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Tuesday, October 24, 2000

  • Huge physics institute comes to town
  • 'Close to a balanced budget'
  • Food and drink, meetings and fun

[PI logo]

Huge physics institute comes to town

A gift of $100 million from Research In Motion president Mike Lazaridis will establish a research institute for theoretical physics, a news conference was told yesterday as mayors, Members of Parliament and university presidents looked on with big smiles.

The Perimeter Institute, which will make its home in downtown Waterloo, "will serve as a state-of-the-art Canadian physics institute dedicated to bold, provocative research of the fundamental aspects of the physical world," said Lazaridis. "Perimeter Institute aspires to build on the impressive mathematical science tradition of the Waterloo region."

RIM executives Doug Fregin and Jim Balsillie are each contributing another $10 million, bringing the total to $120 million.

Lazaridis noted that governments at all levels have often discussed developing new partnerships to fund basic research in Canada. "I am excited at the prospect of responding to this challenge through the creation of an institute that will significantly aid Canada in its quest to be at the forefront of the international scientific community."

[Lazaridis in red] The announcement came less than two days after Lazaridis spoke at UW's fall convocation (left), telling graduates that they have a "moral responsibility" to support UW. "The most effective investment you can make is to strive to make opportunities for the next generation . . . to make a better world than our own," said Lazaridis, who received his own UW degree in electrical engineering fifteen years ago.

"That big company in Seattle that comes and hires graduates year after year but has never given anything back to this university is a case in point," he said at convocation. "When you benefit, you have a moral responsibility to give back."

RIM is the glamour industry in Waterloo Region these days, and this week announced plans for a new stock offering with an estimated value of $1 billion.

At yesterday's news conference, the sponsors introduced Howard Burton as executive director for the Perimeter Institute. Burton is a 1998 PhD graduate in physics from UW. He told listeners: "Perimeter Institute has a mandate to be an international focal point of scientific development, attracting the highest caliber of dynamic and creative scientists the world over to conduct pure research in various overlapping sub-disciplines of foundational physics."

The institute "will combine recognized, seasoned scientists from the international scientific community with progressive and dynamic intermediate and junior researchers. Initially, there will be 10 to 15 resident researchers at the Institute when it opens its doors in the fall of 2001. Within five years, it is expected that a total of some 40 scientists and researchers will be on site at the Institute."

In addition, Perimeter Institute "will act as an integral member of the Kitchener-Waterloo community. The Institute will run a series of education campaigns about theoretical physics including public lectures, seminars, and periodic open house events at the Institute."

Said Lazaridis: "The pursuit of theoretical physics gave rise to virtually all the technological advances of present-day society. From lasers to computers, cell phones to MRI's, the road to today's technological developments was based on yesterday's ground-breaking theoretical physicists."

'Close to a balanced budget'

UW's spending for this year is estimated at $701,000 more than the income -- but the provost says that deficit "may still be offset by grant income" when the provincial government comes through with the details and the cash.

"Provincial operating support for universities is becoming more and more complicated, fragmented and unpredictable," says provost Jim Kalbfleisch, in a report that's on its way to the board of governors next week. "Even mid-way through the fiscal year there are large uncertainties with respect to operating grants." He's presenting a spending update to the board, and showing how the likely deficit has actually risen from the $89,000 estimate at the time the budget was approved in June. Says his report:

The Performance Fund is a 1% funding envelope allocated on the basis of university rankings on three key performance indicators. UW ranks in the top third on the two employment indicators and in the middle third on graduation rates. We expect to receive about $2,000,000 in 2000-01 which is nearly twice our pro-rata share. We do not know how this Fund will be allocated or what share UW might receive in 2001-02.

The Accessibility Fund is another 1% envelope to partially fund enrolment growth in the university system. The rules announced for this Fund would have required UW to admit more first-year students in 2000 than in 1999. We were unwilling to do this because of the large over-run in our 1999 admissions. The Ministry was asked to reconsider the rules, but to date there has been no indication as to how this Fund will be allocated.

The Ontario Spring budget announced another special fund, the Ontario Research Performance Fund, to top up overhead payments on provincial research grants and contracts to at least 30%. We think the UW share of this Fund could be about $1,000,000, but we do not yet know either the amount or the restrictions and accountability requirements that may be placed on the use of these funds.

And so it goes: "Undergraduate enrolment is higher than projected, and graduate enrolment appears to be on target. The data for Fall 2000 are still preliminary, and we have no hard information for Winter 2001. It appears that our enrolment will be about 10% above the corridor midpoint in the current year. We do not receive operating grant funding for these additional students, but they pay about $7,000,000 in tuition fees."

In general, says Kalbfleisch, "Although there are still a number of uncertainties, it appears that we will be able to achieve close to a balanced budget this year without budget cuts or clawbacks. There are three main reasons for this.

  1. Tuition fees have increased significantly over the past few years.
  2. Our enrolments have increased by about 10% since 1998-99, resulting in about $7,000,000 per year in extra tuition fee income.
  3. Pension contributions have been reduced by 75%, resulting in temporary operating budget savings of about $6,500 per year.
These three factors have enabled us to remain afloat despite the inadequacies and uncertainties of government operating grants."

