceptable to all involved.  It is expected that there will be a lively discussion at City Council over the direction.

“Over the last several months, the university has been involved in discussions with City staff and elected officials on this issue.  We feel strongly, and have for some time, that the current vision for the Northdale area, and private student housing in general, needs re-thinking.

“Almost all recent student housing developed does not meet the needs of UW students.  Developers are limited by zoning and other constraints, and even those willing to construct well-intentioned student buildings cannot create a business case to do so.

“A better student experience could be accomplished if there was greater intensification closer to campuses.  New developments with fewer than five bedrooms per unit, more common and study space, less parking, more green space, and a more cutting-edge technology environment would create a better sense of community.  This would almost certainly lead to more graduates enjoying their time in Waterloo and therefore a stronger interest in working and living in our City beyond graduation.

“We strongly favour a new way of thinking about the Northdale area, and all privately developed student housing, and have communicated this to the City.”


Back to top

Link of the day

Trek began 75 years ago

When and where

International Green Energy Conference final day, Arts Lecture Hall. Details.

Accelerator Centre one-day conference: “Innovation, Emerging Technologies and Global Markets”. 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” 10:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Pharmacy co-op job rankings close 10 a.m., match results available on JobMine after 12 noon.

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

Career workshop: “Work Search Strategies” 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

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

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: "Microsoft Campus Agreement" and "Green IT Committee" Friday 9:00, IST seminar room.

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.

Class enrolment for fall term undergraduate courses, June 7-12; see appointment times in Quest.

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.

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

Canada’s Wonderland bus trip organized by Federation of Students, June 18, bus leaves Davis Centre 8:30 a.m., tickets $54 at Federation office, Student Life Centre.

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

Surplus sale of university furnishings and equipment, June 24, 12:30 to 2:00, East Campus Hall. Details.

Female faculty networking opportunity sponsored by faculty association Status of Women and Equity Committee, June 24, 4:00 to 6:00, Graduate House upstairs lounge, information ext. 33468.

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.

One click away

How about Johnston for Governor General of Canada?
‘Canadian students lag in offshore experiences’
'Legislation to modernize the Copyright Act'GeistReactions
Steroids common in university football (Globe)
London Free Press reports on ‘green’ conference at Waterloo
Step ahead for Northern Ontario School of Architecture
Canadian post-secondary education web conference
‘Escape the Ivory Tower’ blog
Library names new supervisor for lending
Ontario government to name ‘chief scientist’
Service lets researchers back up ‘terabytes’ of data
‘Huge demand’ for distance education in northern Ontario
‘Consult international students about international plans’
Two U of T profs die in Alaska avalanche
43 layoffs as U of Alberta cuts budget
‘Arts and social sciences struggle for a place’

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin