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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

  • Classes as usual, on a snowy morning
  • Building plans, starting with Stratford
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Blue snow]

University Avenue entrance to the main campus at dawn today. Photo by Mike Soares.

Classes as usual, on a snowy morning

Classes are scheduled and offices are open this morning — making Waterloo one of the few major institutions in southwestern Ontario to be in full operation during the Groundhog Day snowstorm — but the Job Fair that was to be held at RIM Park, bringing more than 150 employers to meet students and alumni, has been cancelled.

The decision to stay open today was made in the early hours by the provost, in accordance with the university’s storm closing guidelines. Wilfrid Laurier University made the opposite call, closing its Waterloo and Brantford campuses for the day in the face of what media were variously calling “Snowzilla” and “the biggest storm in three years”. (The last time Waterloo closed for a day on account of bad weather was February 1, 2008.)

But less snow fell overnight than had been forecast. By 7 a.m. Tom Galloway, director of custodial and grounds services, could report that parking lots and many sidewalks had been cleared, and roads on campus were “in pretty good shape” for travel. Driving was reported to be much worse outside the city, but the snowfall had settled down into flurries by the time the sun rose. Grand River Transit says all buses are running, though “there may be some delays.”

The snow guidelines provide for a complete closing of the university “when normal operation would pose a significant danger to students, staff and faculty, or would prevent large numbers of them from coming to campus”. But they also say: “When UW does not close in inclement weather, faculty, staff and students are reminded that they are responsible for determining when weather conditions make their travel unsafe and should consider public transportation because it may well be the safest option and cleared parking spaces may be in short supply.”

Some individual classes have been cancelled for today, by instructors who couldn’t come to campus or didn’t want to. But registrar Ken Lavigne notes that “there are no official class cancellations” and the make-up protocol for classes, which would see cancelled lectures and labs rescheduled for this Saturday, “does not apply.” (I understand that in one 8:30 engineering class which did meet this morning, the professor brought Timbits.)

Some services may be less than fully operational for a while. The Math Society announced this morning that its coffee-and-doughnut stand “will not be open today for normal business operations. It may open by in the early noon hours today, based on driving conditions, and the fact that students need food.”

But the big cancellation is the Job Fair, jointly sponsored by Waterloo and three other post-secondary institutions, which was to run from 10:00 to 3:00 at RIM Park in east Waterloo and involve representatives of 167 employer organizations.

Peggy Jarvie, executive director of co-op education and career services, says her department will have “a minimum number of people on duty today" to support employers and students interviewing for spring term co-op jobs. “At end of day yesterday,” she says, “we had 45 employers, of the about 100 scheduled, still planning on coming in.”

She says the disruption “will be difficult for students, especially graduating students. We have several large US companies in Waterloo today, interviewing co-op, who were planning on going to the job fair today and then would interview graduating students tomorrow. There will be a ripple effect tomorrow and later in this interview cycle with people trying to reschedule in an already full cycle.”

A more or less normal day of operation is going to be a big disappointment to the 2,648 students who joined the Facebook group “Cross Your Fingers for a UW Snowday” overnight. “I’ve never seen this much desperation!” wrote one student who said she was “praying” for a day off. There was a little unhappiness on Twitter this morning when business-as-usual was announced just before 7:00. One person wrote sarcastically: “Schools closed. #UWaterloo opened. Way to be innovative.” Like it or hate it, there was keen interest; the number of people following @uwdailybulletin on Twitter, to get the news quickly, jumped by about 100 overnight.

[Groundhog]And yes, it’s Groundhog Day, when conditions are supposed to predict the weather for weeks to come. The little fellow pictured here is not in fact Wiarton Willie — I like to think of him as Waterloo Waldo, telling us whether we'll get six more weeks of winter. Draw your own conclusion from what happened if he was rash enough to pop out this morning to look for his shadow.

All day yesterday, people on campus were talking about how big the storm would be, when it would get to southern Ontario (after devastating the American midwest yesterday), and whether it would mean a day off. The early snow was light, and the suspense continued through evening lecture hours. One Twitterer reported what happened next: “9:50 exit class, 10:09 snow started, 10:13 slippery roads, 10:18 roads totally covered already, 10:19 home.” Snow continued until about 7 a.m., but it was blowing rather than falling. The university’s weather station recorded 8.4 millimetres of “precipitation” — the equivalent of 8 cm of snow — from 8 a.m. Tuesday to the same hour today.

That kind of information is of special interest to one group who presumably are just loving the storm: the cryosphere research group in the department of geography and environmental management, who study snowfall and ice. Environment Canada researcher Raymond Cabrera, who’s working with the group, heads the “Snowtweets” project to collect detailed local snow data using Twitter. He told the Windsor Star yesterday that he expects “a lot of data to analyze just because we’re getting so many snowstorms this year”.

One other note: fire trucks were called to the PAS building on the main campus before dawn this morning; it was a false alarm.

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[Building of brick and glass]
Building plans, starting with Stratford

The president and the dean of arts will have some news for the people of Stratford at an “update event” this afternoon, following a board of governors decision yesterday to move ahead with a $13.5 million building for the campus on Stratford’s St. Patrick Street.

The contract to erect the building (architects’ drawing, above) goes to Bondfield Construction Company, which was chosen by the President’s Advisory Committee on Design based on presentations from five design-build firms last month. The contractors will work with ZAS Architects to design the structure.

