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Thursday, March 30, 2006

  • Grads meet their new executive
  • Spending reduction, tuition fee hikes
  • Wireless forum, and other notes
Chris Redmond

Invention of the pencil

Grads meet their new executive

Graduate students will get a chance to ask their leaders questions tonight as the Graduate Student Association holds its annual general meeting (7:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 301). They'll also get to meet the newcomers who have been acclaimed to positions on the GSA executive for 2006-07 and will take office May 1.

[Ratajczak] Marek Ratajczak (left), a master's student in civil engineering, will take over as GSA president from the current leader, chemistry student Michael Makahnouk. "I wanted to see what I could do working from a different angle," Ratajczak said this week, explaining what lured him into involvement with the GSA, which operates the Graduate House as a social club for grad students and others, as well as representing grads on issues that range from dental insurance to teaching assistantship rates.

A UW graduate in environmental (chemical) engineering, he started grad work in January 2005 in the water treatment group headed by NSERC chair Peter Huck. He says involvement in university affairs at this level is something new for him -- his experience up to now amounts to being a class rep for the Engineering Society.

As GSA president, "I want to work closer with the Feds," says Ratajczak, noting that the Federation of Students does many of the same things for undergraduate students that the GSA does for grads, including offering dental and health insurance.

He said the Grad House is doing well these days -- more than covering costs, as opposed to the large deficits of a few years ago -- and he'll concentrate his efforts in other areas, including the GSA's relationship with the university's growing population of international grad students. Many international grads exercise their right to get a refund of their GSA fees, perhaps not thinking that the House or the association is any use to them, and Ratajczak would like to change that assumption.

He has a foot in the international camp himself: he was born in Poland and is fluent in Polish, though he's lived in Canada most of his life. In June he'll be attending the international Woda 2006 ("Water 2006") conference in Zakopane, Poland, to give a paper -- maybe in Polish -- about his work on improving membranes used in filtering drinking water.

Joining Ratajczak on the GSA executive will be Maria Ziegler of biology as vice-president (operations and finance) and Beatrice Orchard of history serving for a second year as vice-president (student affairs). At last word a nominee for vice-president (communications and organization) had not been announced.

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  • Budget reduction, tuition fee hikes

    UW will spend more than $355 million in "operating" funds, mostly from tuition fees and government grants, over the 2006-07 year, according to the budget that's on its way to the board of governors for approval. UW's senate gave approval to the budget Monday night.

    Several key numbers in the document are based on assumptions for lack of firm information, provost Amit Chakma told the senate. In particular, the revenue side of the budget includes more than $7 million in "growth" funding from the Ontario government -- some of it driven by the "double cohort" boom of 2003, some of it an expansion of graduate student numbers that may or may not really come true. Tuition revenue is scheduled to increase too with rising enrolment, especially if this year's admissions targets are reached.

    The budget also relies on increases in fee rates that the board of governors will be asked to approve when it looks at the figures on Tuesday. "Rate increases vary by program and year level," the budget says, "and will be implemented for most programs in two stages -- 4% effective May 2006 and another varied increase in September." The two-stage arrangement is to give time to calculate what the increases can be under the complicated rules announced earlier this month by the provincial government.

    The budget shows 50 per cent of the year's revenue coming from the government and 40 per cent from tuition fees, with the rest from other sources, including co-op fees, interest on investments, research overhead and sales and services. The operating budget doesn't include direct research expenses, UW's "ancillary" businesses such as food services and residences, or donated funds that are used for construction and other capital projects.

    More than 70 per cent of the spending ($252 million) is allocated to salaries and benefits, and that figure is actually on the low side, since millions more are just shown, at this early stage of the year, under such headings as "Graduate growth, and in the end will be spent mostly on teaching.

    The other major element of the budget is utilities and maintenance -- almost $14 million for the new year, which starts May 1.

    Departments across campus have been told to cut their total budgets by 1.5 per cent for the new fiscal year, to help pay for salary increases, higher utility prices, and "strategic" budget increases in selected areas. That's an annual procedure at UW: expenditure reductions have been 1 per cent last year, 2 per cent for 2004-05, 2 per cent for 2003-04, 2 per cent for 2002-03 and 3.5 per cent for 2001-02.

    This year's cut could have been higher, perhaps 3 per cent, Chakma told the senate. But colleagues persuaded him to allow "a structural deficit" in this year's budget -- one that will have to be made up in the following year -- to the tune of $2.5 million. "We are hoping that our enrolment position will improve" by that time, he said. Or, as the minutes of the March 9 senate finance committee meeting put it: "The Provost undertook to follow members' collective advice to postpone some of the pain."

    Blood donor clinic continues 10 to 4, Student Life Centre (also Friday, 9 to 3).

    'Are we losing our minds? Reconnect your body and mind through exercise,' brown-bag presentation sponsored by Employee Assistance Program, 12 noon, CEIT room 1015.

    Chartered accounting information night 4 to 10 p.m., Tatham Centre.

    Biomedical engineering lecture: Bernie Duncker, biology, speaking on protein interactions; Salam Gabran, grad student in electrical and computer engineering, on assistive device research; 5 p.m., Rod Coutts Hall room 307, sponsored by Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.

