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Friday, February 9, 2001

  • Engineers compete with the best
  • Feds' online voting starts today
  • Food panel co-chaired by Grebel prof
  • Weekend festival shows black films
  • And more, as the rain comes down

Engineers compete with the best

Some 32 students from all the engineering departments will be heading to the University of Guelph this weekend to take part in the annual Ontario Engineering Competition.

Waterloo's team will be among fifteen from various campuses, says Fakhri Karray of the department of systems design engineering, who's coaching the team. "This year," he says, "will witness the largest gathering of competitors ever (400 engineering competitors are expected), and the competition will be very stiff.

"Given the outstanding performance of Waterloo in the past in this competition, and its national counterpart (which will be held in Victoria one week after OEC), our team has become the one to beat." (Last year, UW engineers brought home seven prizes from the Ontario competition, and three of those entries went on to take first place in the Canada-wide contest.)

"Preparation for all the teams has been more extensive than in previous years," says Karray, "and we should expect an excellent competition." UW has entries in all categories of the competition:

Feds' online voting starts today

Electronic voting will start at 6:00 tonight in the annual Federation of Students election, choosing a president and two of the vice-presidents who will lead undergraduate students for the coming year.

The third vice-presidential spot has already been filled, as fourth-year engineering student Ryan Stammers was acclaimed to be the Feds' VP (education).

Seeking to lead the Federation as president are Chris DiLullo (fourth-year environmental studies), Yaacov Iland (fourth-year mathematics), and Albert Nazareth (fourth-year science).

Candidates for vice-president (administration & finance) are André Cousineau (fourth-year arts) and Dawn Phillips (third-year arts). Candidates for vice-president (student issues) are Brenda Beatty (third-year arts), YiFan Chua (fourth-year arts), and Jessica Gross (fourth-year engineering).

Students also face a two-part referendum about a proposed Co-op Society to represent the interests of co-op students. The Yes campaign says the Co-op Soc will be an effective replacement for the present patchwork of committees that link students with employers and the co-op department, and will relieve Federation leaders, who often aren't from co-op, of the need to be closely involved in co-op issues. But members of the No campaign counter that the Federation can easily organize itself to represent co-op interests without the need for a new society and a new fee to pay for it.

All full-time undergraduate students will be asked: "Do you support the creation of a Co-op Society that will represent co-op students to the CECS Department and provide services to Co-op students' which would result in the transfer of representation of Co-op students, on solely Co-op issues, from the Federation of Students as called for in the Co-op Society Proposal?" And co-op students will be asked: "In the event the above referendum passes, do you support the introduction on the fee statement of a refundable fee for all undergraduate co-op students of $2.50?"

Students in arts co-op and math regular programs are being asked to elect representatives to students' council -- those are the only seats that currently need to be filled -- and there are elections to the university senate for undergraduates from applied health sciences, arts, and math, plus an at-large undergrad seat.

Details about candidates' platforms and about this year's electronic voting process are available on the Federation website. Full-time undergraduate students may cast their ballots online between today at 6 p.m. and February 16 at 4 p.m. Using their UW userid and password, students will be able to vote from any computer -- on campus or elsewhere -- instead of only at designated polling stations. Co-op students will also be able to vote electronically, rather than having to mail in their ballots as they have done in past votes.

Food panel co-chaired by Grebel prof -- by Barbara Elve

[Brunk] A scientific panel that reported this week with serious concerns about biotechnology research at Canadian universities was co-chaired by a UW faculty member, philosopher Conrad Brunk (right) of Conrad Grebel College.

The committee of 15 scientists and regulatory experts, which published its report Monday, decried "the increasing domination of university research by the commercial interests of the researchers and their industry partners". Co-chair with Brunk was Brian Ellis of the University of British Columbia.

A summary from the Royal Society of Canada, which had set up the "expert panel", noted that it "was also strongly critical of the inadequate levels of government support for independent research on the safety of food biotechnology in Canada."

Established at the request of Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Environment Canada "to provide advice on the Canadian regulatory system . . . to ensure the safety of new food products being developed through biotechnology," the panel was asked to assess the risks of genetically engineered food to human and animal health, as well as to the environment.

