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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

  • Local candidates debate today in SLC
  • Health and dental premiums unchanged
  • Senate elections and other midweek notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Local candidates debate today in SLC

Candidates for the Kitchener-Waterloo seat in Parliament will come to the Student Life Centre this morning to make a pitch for student (and other) votes in the May 2 federal election.

The Federation of Students is sponsoring today’s all-candidates meeting, which starts at 10:30 a.m. in the multipurpose room of the SLC. It will be streamed live online. Questions for the debate can be e-mailed to vped@ or submitted through Twitter or Facebook.

Kirsty Budd of the Federation says all the local candidates have been invited. That would include Steven Bradley Scott (Pirate), Peter Braid (Conservative), Bill Brown (NDP), Julian Ichim (Marxist-Leninist), Cathy MacLellan (Green), Andrew Telegdi (Liberal), and Richard Walsh-Bowers (Independent). The Kitchener-Waterloo riding includes the city of Waterloo and a slice of north Kitchener; other ridings in Waterloo Region are Kitchener Centre, Kitchener-Conestoga and Cambridge.

“We understand that the timing of this election is problematic for students,” says Nick Soave, vice-president (education) of the Federation. “Many of them will also be moving home or away for a co-op term. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to be informed.”

The Federation has taken to all available channels to get information to students, he says, but social media has played an especially critical role. “Feds has launched a broad social media, web-based campaign to encourage students to vote. We’ve utilized all of our digital networks to try and reach students even though they may not be on campus. The message we’ve heard from our students is that they want to vote and be informed. Hosting this debate is another way we’re supporting their participation in the elections process.”

The Federation has also created flyers that will be given out to new students when they move into residence this weekend, telling them exactly where and how they can vote in Waterloo, depending on which residence they’re in. In general, says Soave, the Federation is advising students to vote “wherever they think it’s best for them to vote”, whether that’s in Waterloo or in some other community such as their parents’ home. “We don’t care where it is, we just want them to have all the information they need!”

Votes are “critical” in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, the Feds say. In the last federal election, held in October 2008, Braid of the Conservatives unseated Telegdi, who had been the Liberal MP for 15 years, by a margin of 17 votes, making K-W’s result the closest in all of Canada.

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Health and dental premiums unchanged

The costs to the university and its employees for health and dental insurance will not be going up this year, and the rate for life insurance will actually go down, the human resources department says in a memo to staff and faculty members. Premiums for long-term disability insurance will rise slightly.

It’s the third good-news message in a row about Waterloo’s health and dental programs. The premiums also didn’t go up this time last year, and the “maxima” that individuals have to pay towards their health costs, which are established on a calendar year basis, didn’t rise for 2011.

Here’s the text of the memo from HR:

“UW’s Health, Dental, Life Insurance and Long Term Disability (LTD) contracts are renewed May 1 of each year. Our claim experience over the past year has resulted in unchanged premium rates for our health and dental plans. Our life insurance and LTD premium rates are changing.

“Health premiums remain unchanged, resulting in monthly single/family rates of $57.28/$182.80. These premiums are paid entirely by the University for full-time employees with part-time employees paying a pro-rated amount. The Health plan is a non-taxable benefit.

“Dental premiums remain unchanged, resulting in monthly single/family rates of $30.76/$92.56. These premiums are paid entirely by the University for full time employees with part-time employees paying a pro-rated amount. The Dental plan is also a non-taxable benefit.

“Group life premiums will reduce by 10%, resulting in monthly basic group life premiums of $0.28 per month per thousand dollars of group insurance held effective May 1, 2011. The University pays 100% of the group premium on 1X salary in life insurance. If an employee has 2X or 3X salary in group life insurance, UW pays two thirds of the amount with the employee paying the balance. Any premium paid by UW is a taxable benefit to the employee.

“Premiums for optional employee insurance held beyond 3X salary and spousal life insurance are based on gender, age and smoking rates and are paid entirely by the employee. Rates for optional insurance remain unchanged.