Total budget for the project is actually $20 million, the board was told, which includes $11,595,000 plus tax for design and construction; funds for furnishings, wiring and contingencies; and a $6.5 million “maintenance and utilities endowment” to keep the building operating.

“This project is fully funded,” said a report from the board’s building and properties committee, “with $10 million already received from the Province of Ontario and $10 million to be received from the City of Stratford on a reimbursement of construction cost basis; Conestoga Rovers & Associates, Waterloo's independent engineering consultants, have confirmed that the 1.38 acre parcel of land where this building will be erected has been fully remediated to Waterloo's required residential standard.”

Today’s public event in Stratford (it starts at 5:00 in the Rotary Complex) is designed to let local supporters of the university project hear from Waterloo’s leadership, both about the building and about people and academic programs.

Dean of arts Ken Coates will be the main speaker, bringing news about the building, which will replace Waterloo’s temporary “campus” in an office building on downtown Wellington Street. He’ll also introduce recently hired faculty members and administrators for the Stratford campus, including Paul Doherty, who comes on board in the key role of “director of international entrepreneurship”.

University president Feridun Hamdullahpur will speak more briefly, bringing greetings as well as praise for the local champions of the university project, including Stratford mayor Dan Mathieson. He’s expected to mention Stratford’s recently acquired status as one of the world’s “top seven intelligent communities”.

Yesterday’s board of governors meeting also approved a $6 million project for “the fit-out of the animal care facilities in the lower level of the Psychology, Anthropology and Sociology building”, the next stage in improving that building following construction of its new wing four years ago. The space “will be designed to meet the current requirements set out by the Canadian Council on Animal Care”, the board was told.

And it approved a $45 million budget — but no designs or plans yet — for “Phase 1 of the science expansion building” in the angle between Biology 1 and Biology 2. “Although the Faculty of Science has experienced significant enrolment growth in recent years,” a committee report explained, “building expansion has been limited to supporting the optometry, pharmacy and earth & environmental sciences departments.

“Ultimately, this two phase expansion plan contemplates two separate construction projects: the first to the south façade of Biology 2, and the future second phase to south façade of Biology 1. The first phase will be at the western edge of the site contemplated in the master plan. It will be approximately 120,000 gross square feet in size and include a significant main entrance way into the Faculty of Science from the ring road.

“It will include six to eight large undergraduate student labs for biology, chemistry and physics (approximately 40% of the space), several classrooms (25% of space), student support areas such as lounges and offices (20% of space), research space (10% of space), and miscellaneous space such as storage (5%). Completion would be scheduled for 2013-14.”


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Link of the day


When and where

Employer interviews for spring term co-op jobs (“main” group of students) through February 16. Ranking opens February 16 at 1 p.m., closes February 18 2 p.m., results available 4 p.m. Details.

Imaginus Poster Sale Wednesday-Thursday 9 to 8, Friday 9 to 5, Student Life Centre.

Librarians’ Association presents Linda Hecht, author of Women in Early Austrian Anabaptism, 11:30, Dana Porter Library room 428.

Pharmacy students co-op job ranking closes today 1 p.m., results available 4 p.m.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Grading Groups and Teams” 1:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Computer science information session on upper-year courses 3:30, Math and Computer room 1085.

Chinese New Year dinner at Mudie’s cafeteria, Village I, 4:30 to 7:00.

Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology information session 5:00, 295 Hagey Boulevard. Details.

Development Social Night hosted by Engineers Without Borders: networking, collaboration, refreshments, 5:00 to 10:00, Graduate House. Details.

Canadian Association of Planning Students annual national conference will be held at Waterloo February 3-5. Details.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Teaching-Based Research” Thursday, 1:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

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

FASS of the Titans annual musical comedy, Thursday-Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2:00 and 7:30, Humanities Theatre, tickets at Humanities box office 519-888-4908.

Rockstar karaoke at the Bombshelter pub, Student Life Centre, Thursday from 8 p.m.

Distinguished Teacher Award nominations due Friday. Details.

‘Fourth Natures: Mediated Landscapes’ conference at Architecture building, Cambridge, Friday-Saturday, public welcome. Details.

Class enrolment appointments on Quest to choose spring term courses, February 7-12. Open enrolment begins February 14. Details.

Frank Esch and Andy Newman, plant operations, retirement reception Monday 3:00 to 5:00, Davis Centre lounge, RSVP ext. 36822.

Federation of Students annual election, polls open February 8 (9 a.m.) through February 10 (9 p.m.). Details.

‘Dissocia: A Digital Gambling Venture’ original production by department of drama, February 9-13 at 8 p.m., February 12-13 at 2 p.m., Hagey Hall Studio 180.

Pascal Lectures on Christianity and the University: Mary Poplin, Claremont Graduate University, “How the Religious Worldview Became a Secret” February 10, 7:30, Humanities Theatre; “Diminishing the Marketplace of Ideas” February 11, 7:30, Humanities; student conversation, “Is Anything Sacred?” February 11, 2:30, Hagey Hall room 1104. Details.

Organizational and Human Development speaker event: Dan Heath, “Switch, How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” February 11, 8:30 a.m., Humanities Theatre. Details.

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