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Tuesday, January 22, 2002

  • Students oppose financial aid promise
  • Towards 'information literacy' skills
  • Sustainable development, and more
  • The talk of the campus
Chris Redmond

The man who gave the ampere its name (birth date uncertain)

Students oppose financial aid promise

Student representatives last night pleaded with other members of the UW senate not to vote for a "statement of purpose" about financial aid -- a statement they were afraid would soon be used to justify big increases in tuition fees.

"This is very bad for the undergraduates," Iland told other senators. "Please do not vote in favour of it." The senate listened for more than half an hour to him, math student Stephen Skrzydlo and other speakers, but finally voted to recommend that the board of governors approve the document. It says that UW "intends to ensure that all qualified students admitted to full-time undergraduate programs have adequate financial assistance to complete their studies".

As far as I could see, all the student senators, both undergraduate and graduate, voted against the motion, along with a few faculty representatives. The vote was announced as 25 in favour, 16 opposed, with 10 abstaining.

Yaacov Iland, president of the Federation of Students, led the attack on the document, which was presented to senate by UW provost Amit Chakma. He said he had been first thrilled by the idea of a written guarantee of student financial aid, but the joy changed to disappointment when he read the details. "I don't believe the university can afford this," he said. "We don't want this to be followed for a year and then become the impetus for deregulation."

The senate was discussing a version of the document slightly changed from the one quoted in yesterday's Daily Bulletin. Chakma said the university's lawyer had warned against making a written "commitment" to provide financial aid for students, since circumstances could change. So the new draft says UW "intends" to provide aid, and includes a note that the statement "will be reviewed from time to time by the Board of Governors subject to changes in government policy (e.g., OSAP rules and funding) and the University's financial situation".

A "review" of that kind is likely to happen sooner rather than later, Iland told the senate, as he maintained that UW is now using up its financial aid funds faster than they come in. "I don't want to see us follow Queen's into asking the provincial government to deregulate all our fees," he said.

He pressed UW president David Johnston to say whether Waterloo is moving in that direction. Johnston replied that he is himself in favour of fee deregulation, but UW wouldn't make such a request from the government without having its own governing bodies take a clear position first.

Students repeated that UW is spending its student aid budget -- currently about $8 million a year from the tuition fee "set-aside" -- faster than the money comes in. That's only because of an "aggressive" effort to use up a surplus in the fund this year, said Gary Waller, associate provost (academic and student affairs). Chakma said the same thing.

And Joanne Wade, director of student financial aid, described some of what's been done this year, including efforts to find students whose calculated "need" was greater than what the Ontario Student Assistance Program would give them. "We had many students receive cheques that they did not apply for!" she said.

Towards 'information literacy' skills

The term "information literacy" is "being used a lot in the Library lately", says that department's electronic newsletter, "as we re-evaluate some longstanding activities and explore new possibilities, all aimed at helping students learn to use the Library, the Internet, and the increasingly complex world of information."

Library instruction sessions, designed to help students locate and use library resources, are still available, "but in addition," says the article, "we're exploring ways to heighten awareness of the complex information literacy skills needed by students and ways to form partnerships aimed at helping students develop these skills."

The library has been examining its teaching activities in light of a document issued a year ago by the Association of College and Research Libraries, Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. These standards make it clear that even if students of the past knew how to use a library with maximum efficiency -- and, it seems, many of them didn't -- the world has changed. "In some respects computer-based technologies have made retrieval faster and easier," says an article co-authored by UW librarian Anne Fullerton, in a new volume of the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. But her article adds that "they have also made the decision-making processes of individual information seekers more difficult."

UW's own Fifth Decade planning report, the library newsletter goes on, noted that one of the goals of university education in the coming decade will be to ensure that students learn how to find, manage, and evaluate information. "University graduates will need, as the ACRL standards say, to determine the nature and extent of information needed, access it effectively and efficiently, evaluate it, and use it to accomplish specific purposes. Graduates should also understand many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information so that they can access and use it ethically and legally."

That's the context, says the newsletter, in which the UW library is trying to develop new partnerships with faculty members, and others such as LT3 instructors and staff, to help students get the skills they need at finding information, evaluating what they find, and knowing how to use the results. "Many professors think a library exercise is very easy for the students to do and greatly underestimate the skills needed," says one of UW's librarians. The responsibilities of most librarians at UW includes "liaison" with one or more academic departments, which involves knowing the information needs of faculty and students and working with instructors to connect library materials and skills with those needs.

Yulerette Gordon, the librarian who is the liaison with departments in applied health sciences, worked last spring with Glenn Ward of the health studies department to create an "electronic worksheet" that assesses library research skills of students in Health 220. In the first test of the project, 130 students completed the assignment, which was marked partly by the professor and partly by the librarian. "The assignment seemed so successful in testing and improving the students' skills that the people involved are now exploring the possibility of extending the information literacy program in the Health Studies Department." Similar experiments have been under way in recent months in the school of accountancy, in a second-year history course, and in a second-year psychology course. Others are under discussion.