“Long-term disability premiums charged by Great-West Life (contract rate) will increase by 18% to 1.35% of base pay effective May 1, 2011. The employee paid rate will also increase by 18% May 1, 2011, resulting in a new employee paid rate of 1.25% of base salary to a maximum insured salary of $156,680. The difference between the employee paid rate and contract rate is funded from a surplus reserve within the LTD plan. This surplus is expected to be depleted in the next couple years, resulting in employees paying the full LTD premium. Employees pay the entire premium for the LTD benefit in order to provide a tax free LTD benefit.

“Should you have questions about our premium rates, please contact your Payroll Benefits Assistant in Human Resources.”

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[Four with their certificates]

This year's four winners of the Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching were honoured at a University Club luncheon April 18. Left to right, they are John Champaign (computer science), Adam Neale (electrical and computer engineering), Justin Eichel (systems design engineering), and Mehrdad Pirnia (E&CE).

Senate elections and other midweek notes

A call for nominations to fill faculty and graduate student seats on Senate closed Wednesday, April 6, and the university secretariat has now announced that the following faculty members were elected by acclamation. Faculty representatives to 2014: Jean Andrey (geography and environmental management, for environment), Paul Eagles (recreation and leisure studies, for applied health sciences), Geoffrey Hayes (history, for arts), Michele Mosca (combinatorics and optimization, for mathematics), Beth Weckman (mechanical and mechatronics engineering, for engineering). Faculty-at-large representative to 2012: Robert Shipley (planning). Federated university and affiliated colleges faculty representatives: Jim Frank (St. Jerome’s, to 2014), James Pankratz (Conrad Grebel, to 2013), Tracy Peressini (Renison, to 2014).

But as the result of the same nomination process, several elections will begin tomorrow. Says the secretariat: "Voting is to begin Thursday, April 28, for the following seats on Senate: one science faculty representative, seven faculty-at-large representatives and two graduate student representatives. Brief campaign statements are available online for the candidates who are contesting the positions. Science faculty representative: Thomas Freddo (optometry), Tadeusz Gorecki (chemistry). Faculty-at-large representatives: William Bobier (optometry), Dan Brown (computer science), Lutz-Alexander Busch (economics), David DeVidi (philosophy), Michael Drescher (planning), Jonathan Li (geography and environmental management), Sanjay Nepal (geography and environmental management), Barry Warner (earth sciences). Graduate student representatives: Robert Henderson (physics and astronomy), Jim Jordan (philosophy), Krista Mathias (health studies and gerontology), Hassan Nasir (civil and environmental engineering). The elections run through May 5, 2011."

More than 60 high school students will have the opportunity to see top innovative projects completed by senior engineering students at the inaugural Designing the Future event today in Engineering 5. The students will meet upper-year engineering students who will showcase the projects they have been working on over the past year. Nine projects were selected from more than 150 presented at five engineering design symposiums held last month. Among them: a wheelchair that can be controlled by the user’s brainwave activity, an innovative autopilot system for a helicopter, and a high-speed hockey shooting robot. The high schoolers will learn about the process of engineering design and participate in a series of case studies with engineering faculty. "Designing the Future provides an exceptional opportunity to view first-hand the work of our outstanding engineering students," said Mary Wells, associate dean for the faculty of engineering's outreach program. "This event will also help bring awareness to the exciting opportunities a career in engineering offers." Alumni, friends of the faculty and industry partners have been invited to an event tonight to see the student design projects and meet their creators. John Baker, president and chief executive officer of Desire2Learn and a systems design engineering graduate, will be the keynote speaker.

Work started this week, and will stretch into May, on replacing defective window units in various locations in the Davis Centre, the plant operations department reports. • Alternatives Journal, published in the faculty of environment, is marking its 40th anniversary with the distribution of a searchable DVD containing some 7,000 pages from past issues (price, $49.99). • Last month's panel presentation about Japan's earthquake and tsunami, sponsored by three of Waterloo's faculties, can now be viewed on YouTube.