Brunk said in an interview this week that some issues about university-based research have a direct impact because "regulatory bodies cannot do their work because they no longer have an adequate body of science to rely on."

"There's a conflict of interest problem in research," he said. "The government has entered into a collusion with the industry agenda." Currently, "most of the biotechnology research funding comes either directly from industry or from government funding agencies, which increasingly require partnerships with industry."

Not only is there a lack of funding for researchers interested in safety issues, but university researchers are increasingly influenced by the commercial value of their own research, said Brunk. "All the motivations for research are directed away from work that protects human health and the environment."

The panel considered the situation grave enough to recommend that the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Commission do "a review of the problems related to the increasing domination of the public research agenda by private, commercial interests, and make recommendations for public policies that promote and protect fully independent research on the health and environmental risks of agricultural biotechnology."

In all, 53 recommendations were put forward by the panel: more rigorous testing of GM (genetically modified) crops and foods, independent reviews of the testing, and a moratorium on GM fish grown in farms on Canada's coasts.

A longer version of this story will appear in next week's Gazette.
As well, the panel "urged Canadian regulatory agencies to adopt the controversial 'precautionary principle' as a framework for assessing new technologies, including GM foods". Brunk explained: "When it comes to human and environmental safety, there should be clear evidence of the absence of risks; the mere absence of evidence is not enough. The onus is clearly on the government to establish testing and approval mechanisms that meet the highest scientific standards."

[Organizers with festival poster]

Weekend festival shows black films

A hip-hop "rapumentary," a tale of a desecrated cemetery, the politics of hair, and the healing of ancestral wounds are among the themes explored in "Iced in Black: Canadian Black Experiences on Film", which runs this weekend at the Davis Centre.

UW's "first annual black film festival" is the brainchild of honours psychology student and movie buff Nadia Hohn (right, with Daryl Novak of the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group). With help from WPIRG, the National Film Board, the Federation of Students and CKMS -- and with the support of the African Students Association, the Association of Caribbean Students, Hindi Movie Club, Universal Black Students Association and the Breakers Club -- she's put together a lineup of seven Canadian documentary and feature films. Each screening will be accompanied by a discussion and question and answer session with film-makers, academics and other guests.

Hohn helped organize film festivals at Conrad Grebel College when she lived there, and calls the silver screen a window through which she can experience other cultures. As a Black History Month project, she's sharing visions of her own culture. "Black Canadian cinema has not received enough attention. I want to share and celebrate that with people from other backgrounds so they can learn something about it. We have an experience here that's hundreds of years old."

A common theme, she says is "finding your place." Growing up black in Canada means "being seen as different by the mainstream culture." In "Another Planet", an urban black teenager struggles with feelings of alienation and with the difficulty of identifying with her parents' experience. Then she goes on a student exchange and finds herself on a pig farm in Northern Québec.

The movies were selected by a diverse committee of students, some born in Canada, others immigrants. "We try to welcome everybody," she adds, noting that white students were involved in planning the event and are invited to the festival, too. And so are people from off campus. "The point is not just to have it for ourselves. I see myself as an educator."

The festival opens tonight at 7 with "Raisin' Kane", a hip-hop "rapumentary". Director Allison Duke and Wilfrid Laurier communication studies professor David Black will lead the discussion, which will be followed by a performance at the Bombshelter by Citizen Kane, the hip-hop group featured in the film, and other artists.

On Saturday, "Speakers for the Dead" and "Loyalties", two NFB productions, will be screened starting at 3 p.m. "Another Planet" shows at 8 p.m. "Black, Bold and Beautiful" will run on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., with Sunday evening dedicated to the award-winning films of Canadian director Clement Virgo -- "The Planet of Junior Brown" at 7 p.m., and "Rude" at 9 p.m. A closing night reception with refreshments will be held at 8:30. All the screenings are in Davis Centre room 1302.