Sustainable development, and more

UW students launch their "sustainability project" today, and I don't think I can do better than quote from organizer Sandy Kiang as she announces what's happening:
University of Waterloo Sustainability Project (UWSP) strives to increase student environmental awareness and leadership, educate and involve the community, and strengthen the environmental network of UW students, faculty, and administration. UWSP facilitates individual, group and class-related projects aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the University of Waterloo.

The purpose of the UW Sustainability Project office is to bring students together from different faculties to work on campus-related environmental projects. With an undergraduate population of 22,000 enrolled each year, students can utilize the UW campus as a working classroom. The involvement of students from all faculties on campus is crucial to furthering student education by using peer-to-peer outreach as hopefully a tool of change and furthering learning. Together, by tying professors, students, volunteerism and course work, campus environmental solutions and academic learning can be simultaneously achieved. Already, there are 75 UW students who are involved with the UWSP network.

Some of these projects look at documenting progress on sustainable development through the use of quality of life indicators; naturalizing the campus to include more native species; educating the whole university on climate change and encouraging local solutions to help address it; alternative forms of transportation to and from the university.

Students are invited to become a part of the UWSP by volunteering in their spare time, or working on campus environmental related projects as part of an independent course component. Professors are asked to pose the opportunity to their students by participating in UWSP that will not only fulfill class requirements of an assignment or final project but also give students the chance to work with students from other faculties. This is their chance to demonstrate their commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to student learning. Ultimately, UWSP would like to see a mixture of students and profs working together. For example, a mechanical engineering student can be working under the guidance of a systems design professor, with an architecture student, science student and an environmental studies student on designing SLC retrofits to make it a more energy efficient "green" building.

By Summer 2002, it is hoped that UWSP will be a host of UW student co-op jobs through collaborative funding from UW co-op, Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), Federation of Students and Climate Change Action Fund. Students will be hired through the University of Waterloo Co-op System on a 4-month or an 8-month co-op placement to help "green" the Waterloo campus and make these linkages into the great university community. Currently, UWSP volunteers are looking at options to make this a reality and we are asking the university administration and community for possible partnerships, funding or donations. Please contact Sandy Kiang at sandeebeach@yahoo.com.

Today's grand opening is scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. in the Student Life Centre, with remarks by several speakers including UW president David Johnston, and then a reception in the UWSP office on the lower level of the SLC.

Also happening today:

Now, looking ahead a little: And Friday night, it's author Lucinda Vardey, speaking at St. Jerome's University on "Beyond Words: The Languages of the Feminine Spirit".

The talk of the campus

Nominations closed on Friday for Federation of Students executive positions, and the news site 'uwstudent.org' has published an unofficial list of the names. There are 14 candidates for the five positions, the report says, with official verification of the nomination papers still pending. Voting is scheduled for February 8-15.

Department heads across campus got a memo this week from Alfrieda Swainston, manager of salary administration in the human resources department, reminding them of the new section that's been added to performance evaluation forms for staff members this year. The new section, she writes, is meant "to provide a forum for a discussion about various things that are not part of the formal work performance evaluation but have to do with the work environment." The memo notes that the staff relations committee is behind the innovation. "The committee understands," Swainston writes, "that there are no universal solutions for workload, the financial situation facing the university, or the pace of the work environment. They recognize that there may be only small changes in some areas or an increased understanding of the issues facing staff in others, or there may not be any solutions at all. The committee believes, however, that a manager initiating a discussion, listening and working together toward a possible solution would be beneficial."

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has established a task force on "Virtual Universities and E-Learning", to advise on "the potential program impacts arising from the increased use of e-learning and other on-line activities to support distributed research groups and research training, and make recommendations for potential responses to these developments. The Task Force has been asked to report by March 2002." And guess who's chairing it? Tom Carey, director of UW's Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology (LT3).

First-year economics student Chris Argunen is in New Zealand this week as a member of Canada's under-19 cricket team in World Cup play. The Canadian squad is not one of the tournament favourites, although it did win the Americas championship in Bermuda last summer, with Argunen doing a share of the bowling (cricket's equivalent of pitching). The team lost to India 356-114 yesterday; Argunen was the third bowler of the day for Canada. The team faces Bangladesh today and South Africa on Friday.

Prabhakar Ragde, associate chair (curriculum) in the department of computer science, reported this week on the progress of plans for a Bachelor of CS degree program: "The CS faculty, in an electronic vote choosing between the comprehensive and self-directed proposals, chose the self-directed one by a 3:1 margin. Details are on the BCS web page."


January 22, 1995: Helga Kutz-Harder (soon to change her name to Mills) is installed as principal of St. Paul's United College.

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