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Tuesday, November 9, 1999

  • Prof charged with attempted murder
  • Studying the future of farming
  • What they're saying about teaching
  • The talk of the campus
  • Happening today and tomorrow

Number one again

[Magazine cover]
Waterloo is the "best overall" university in Canada, Maclean's magazine says for the eighth year in a row. Toronto is second, as it was last year.

UW was ranked first among universities as "most innovative" and "leaders of tomorrow", but lost out to Toronto in "highest quality". Again, those listings match last year's.

The national reputational rankings were known only when the printed copies of the November 15 Maclean's hit the newsstands yesterday. Other rankings, putting UW at the head of the class in its category of "comprehensive universities", were announced Sunday night.

Besides the rankings, the Maclean's issue includes several articles about the state of universities. Education editor Ann Dowsett Johnston writes with concern about the challenge universities face in hiring new faculty over the coming decade; other articles deal with "experiential education", including co-op, and the importance of sports.

Prof charged with attempted murder

Vladimir Platonov, a professor in UW's department of pure mathematics, is to appear in court for a bail hearing this morning. He faces a charge of attempted murder following an attack on his wife during the weekend.

Platonov, formerly a prominent researcher in algebra and algebraic geometry at the University of Minsk in Belarus, came to UW as a faculty member in 1993. He is on a non-teaching term this fall. (His most recent NSERC research grant is for work on "Geometric and arithmetic properties of algebraic groups and representations of discrete groups".)

Studying the future of farming

Farmers are facing vast changes, says UW sociologist Alicia Muszynski, who points to the growth of huge transnational companies, free trade and the spread of new technologies including genetic engineering. She wants to learn more about what these changes will mean to the lives of the people most involved; farmers and their families, those who fish, and workers in fish and food processing plants.

Muszynski started by studying the West Coast salmon fishing industry while she was doing her PhD at the University of British Columbia. Later she became interested in studying the impact of change on farming communities in Saskatchewan. She looked at the impact of changes -- for example, rail line abandonment -- on Saskatchewan farm families, and on whole communities that are dependent on fishing or farming.

Her work is the topic of a long news release by Bob Whitton issued recently by UW's news bureau.

Currently, it says, she is working on a funding proposal that would enable her to take part in an international study into food and the people who grow it, process it and get it to our supermarkets. She is working with research teams at Iowa State University and a rural post-graduate college in Mexico City. Among other things, this research will consider the impact of the North America Free Trade Agreement on farm women and their communities in all three countries.

"We met to discuss the project at Iowa State University in May," she says. "We talked in a preliminary way about such things as the impact of free trade on farm women and their organizations. We plan to look into the effects on farm families of the stresses to which current changes are giving rise, including those that may be attributable to NAFTA."

One of the questions is whether there are increased stress levels within the farm community at the moment, perhaps caused in part by such phenomena as depressed farm prices, and whether this might be accompanied by a rise in family violence. Muszynski is planning to work with the Kitchener-Waterloo Sexual Assault Support Centre, which has outreach programs that include rural communities in Waterloo Region. She is currently president of the board of directors of SASC.

"We plan to establish focus groups that include visits by farm women from Saskatchewan to Waterloo Region and vice versa," she says. "This would also provide opportunities for graduate students both at Regina and UW to go back and forth; that is, participating in the research would be part of their training. We also plan to have the students involved visit with students in Iowa and Mexico. Our plan is to bring together focus groups to discuss current important issues as they are being experienced by farm women.

"We will work with communities that will permit us to compare our findings," Muszynski summarizes. Working with her on this part of the project is Sandra Burt of the political science department.

"We tend to have the notion of farm families as being very free and independent," Muszynski says. "But in fact they have little control over the weather, over the prices they get in the marketplace, over their production costs, over the cost of shipping their product to market -- and as a result they live day to day under conditions of considerable stress. One thing we really need is a better understanding of the questions: Who is making the profit? and What can the farm community do about things?"

What they're saying about teaching

The latest issue of the faculty association's newsletter Forum features an interview with Monica Leoni, a relatively new faculty member in Spanish and Latin American studies, whole special interest is Spanish drama. "Monica," the newsletter reports, "brings her love of the theatre right to the classroom. Last winter she proposed the idea of staging a class theatrical performance. The overwhelming interest from her first-year students led to the production, in March, of the First Annual Spanish Theatrical Interlude. The script was the result of a creative and committed collaboration between professor and students. The performance received rave reviews from the large Spanish-speaking crowd in attendance and several students have already expressed interest in putting on another production next March."

