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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

  • Existing process 'serves staff well'
  • Wireless available in Tatham
  • E&CE students show design projects
  • And a little of this and that
Chris Redmond

Squirrel Appreciation Day

[Boom blocks two faces]

Who's that behind the equipment (a phoropter, to be precise) when VIPs gathered last week to celebrate renovated laboratory space in the Optometry building? It's UW president David Johnston (face completely blocked) and provost Amit Chakma (right eye visible). Also in the group as they moved into position for the formal photos were, left to right, dean of science George Dixon; faculty member Patricia Hrynchak; optometry director William Bobier; and Jessica Ng, president of the Optometric Student Society, all preparing to cut the ribbon. The renovation work began last summer, and included expansion of the pre-clinic to 24 booths from the previous 16 and addition of a demonstration lane. The optics labs were renovated and updated, and the pathology/physiology laboratory was changed to a multipurpose lab to accommodate the teaching of pathology/physiology, contact lens, and mechanical optics.

Existing process 'serves staff well'

There's much to be said for "collegial decision-making" as an alternative to threats and strikes, says a report to the campus from the staff relations committee.

The second in a series of responses to the staff association's morale survey last year, under the title "How's the Climate", the report appears in full in today's Gazette.

The staff relations committee is made up of staff association leaders and members of UW's administration, and has a different chair every year. Currently it's Anne Jenson, past president of the staff association.

One of the topics discussed in today's report is "Lack of Power" -- a phrase some people who responded to the survey applied to the association itself. Says the committee report: "Some members of the community perceive 'power' to be synonymous with the ability to 'strike', and that the Staff Association has 'no power' because staff salaries are not negotiated and because staff isn't unionized. The Staff Relations Committee would like to share with the community its opinion on the value of reaching decisions through collegial decision-making processes as opposed to negotiations.

"One of the advantages of a collegial decision-making process is that it is usually non-adversarial in nature and results in a continuous discussion of staff issues, whereas, negotiations typically involve sitting down at the table once every so many years, not in between. The Staff Relations Committee believes that this process has served UW staff well and is proud of its accomplishments (e.g., similar salary packages for faculty and staff; one pension and benefits plan for all; numerous policy improvements). Although there will always be issues where the resolution is not satisfactory to all, the Staff Relations Committee believes the way issues are resolved (not just the resolution) is important."

Other issues touched on in today's report:

  • Lack of consistency: "Human Resources always strives to provide consistent information to the campus community on a wide range of issues. However, the issues dealt with are very often situation specific. . . . Often, the perceived inconsistency is due to the specific circumstances involved."

  • Too much secrecy: "Human Resources takes the issue of confidentiality very seriously. Information that is personal, financial or medical that it holds as a matter of record or that has been shared by employees is secure and considered completely confidential. For example, information that is related to health or medical is not kept on the main employee file in Human Resources so that it is seen only by those in a "need to know" position. . . . As well, any employee has the right to talk with individuals in Human Resources without the knowledge of their manager and information exchanged in such a meeting will only be relayed to their manager with the express permission of the employee. However, the Staff Relations Committee and Human Resources understands and agrees that the need for confidentiality can sometimes be regarded as being secretive. HR will continue to be sensitive to the assumptions that the need for confidentiality may invite and do their best to mitigate them."

  • Hours of work per week: "This situation exists because of the three job families (service, technical, clerical/management and professional working 40, 37.5 and 35 hours per week respectively) that were brought together under one salary program in 1990. At the time, the Staff Compensation Committee felt that the different work weeks should be retained as they served the needs of the University. The Staff Relations Committee does not have an opinion on whether this is still true today but it does know that a change to a unified work week would mean either increasing or decreasing significant numbers of staff working hours."

  • Comparison with other universities: "The Staff Relations and Compensation Committees understand that it is important to staff to know where UW stands in relation to other universities on issues such as benefits and salaries. . . . The Staff Association receives numerous requests for comparative data regarding salary, and Policy 5 states that this comparison should be conducted periodically. As such, the Staff Compensation Committee has decided that it is time to conduct a market survey to determine whether UW's salaries remain in line with the market from which it recruits."

    The full report will also be published in the next issue of the staff association's newsletter, Staff News.

    Wireless available in Tatham

    The Tatham Centre is the latest UW building to have wireless Internet facilities, the co-op and career services department has announced.

    Its Recruiter newsletter for employers announces that "During interviews, employers who have laptops with wireless capabilities can now connect to the Internet from anywhere in the building." Of course, students and staff can do the same thing.

    The wireless system, the newsletter explains, "works by way of a network of nodes or access points that are spread throughout the building. These nodes radiate wireless signals, which are picked up by individual laptops, giving users remote access to the Internet.

    [Tatham desk] "In order to get the system up and running, designers overcame numerous challenges, one of which was finding the best places to locate nodes in order to achieve optimum coverage and keep the wireless signal consistently stable. This was a difficult task because the material through which a wireless signal travels often interferes with it. Objects that contain moisture (for example, books and human bodies) impede the signal, and dense materials like concrete are harder to pass through than light materials like drywall."

    It notes that employers who want to use the wireless network in Tatham can pick up guest user ID and password cards at the employer reception desk (left).

    Other UW buildings with wireless capacity include the Davis Centre, most parts of engineering, the Grad Club, the Dana Porter Library, the map and design library, and St. Jerome's University.