And . . . with the university's fiscal year ending on April 30, there's been a last-minute invitation to make donations to Waterloo that will count as part of the 2010-11 year's income. Both alumni and the Keystone Campaign constituency of faculty, staff and retirees have received such appeals. "Thanks to your past generosity," says one of them, "students like us are engaged in great learning and research opportunities, are discovering more efficient ways of doing things, and are developing tools to better society." More than 14,000 donors have already supported the university in the year that's coming to an end — and the cycle starts all over again on May 1.


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Link of the day

Formerly 'Secretaries Day'

When and where

Opportunities and New Directions teaching and learning conference sponsored by Teaching Based Research Group, keynote addresses and workshop sessions, Wednesday-Thursday, Hagey Hall. Details.

Engineering alumni affairs reception, “Designing the Future”, guest speaker John Baker of Desire2Learn, 5:30, Engineering 5, tickets $10. Details.

‘Commute to uWaterloo by Bicycle’ sponsored by UW Recreation Committee , today 12:00, multipurpose room, Student Life Centre. Follow-up Thursday 12:00: “What Do I Need?”

Stratford Campus presents Neil Randall, department of English, “Harry Potter: Heroic Fantasy, Murder Mystery, or Videogame?” 7:00, 6 Wellington Street, Stratford.

Spring term fees due April 28 (bank transfer).

Carl Pollock Hall (north block) hot and cold water shut off Thursday 8 a.m. to noon.

Health services closed Thursday until 1 p.m. for staff training.

Germanic and Slavic studies day and evening of 50th anniversary celebrations, Thursday, alumni invited. Details.

Franco-fête for high school French students, Thursday from 9 a.m., Humanities Theatre.

Provost’s Forum with speaker Julia Christensen-Hughes, “The Changing Context of Teaching and Learning and the Implication for University Leadership” Thursday 12:00, Laurel Room, by invitation.

Staff association round-table discussion; topic this month, “hiring practices”, Thursday 12:00, Math and Computer room 5136.

Surplus sale of furniture and equipment, Thursday 12:30 to 2:00, East Campus Hall.

Chemical engineering seminar: Enrique Iglesia, University of  California at Berkeley, “Consequences of Acid Strength in Chemical Reactions Catalyzed by Solid Acids” Thursday 3:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel U College , breakfast seminar: “Strategic Planning in a Family Business” Friday 7 a.m., Bingemans Conference Centre.

Retail services locations, including bookstore and Media.doc copy centres, closed for inventory, Friday, April 29.

Annual used book sale sponsored by Canadian Federation of University Women, Friday (9:00 to 9:00) and Saturday (9:00 to 1:00), First United Church, Waterloo. Details.

Math/Business Double Degree Gala celebrating 10th anniversary, Saturday 6:00, Pavilion Royale, Mississauga. Details.

Spring term classes begin Monday, May 2.

Canada 3.0, “Canada’s premier digital media forum” May 2-4, Stratford campus. Details.

Retirees Association bus trip to Niagara River wineries, May 3, tickets $98, information 519-744-3246.

International student orientation (graduate, undergraduate, exchange; spouses welcome) May 4, 12:00 to 4:00, Arts Lecture Hall room 105, lunch provided. Details.

Class enrolment appointments for fall term undergraduate courses posted in Quest, May 10; appointments for continuing students, June 6-11; for first-time students, July 11-24; open class enrolment, July 25.

Ontario Association of International Educators and Ontario region of Canadian Bureau for International Education, meeting at Waterloo May 10-12, hosted by international student office. Details.

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department, viewable through myHRinfo:

• Assistant to the president, office of the president, USG 9
• Undergraduate marketing and recruitment coordinator, office of the dean of engineering, USG 9 (12-month secondment or contract)

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