Less enthusiastic, obviously, are the math students who came up with a whose series of games-to-pass-the-time-in-class, as reported in last week's MathNEWS. Among the most ingenious is Lecture Football: "This one is a little more complicated. Essentially, you and your 'Team' of people spread out among the class and compete against other Teams. Whenever any member of the class raises their hand to ask a question a 'pass' is initiated. It is the goal of all teams to intercept the Prof by raising their hands in the proximity of the original question asker. Anyone can start the pass (even people not playing) and any team successfully intercepting gets one point. If the prof actually manages to pick out the correct person, the prof gets a point for completing the pass. Every interception and completed pass should be followed with excessive cheering and shouting. Think about starting up a league."

And if you survive that, O teacher, perhaps you'll be in the mood to have a look at Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook, by Nancy Van Note Chism, which is the "book of the month" for November from UW's teaching resource office. "This concise yet comprehensive book," a review says, "is for those who wish to develop a strong peer review component to add to their system for evaluating and improving teaching." It's available for loan from the TRACE library, room 4051 of the Math and Computer building (phone ext. 3132).

The talk of the campus

. . . will be decidedly low tech for a few hours this evening. An upgrade to the voice mail system will put not just voice mail, but the "automated attendant" (888-4567) and other direct-in-dial numbers out of commission for as long as four hours. The shutdown will start some time after 6 p.m., says Ginny Polai of IST telephone services.

UW's Federation of Students has received a grant "to host an art show that celebrates the diversity of our campus," says Feds vice-president (internal) Chris Harold. "Students are asked to submit proposals outlining the piece they would like to enter into the exhibition," he writes. "The proposal can be a slide, sketch, sculpture, machine, multimedia presentation, poem, or any other form the student wishes to take. A jury will then convene to select 35 pieces." Proposals are due by noon on Friday, November 26, says Harold, who's available at ext. 3780 to provide more information.

WatBowl IV, "UW's own intramural trivia tournament, will be held on the 4th floor of the Math and Computer building this Saturday," writes Justin Petrillo, vice-president of the Quiz Bowl Team. He says "everyone is welcome to register a team of four to six people" for Saturday's event, which starts at 10:00 and will "likely" run until about 5:00. The team fee is $20, "drinks and snacks" included. Anyone interested can reach him at nyerp@hotmail.com. And yes, spectators are welcome at the Saturday tournament.

"FESK helps kids survive final exams!" says an ad in the Parents in Partnership newsletter that went out this fall to hundreds of students' parents. "Show your child that you care," it invites, "by FESKing them!" FESK is the Final Exam Survival Kit that includes such products as raisins, pop tarts, apples, shaving cream (shaving cream?), soup and chocolate bars. Oh, plus "study tips, important phone numbers, and a supportive special message from you". The kits are distributed as a fund-raiser by the Student Ambassador Association; orders go to the SAA at the development and alumni affairs office (888-4626).

Thursday will be Remembrance Day, and word is at hand of two observations to be held on campus. At 10:45 Thursday, there will be a service in the chapel at Renison College; right at 11:00, there will be ceremonies in the foyer of Carl Pollock Hall.

Happening today and tomorrow

Co-op students can pick up their ranking forms for winter term jobs starting at 10:00 this morning in Needles Hall. Forms must be returned by 4 p.m. with students' choices listed. Students who find that they're not ranked, or who had no interviews, will be relieved to know that more jobs will be posted starting tomorrow at noon, as the "continuous phase" of winter placement begins.)

[Ken Church] A talk in the "distinguished lecture series", sponsored by graduate students in computer science and electrical and computer engineering, is scheduled for 2:30 today in Davis Centre room 1302. The speaker is Ken Church (left) of AT&T Labs Research, New Jersey, who will be talking about "Two Empirical Methods for Measuring Adaptation". Says Church's abstract: "If a newswire article mentions 'Noriega' once, it may well mention him again. We present two empirical (non-parametric) methods for measuring the probability of repetition."

A lecture tonight by Joanna Santa Barbara, a psychiatrist and researcher at the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University, will address "Peace Education vs. War Games: How Do We Teach Our Children Peace?" She'll speak at 7:30 in Davis Centre room 1304. The talk, which is free, is part of the "Waging Peace" lecture series being sponsored by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group and the St. Jerome's Centre for Catholic Experience.

The career development seminar series continues tomorrow, with "Successfully Negotiating Job Offers". Sounds right on target for co-op students who are about to hear what jobs they get for the winter term, but in fact the session is "geared toward graduating students", the listing says. It's scheduled for 10:30 tomorrow in Needles Hall room 1020.

There's a meeting tomorrow afternoon to provide more information about study-abroad opportunities for students in UW's faculty of arts. Possible destinations: the University of Ulster in Coleraine, the University of Newcastle and the University of Sussex (England). Departmental and university-wide opportunities also include France, Germany, Austria Israel and Taiwan. Tomorrow's meeting starts at 4:30 in Humanities room 373; more information is available from Jim Walker in the history department (phone ext. 3706) or Susan Andrews in the arts special programs office (ext. 2005).


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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