    E&CE students show design projects -- from the UW media relations office

    Students graduating from the electrical and computer engineering department this year are exhibiting their group projects today. The E&CE Design Project Fourth Annual Symposium will be held at the Davis Centre from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Opening ceremonies take place at 9 a.m. in Davis Centre room 1302. As well, an open house will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    The 332 students participating in the event will present their projects in seminar format at the symposium to guests from industry and the academic community. They will also display design project posters and will be available to discuss their projects.

    The symposium presentations will cover many forefront technology developments. Among the topics:

  • Back on Track -- Using any Internet-enabled device, the project improves the predictability of public transportation by providing everyday users with accurate bus tracking information at a minimal cost.

  • Control System for Impaired Driving Simulator -- As a result of the increasing number of alcohol-related car accidents, it is important to raise the society's awareness regarding the effects of impaired driving. The development of a realistic impaired driving simulator will help deliver this message.

  • Mobile Cardiac EMS (Electrocardiogram Monitoring System) Dispatcher -- Each year about 40,000 Canadians suffer sudden cardiac death, with most of the cases occurring outside hospitals. The system provides constant cardiac health monitoring and facilitates the delivery of immediate emergency medical care to patients experiencing ventricular fibrillation.

  • Wireless Muscle Monitoring System -- It is important for patients with muscle atrophy and athletes to be able to monitor their muscle activity. This design allows muscle signals to be captured, and sent wirelessly to a central server using Bluetooth technology.

  • The Phantom Player -- The two-stage software system, consisting of image pattern matching and physics modelling, obtains image data from a pool table and output information on how to successfully complete a shot.

  • Software Music Transcripter -- The software application assists musicians by providing them with an easy way of writing music, allowing them to automatically transcribe single instrument musical recordings stored in a standard audio file into a staff music score.

  • Home Security and Control Platform with Mobile Extensions -- The project uses the cell phones to provide an effective and low cost home security system. Using widely available security components connected to a home PC, users will have full control and monitoring capabilities of their security system via their cell phones, eliminating the need for an expensive monitoring service.

    The students have completed the intensive design project course sequence, which challenges them in their final year of study to work in groups to identify and address a specific design problem. The symposium gives these students the opportunity to showcase their projects in poster and prototype format and to present them as seminars to external audiences.

    A detailed schedule, including abstracts of each student project, is available on the web.

    And a little of this and that

    Today brings the climax of this year's National Non-Smoking Week: Weedless Wednesday. If you're following the step-by-step advice of the occupational health office, you'll reach step three today: "You are now in the Preparation stage and have made the decision to quit. Quitting can be a long and difficult process, so it is important to make the process as easy as possible. Weedless Wednesday encourages those smokers who might find the process of quitting forever stressful, to quit for just a day. In celebration of Weedless Wednesday why don't you try to go the whole day without smoking!" Meanwhile, displays for the new "Leave the Pack Behind" campaign continue in the Student Life Centre -- organizers promise "uninterrupted access to smoking awareness/reduction, cessation interventions for students".

    A volunteer fair will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the great hall of the Student Life Centre, organized by career services and the Federation of Students. "Volunteering is a good investment with big results," says their flyer. "Come and visit with representatives from a variety of agencies to find out about volunteer opportunities. Agencies that work with children, health issues, seniors, arts and many more interest groups will be available."

    Blood donor clinic continues, 10 to 4, Student Life Centre.

    Classical piano, Philip Thomson, Wednesday 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College chapel, free.

    'Starting Your Own Business', two workshops today in Tatham Centre, details from career services department.

    Midnight Sun solar car volunteer recruitment meeting, 5 p.m., Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 309.

    Solar Technology Education Project grand unveiling for solar panels on Federation Hall, Thursday 11 a.m., open house continues to 3 p.m.

    Chinese New Year lunch at University Club, Thursday, reservations ext. 3801.

    Finance office deadline for submitting internal transactions before end-of-January system shutdown is Thursday, January 22.

    Ski day at Osler Bluff, Waterloo Engineers in Toronto, Friday, January 23.

    Today's the day: marks from the fall term become official for undergraduate students, the registrar's office says. "The best way to view grades on a term-by-term basis in Quest is select Your Portfolio -- Academic Summary -- Course/Grade History. This is quicker than reviewing the unofficial transcript. Dropped courses are now annotated to reflect whether penalty grades have been applied." marks official tomorrow

    Coming tomorrow in the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology is "Files, Damned Files and Statistics: Geroline". "Geroline" is short for "German online", judging from an LT3 explanation: "If you have not yet broken the barrier to teaching with technology or if you do use technology in teaching but wonder how it really impacts the students, then this event is for you. Professor Mat Schulze of Germanic and Slavic Studies will explain how he has taken two courses online, the results he has achieved in these task-based courses, and, most importantly he will describe the results of the learning impact study carried out on these courses. Refreshments will be served to warm your insides and provide a little sustenance." Anyone planning to attend should register online (click on Events). More information is available from Peter Goldsworthy at ext. 7008.

    Warrior athletes are facing a full schedule these days; tonight, for example, the women's volleyball team will host Western at 6 p.m. in the Physical Activities Complex, followed by the men's team, also against the Mustangs, at 8:00. "The PAC is one of the best international volleyball facilities in Canada," said Lorne Sawula, head coach of the senior national women's V-ball team, after it held a training camp here during the Christmas holidays.


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