    Fine arts graduation show: "1230 Phillip", painting, sculpture, new media and installation by 23 students, opening reception 5 to 8 p.m., East Campus Hall, show continues through April 4.

    Student pubs: Open Mic Night at the Bombshelter; Boys 'n' Girls Night at Federation Hall.

    'Where do students learn?' "New Ideas in Informal Living Spaces", Liwana Bringelson, Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology, Friday 11 a.m., Flex lab, Dana Porter Library.

    Federation of Students annual general meeting Friday 3:30 p.m., Student Life Centre.

    Sheila Ager, department of classical studies, "Her Infinite Variety: The Official Images of Cleopatra VII", Friday 3:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 105.

    Ken McLaughlin, department of history, "Berlin, 1856", Friday 7:30 p.m., Kitchener City Hall, sponsored by St. John the Evangelist Church.

    30 Hour Famine fund-raiser for World Vision, from Friday 9 p.m. to Sunday 3 a.m., activities in Student Life Centre, pledge forms available from UW Food Bank, SLC room 2108.

    'Forward Into the Past' annual collegium with classes on mediaeval textiles, dance, Vikings, military science and other topics, Saturday all day, details online.

    Theologian Karen Armstrong speaks on "The Great Transformation", sponsored by St. Jerome's University and WordsWorth Books, Saturday 2 p.m., First United Church, tickets ($8) 884-2665.

    Graduate Student Research Conference April 3-6. Keynote address by Romé Dallaire, Monday 8 p.m., Humanities Theatre, sold out; overflow available in Arts Lecture Hall room 113. Student presentations Tuesday-Thursday, Davis Centre 1302 and 1304; schedule online.

    Wireless forum, and other notes

    There might be some UW people at today's "What If" forum on the possibility of wireless Internet service across the city of Waterloo. Organized by City Hall and being held at RIM Park, the day-long event will include remarks by Steven McCartney, head of Atria Networks (a company, owned by local municipalities, that provides broadband services), and John Jung, chairman of the Intelligent Community Forum, which is looking at Waterloo as a candidate for Intelligent Community of the Year. The idea of the forum: "Join people from all sectors -- business, technology, not-for-profit, education, youth, seniors -- to talk about how we could leverage broadband wireless access if it were available throughout the area."

    Here's a reminder that tomorrow is the deadline for staff members to give their answers to the Employee Satisfaction Survey that's being conducted by the staff association. "The survey is online now and will remain accessible until Friday, March 31 at 12 o'clock noon," the association notes. "The survey will take about 20 minutes of your time. The data will help the SA identify aspects of the UW work environment that need improvement. All the data collected is anonymous. This survey has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the Office of Research Ethics." Individuals were sent coded usernames and passwords by campus mail earlier this month; any last-minute inquiries can go to ext. 3566.

    As students are preparing for exams, so are instructors -- especially the ones who haven't yet been through the routine of submitting marks electronically, which was introduced campus-wide last term. To assist, a memo went out from the registrar's office a few days ago: "I want to announce that there will be three demonstrations of the electronic grades submission procedures on April 3-5 at 3 p.m. in Arts Lecture room 113. The demonstration, with ample opportunity for questions, should not take more than an hour. We had a very successful first run at the end of the fall term with 80% of the final grades uploaded through electronic grades submission. As a result of this success, we will no longer be producing paper grade rosters for distribution to departments. Grade rosters are still available through Quest and paper copies, if required, can be generated at your own workstation." It adds that instructions for electronic grade submission, "with screen shots", are available in the instructors' section of Quest. "We will continue to take your suggestions on how we can make this feature of Quest even more user friendly."

    Also about exams, here's a reminder from the distance education office: "Students taking courses via distance education this term are reminded to look at Quest (under Academics) for their distance education exam schedules. Those taking more than one DE course should choose 'view all'. Distance education examinations are scheduled separately from on-campus exams. Please contact examinations@uwaterloo.ca if you have questions about what appears on Quest."

    Students from across Ontario, including UW, are converging on Queen's Park this morning to tell the Ontario government what they think of its recently announced tuition fee "framework" (they being the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance). One gets the sense that they don't think much of it: "Speakers at the news conference will include the OUSA president, OUSA executive director, and potentially a student from a member campus who has struggled with the high costs of attending university." Vans are leaving UW about 9:30 this morning to take Federation of Students leaders and other students to the event.

    Other student leaders, meanwhile, will be at Kitchener city hall for a hearing before the Ontario Highway Transport Board. Greyhound Canada has laid a complaint about the "Fed buses", the cheap shuttle offered by the Federation of Students for undergraduates who want to go home to Toronto, Hamilton or London each weekend. The board hearing starts at 10:30 this morning.

    The Jewish Students Association is off for a bowling evening tonight as a fund-raiser for Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross or Red Crescent. . . . Rosalind Rampersad, who has been on UW's staff since 1985, most recently as a staff relations coordinator in human resources, will officially retire April 1. . . . "Open enrolment" for spring term undergraduate courses starts online on Monday. . . .

    And: it's a special day for Stephen Markan, staff member in information systems and technology as well as president of the UW staff association. According to a possibly reliable source, it's his birthday: "He will be 39 again."


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