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Wednesday, May 26, 1999

  • Laser clinic opens today
  • And speaking of vision care . . .
  • Barbecue today, strawberries Tuesday
  • Other news on a grey day

Payday vote: no change

Staff members have decisively voted against a change from once-a-month paydays to twice a month, Catharine Scott, associate provost (human resources and student services) said yesterday.

A referendum was conducted by the staff compensation committee, which Scott chairs. She provided these results after the committee met yesterday afternoon:
Number of ballots issued 1,457
Number of ballots returned 998
Number of "spoiled" ballots 31
Number of "yes" votes 227
Number of "no" votes 740
To be approved, she said, "yes" would have needed a majority of all the staff -- that is, 730 out of 1,457.

Laser clinic opens today

TLC The Laser Centre Inc. today opens a laser eye surgery centre in UW's school of optometry.

The new facility will be officially opened at 9:30 a.m. by Omar Hakim, medical director for TLC Waterloo, along with Graham Strong, director of the optometry school, and Jake Sivak, past director of the school, optometry professor and, as of September 1, UW's next dean of graduate studies.

"The University of Waterloo School of Optometry takes great pride in its contemporary and high quality educational programs," says a statement from Strong. "Laser vision correction has emerged as a viable option for many spectacle wearers. It is important for our students to be well informed about this procedure so they can provide sound care and counselling to their future patients."

[TLC logo] TLC is the largest provider of laser vision correction in North America, with 50 refractive laser centers in 25 provinces and states across Canada and the United States, and a network of more than 10,000 affiliated eye doctors. More than 1,750 doctors, including more than 600 eye doctors, have already had their vision corrected through TLC, the firm says.

The firm already had close links with the optometry school, and last year started assessing patients in Waterloo, although the actual surgery was performed at its London clinics until now.

"TLC is committed to providing the highest possible level of care and the best clinical results to its patients," said Elias Vamvakas, president and chief executive officer of TLC Laser Eye Centers. "Working with the University of Waterloo on this collaboration, on what we hope will become a training facility for optometry students, will ensure we continue to achieve this goal in the future."

And speaking of vision care . . .

The pension and benefits committee "has considered the possibility" of a vision care program as part of the benefits for UW staff and faculty, but it's not about to happen, says a memo from the university's provost, Jim Kalbfleisch, who chairs the committee.

The memo was sent last month to the president of the staff association, which asked to have the committee look into vision care as an employee benefit. Says the memo, in part:

The Committee noted first that the School of Optometry offers significant discounts to UW employees. There is a 50% discount on the dispensing fee for spectacles, and lenses and fees are provided at cost. However, UW employees need to identify themselves and ask for the discount.

[Spectacles photo]
Vintage "electro-galvanic spectacles" from UW's Museum of Visual Science and Optometry.
A typical vision care benefit might provide $200 per covered person every 24 months for purchases of prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses. The premium for such a plan is equal to estimated claims plus an administration charge. The estimated monthly premium for such a benefit at UW is $6.25 Single or $15.75 Family, including taxes. Thus, for Single coverage, the estimated premium over two years is $150 versus a benefit of $200 for those who use the benefit and $50 for those who do not use it. In effect, the premiums for people who do not require corrective lenses subsidize the costs for those who do.

The estimated premium assumes eye care coverage would be compulsory for all employees. If people were permitted to opt out, the premium would have to increase for those who remained in order to cover the cost of claims plus administration. It is doubtful that faculty and staff would find a compulsory eye care plan acceptable if they had to pay the premiums.

Couldn't the University pay the premiums? The difficulty here is that the cost of existing benefit programs is increasing much faster than University income. For example, although our government operating grant is increasing by only 1% next year, the premium increase for extended health care could be as high as 27%, and there will also be a significant increase in the dental plan premium. Members of the Pension and Benefits Committee believe that the first priority for benefits dollars should be to protect faculty and staff against catastrophic losses. The Committee concluded that this is not a good time to introduce a vision care plan.

The memo also notes that the committee "has begun discussion of health spending accounts and flexible benefits" as a different way of financing health care, although "neither of these can be implemented immediately."

Barbecue today, strawberries Tuesday

People from across campus will gather at Village I today for a barbecue honouring James Downey, who finishes his term as president of UW on May 31. The barbecue is scheduled to run from 11:30 to 1:30 at the great hall patio in the Village -- or inside the great hall if the weather continues too damp.