And more, as the rain comes down

A phone call from the human resources department brings a reminder to managers that staff performance appraisals are due by March 16. . . . The Arts Student Union holds its Winter Gala tonight at Time Square restaurant ("wine and dine the night away"). . . . Engineers will hold the IRS Pub Crawl tonight, in preparation for next Thursday's Iron Ring ceremony and celebration. . . . The drama department production of "totally durang-ed" continues tonight and tomorrow, and next week, in Studio 180 in the Humanities building. . . . The Jolly Llamas play tonight at the Grad House. . . . And more:

"Using Technology to Enhance Student Learning" might describe just about anything done by UW's Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology, so today's seminar there has a subtitle as well: "Implementing Interactive Communication in a First-Year Course". Speakers are Ken McLaughlin of St. Jerome's University and Tracy Penny Light of LT3 -- both historians. They'll give their presentation at 2:00 in the "Flex lab" on the third floor of the Dana Porter Library, and since space there is limited, LT3 would appreciate preregistrations (phone ext. 3851).

Paul Thagard of the philosophy department will speak this afternoon about, of all things, the O. J. Simpson murder trial of 1995. "Why wasn't O. J. convicted? This talk evaluates four competing explanations . . . explanatory coherence, probability theory, wishful thinking, and emotional coherence." The talk, in the philosophy seminar series, starts at 3:30 in Humanities room 373.

"One God, Many Stories" is the title for tonight's event at St. Jerome's University -- the Waterloo Catholic District School Board Joint Lecture -- and a news release tells more about it:

Sister Eva Solomon, CSJ, is a Catholic nun. She is also Megisique (Eagle Woman), an Anishinabe from the Ojibway First Nations of Northern Ontario and a recognized leader in the Anishinabe spiritual tradition. . . . She will deliver a talk . . . exploring her ideas on how different faith testaments -- Jewish, Christian, and Anishinabe -- can be integrated in one faith journey.

Christians believe that their faith is revealed and expressed in a particular "God-story" retold in the Bible. But is the God-story in the Bible the only valid one? Sr. Solomon argues that all peoples have a faith journey that is revealed and expressed in their own God-stories, their testaments of how God has acted in their lives.

A member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie for over 30 years, Sr. Solomon is also a Sacred Pipe carrier and conductor of the Sweat Lodge and other healing ceremonies. She initiated and developed a Pious Association, the Companions of Kateri Tekakwitha, named for the first Native American proposed for canonization. With Villagers Productions, she created a 13-part series on the Kateri Movement that aired nationally on Vision TV as well as in the eastern United States. Sr. Solomon also hosted some 60 episodes of Distant Voices on TVOntario.

Her talk will begin at 7:30 in Siegfried Hall at St. Jerome's. It's part of this year's series from the St. Jerome's Centre for Catholic Experience.

The Beach Party at the Student Life Centre tonight should be something quite out of the ordinary. "Those crazy ladies at Health Services are at it again," as Melanie Stuparyk put it in Imprint. It's an all-ages event, with entertainment, prizes, games, non-alcoholic drinks, and a bit of a message: play safely. "The organizers wanted the event to happen right before Reading Week to ensure people are made aware (or reminded) of vacation-related dangers, such as drugs, alcohol usage, STDs, and the like," says Stuparyk. Beach party costumes are de rigueur; the evening starts with a coffee house at 7:00, partying and special events continue in the great hall, and Citizen Cain will play in the Bombshelter starting at 10.

The Kiwanis Travel and Adventure Series continues in the Humanities Theatre tonight with a talk by Curt Matson about Puerto Rico. Tickets are $6, children $3.50; the event starts at 8 p.m.

Sports this weekend: The big home event will be Sunday afternoon's hockey game at the Columbia Icefield. Play starts at 2:00 between the Warriors and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, a rematch of last night's game, which ended in a 2-2 tie. Other events: the men's and women's basketball teams both play tomorrow at Western; the volleyball teams are at Toronto on Sunday afternoon; the indoor hockey women are at Carleton for a tournament over the weekend. And three Warrior teams are taking part in Ontario championships: swimming is at Guelph, squash at McMaster, and Nordic skiing at Ottawa.


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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