He writes:

I am concerned about the University's future financial health. Tuition fee increases for most programs have now been limited to 2% (minus 0.6% for student aid) for the next four years. Enrolments cannot continue to increase without adequate funding to increase faculty and staff positions. And pension contributions will have to return to normal at some point, depending on market returns. Meanwhile, competition is increasing, and costs are going up faster than tuition fees and operating grants.

The University has made a strong recovery from the deep cuts of 1993 and 1996, but the recovery is not sustainable without a major reinvestment by the Ontario government. Increases in capital and research funding have been welcome, but we badly need a substantial increase in our operating income.

Managing the operating budget over the past seven years has been an interesting challenge, but your next provost may need to be an alchemist.

Food and drink, meetings and fun

"In just one hour, you could save as many as four lives," says a note from Canadian Blood Services, the folks who collect, process and deliver blood in Canada nowadays. They're running a blood donor clinic in the Student Life Centre, continuing through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- and they want you.

The joint health and safety committee meets this morning, starting at 9:00, in Needles Hall room 3001. Among the agenda items: slips and falls, worker's compensation claims and fire alarms, and first aid training.

Winter term job interviews continue for co-op students, and today postings start for two groups of students whose placement is handled separately from the masses: those in architecture and in the teaching option. Posting #1 for both programs will be up by 12 noon today, the co-op department says.

Ceremonies (at 11:00) and free drink samples (from 11:00 to 2:00) mark the official opening of Browsers, the coffee shop in the Dana Porter Library. It's actually been in operation since late summer (left); [Serving juice] now all the furbelows are finished and the bottles of Clearly Canadian are in stock (Browsers is the only place on campus CC will be sold). "Please join us to celebrate," says a mini-poster from food services. "Hors d'oeuvres and pastries will be served."

Today brings a book sale in the Environmental Studies I courtyard, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., organized by Geography Publications, Alternatives, and the Heritage Resources Centre, three agencies in ES that publish, well, books.

The senate undergraduate council will meet at 1:30 p.m. today in Needles Hall room 3001.

Tonight at Wilfrid Laurier University, critic Mark Kingwell will talk about citizenship, culture, and his new book, The World We Want: Virtue, Vice and the good Citizen. The talk is set for 7:30 p.m. in WLU's Paul Martin Centre.

"The Internet is a major disruptive technology," say the organizers of a "Knowledge Interaction Day" sponsored this Thursday by UW's new Nortel Networks Institute. For the occasion, Nortel Networks is sending a number of experts to campus to give seminars. More details tomorrow about this event.

Moving day has been fixed for the distance education office, which will soon be making its home at 335 Gage Avenue in Kitchener, near the corner of Westmount Road and Glasgow Street. The office will be pretty much out of commission this Friday, and back in operation Monday, October 30 -- same phone numbers and e-mail addresses as before. It so happens that the deadline to register for winter term distance education courses is just about here, and on-campus students who want to take such courses should register by October 30, says Maureen Jones, manager of continuing education. "For your convenience," she writes, "Distance Education staff will be in Needles Hall on Friday and Monday to answer any questions you may have and take in your registration form."

The UW Bike Centre is holding its annual "Hallowe'en Food Ride" on the cycling trails around the banks of Columbia Lake this Sunday. Not Saturday, as earlier publicity said, but Sunday, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. The ride is held in support of the Federation of Students Food Bank and is open to all students, staff and faculty members. "The emphasis is on fun," organizers say, "and all cycling ability levels are welcome. Ride fee is $15, and includes a stylish event T-shirt (if pre-registering) and post-ride feast. Once riders complete four laps of the ride course, their names are entered into a draw for fun prizes. For every 1 kg donation of non-perishable food to the food bank, riders will receive an extra chance at winning a prize. This event will be run rain, shine, or snow, and riders must provide their own helmets and bicycles. Pre-registration forms are available at the Turnkey desk, and at the UW Bike Centre."

"Festival 2000 is coming," says a flyer from the Student Life Centre. That would be the annual "craft sale", now expanded to include "crafts, music, entertainment, raffle draws and silent auction", with proceeds going to support the SLC Management Board Bursary Fund. Dates of the event: November 1 and 2 (next Wednesday and Thursday), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Here's a reminder of the (first annual) Graduate Student Research Conference, to be held next April 4, 5 and 6 under the title "Sharing Discovery". A web site for the conference is now ready, which shows that the program is being organized according to the five "research priorities" that UW recently established in another context. "The conference," the web site tells grad students, "will provide you with an opportunity to keep abreast of some of the research in which your colleagues in other departments are involved; discuss your research with other graduate students, faculty, and members of the general community, and increase awareness of your research; acquire valuable experience in presenting professional-level talks and poster presentations at an academic conference; meet potential employers."

And . . . today's the day for a United Way lunch. The arts faculty holds its chili lunch on the third floor of the Humanities building; on the second floor of Needles Hall, the fare is hot dogs, served by the office of research. Other special events have also been held in recent days: "We raised $138.37 from Friday's bake sale," says Julie Cassaubon in applied health sciences. Money is still trickling in to the United Way campaign on campus, and still needed. If you've lost your pledge form, I'm sure the campaign office, at ext. 3840, would be glad to hear from you and provide a new one.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
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