Staff may be missing from their usual posts during those hours. The shipping department at central stores, for instance, will be closed, which means that anything meant to leave the campus by courier today must be ready by the 10:30 a.m. mail pickup. And the Pixel Pub in the Student Life Center will be closed at noon hour.

Looking ahead to next week, June 1 will be the first day of David Johnston's presidency, and the UW bookstore has found an occasion to introduce his wife, Sharon Johnston, to the campus. She'll be the guest of honour at an "open house and strawberry social" planned for the noon hour that day.

The event is celebrating the opening of the new Double U's coffee shop and Techworx stationery shop at the bookstore in South Campus Hall. "There will be free gift certificates, book giveaways and lots of other specials," says May Yan, director of retail services.

The events next Wednesday start with a "grand re-opening and ribbon cutting ceremony" for Techworx at 11:00. At 11:30, English professors Walter Martin and Warren Ober will be on hand to sign copies of their new book Trees: A Browser's Anthology. At 11:45, another ribbon will be cut, this one for Double U's ("now serving Starbucks coffee").

From 12 to 1, the store will be serving strawberries and cream, as well as coffee, and Sharon Johnston will meet the crowd. Then at 1:00 along comes -- well -- me, signing copies of Water Under the Bridge: An Unofficial History of the University of Waterloo, since Simon the Troll is too grumpy to show up. And at 1:30 Charlene Diehl-Jones of St. Jerome's University will read from her poetry.

Other news on a grey day

Take a look at them in today's Gazette: UW's cadre of gold medal winners in the Canadian Council for Advancement of Education's 1999 competition. They include the team who put together the new residence brochure -- Barb Trotter, Marybeth Huehn, Melissa Smith, Tina Roberts, and Julie Primeau. The publication picked up the prize in the Best Brochure (university stream) class. The UW Magazine was awarded a gold medal for best writing in English for an article by Patricia Bow, edited by Linda Kenyon. A silver medal went to the UW team that developed the virtual campus tour for Most Creative Use of Emerging Technologies, and a bronze was presented for the viewbook Admissions 99 in the Best Student Recruitment Viewbook category.

The bookstore, Techworx and the UW Shop are holding a spring sale in the South Campus Hall concourse today through Friday, with "books, clothing and more at rock bottom prices".

A lunchtime seminar on "Living Our Losses" will be held today, sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program. Marilyn Hollinger of the E. R. Good Funeral Home will talk about grieving: "We will try to recognize these losses and learn how to help ourselves move from hopelessness to hope. We will also explore the ways to be a comfort to our friends when they are experiencing tumultuous times." The talk starts at 12 noon in Davis Centre room 1304.

The new Co-op Student Advisory Council will meet at 4:30 today in Needles Hall room 1020. "This is your chance to have a sneak preview of the new co-op process before its implementation," says Amber Christie, who's chairing CSAC this term.

Centre Stage Dance offers performances in the Humanities Theatre tonight and again tomorrow night at 7:00.

Nancy-Lou Patterson, retired from the department of fine arts, certainly isn't retired from art; she is serving this year as "folk artist in residence" at Kitchener's Joseph Schneider Haus, where the exhibits include twelve quilts she and her husband donated in 1990. Patterson will speak at the Haus (466 Queen Street South) tonight at 7:30 on "Our Quilting Heritage"; admission is $4.

The Bike Centre will having its semi-regular bike auction on Thursday, starting at noon, in the SLC Atrium. "A variety of mountain and road bikes of all sizes are up for grabs and all are in good working condition, thanks to the efforts of Bike Centre volunteers," says Ted Harms. "Preview of the bikes will begin at 11 a.m. and sales are by cash or cheque. As an added bonus, a real auctioneer will be doing the honours."

The faculty of arts presents the next in its series of Arts Talks Back lectures tomorrow afternoon. The speaker will be Peter Carrington f the sociology department; his topic is "Age and Crime". Question: "Do young people commit more, or more serious, crime than adults? How much crime, and what sorts of crime do children, teenagers, young adults, and middle-aged and elderly men and women commit?" His talk starts at 3:00 tomorrow in Humanities room 373 -- and the sponsors note that "with lectures this good, it would be a crime not to attend."

A workshop on teaching dossiers will be held tomorrow, starting at 5:00, in Biology II room 350. It's intended for graduate students, as part of the Certificate in University Teaching program, and those who would like to take part are asked to preregister today with the teaching resource office, phone ext. 3132.

Reminder: in the words of the registrar's office, "the absolute last day to pay fees for the spring 1999 term is May 31." That would be next Monday.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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