Wednesday, March 28, 2007

  • Open meetings on pensions next week
  • MA program in ancient globalization
  • Busy breakfast, noon and night
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Teacher and saint

When and where

Student referendum: graduate students vote on bus pass; math undergraduates vote on Math Society fee and bus pass proposal; other undergraduates, bus pass only. Polls open online 8 a.m. today to 8 p.m. Thursday; in person, 9 to 4 both days in Student Life Centre and Math and Computer building (third floor).

UW bookstore's spring book sale, continuing through Thursday, South Campus Hall concourse.

International Celebrations Week things to eat: North American cuisine (Philly steak pizza, macaroni and cheese) at Brubakers, Student Life Centre, 11:00 to 2:00 ; coffee break at Renison College, 2 to 3 p.m.

'Footsteps of Death' walk for Darfur relief, 2 p.m. until evening, around ring road from Student Life Centre, join in at any time; information table and videos inside SLC; information

Smarter Health seminar: Brian Haynes, McMaster University, "Why Not Improve Health Care Through Effective Knowledge Translation?" 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

[Campbell]Senator Larry Campbell, former coroner and Vancouver mayor, model for "Da Vinci's Inquest", speaks on his involvement with the city's safe-injection drug centre, 4:30, Clarica Auditorium, Lyle Hallman Institute.

EMK-Waterloo Nanotechnology workshop: "Why Small Will Be Bigger Than Ever", Thursday, Davis Centre, free registration e-mail

Travel slideshow series: Ellsworth LeDrew, "Tuscany", Thursday 12:10, Environmental Studies I room 221.

Religious studies lecture: Amod Lele, Harvard University, "Why Shantideva's Theory of Nonattachment Matters", Thursday 2:30, Renison College room 2107.

GLOW presents Fraser Easton, department of English, "Female Husbands and Queer Desires in Eighteenth-Century Popular Culture", Friday 4 p.m., Student Life Centre room 2134.

Aftab Patla Memorial Hockey Game featuring kinesiology undergraduates vs. grad students and faculty, Thursday 5 p.m., Columbia Icefield. Admission $2, proceeds to UW Well-Fit. Outing to Bombshelter pub follows. Sponsored by Kinesiology Grad Students Association.

Cultural Caravan with "performances, pavilions and food" to mark International Celebrations Week, Thursday 5:30 to 7:30, Student Life Centre great hall.

Application deadline for September admission is this Friday (deadlines for some programs and groups already past).

Environmental studies presents Mark Jaccard, Simon Fraser University, "Fossil Fuels: Friends or Foes?" Friday 12:30, Davis Centre room 1351.

Philosophy lecture: Janna Thompson, La Trobe University, last in the "Justice Through the Generations" series: "Sustainability and Duties to Future Generations", Friday 3:30, Humanities room 373.

English language and literature department presents Terry Eagleton, University of Manchester, "The Death of Criticism?" Friday 4:00 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 211, all welcome.

Varsity Athletic Banquet Friday, Columbia Icefield, tickets on sale in athletics office, Physical Activities Complex.

St. Jerome's University John Sweeney Lecture: Katherine Rouleau, University of Toronto, "HIV/AIDS from a Canadian Catholic Perspective", Friday 7:30 p.m., Siegfried Hall, free.

Campus rec road hockey tournament Saturday, parking lot X, details online.

UW Chamber Choir spring concert, "Sing to the Colour of the Earth", Saturday 7:30 p.m., Waterloo North Mennonite Church, 100 Benjamin Road, admission $10 (students $8).

UW Choir spring concert, "O Great Spirit", Sunday 3 p.m., Westminster United Church, 543 Beechwood Drive, admission $10 (students $8).

UW board of governors spring meeting April 3, 2:30, Needles Hall room 3001.

Faculty association council of representatives 2:00, annual general meeting 2:30, Wednesday, April 4, Math and Computer room 4020.

'Single and Sexy' 2007 auditions Wednesday, April 4, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre, all welcome. Paid roles for 3 women, 4 men, "and 1 male improvisational keyboard player". Rehearsal and show run August 13 to September 7.

Positions available

On this week’s list from the human resources department:

• Manager, gift processing, development and alumni affairs, USG 7

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

[Six men with silver shovels]

Brass hats with silver shovels did the honours at yesterday's groundbreaking ceremonies for the new School of Accountancy wing of Hagey Hall. It's been a long time coming for the likes of Mike Garvey, far left, former UW board of governors chairman and a retired partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Jim Barnett, far right, current director of the school. More powerful digging apparatus is moving into place, and the plant operations department warned yesterday that the pathway along the Tatham Centre, just east of the site, will be closed for a few days while work is done to move a fire hydrant that's too close to the dig.

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Open meetings on pensions next week

A pair of open meetings will be held next week to discuss proposed changes to the UW pension plan, including an increase in premiums aimed at keeping the pension fund in good shape.

A letter is reaching staff and faculty members today from the UW pension and benefits committee, harking back to last month's memo "reinforcing the University’s and the Pension & Benefits Committee’s commitment to the Defined Benefit Pension Plan and its principles and philosophies". Today's letter repeats that "UW’s Defined Benefit Plan is currently healthy and able to respond to the needs of most of the members of our community.

"However, it is necessary to make some changes in order to ensure that our Plan can provide the pensions that UW employees count on."

It says the committee isn't counting on the same generous rate of return on investments as in the past: "To ensure that Plan costs and necessary contributions are realistically evaluated, the Committee has decreased the expected rate of investment return from 4% to 3.85%, after accounting for inflation, for the purpose of actuarial projections of Plan funding requirements. This more conservative estimate better matches current and predicted investment market returns. Consequently, the annual contributions into the Plan need to increase."

Other changes are also being proposed, "to ensure that the Defined Benefit Plan at Waterloo remains healthy. The Committee has been discussing these proposals for several months and is now in a position to share them with the community. The Committee proposes the following:

• "Reducing costs by no longer indexing during the deferral period pensions for individuals who resign from UW with less than 20 years service and who choose to leave their pension contributions in the Plan.

• "Increasing employee contributions to the Plan to maintain its viability. Employee contributions have not increased since 1977, while the University’s contributions have continued to increase from 138% of member contributions in 2002 to 172% of member contributions in 2007.

• "Addressing the pension cap of $2,650 per year of service so that the Defined Benefit Plan will continue to cover the vast majority of UW employees. The Committee continues to explore ways to address the number of employees whose salaries already or will exceed the cap. When a proposal has been developed, it will be presented to the community."

More information about the background to the changes is in last month's memo, the letter notes.

The committee, and its actuarial consultant, Allan Shapira, will present these proposals at two meetings next Thursday, April 5, one from 11:00 to 1:00 and one from 4 to 6 p.m. Both meetings will be held in Rod Coutts Hall room 101. Says the letter: "Managers are asked to provide the time off required for employees to attend the meeting, which will begin with the presentation by the Actuarial Consultant followed by ample time for questions.

"Comments on these proposals are welcomed and may be addressed in writing to Trenny Canning, Secretariat, NH 3060 or As well, any member of the Committee would be glad to discuss the proposed changes." The membership of the committee — including employee representatives, board of governors members, and UW administrators — is listed at the bottom of today's letter.

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MA program in ancient globalization

UW’s department of classical studies, along with counterparts at Wilfrid Laurier University, is working in “one of the first truly interdisciplinary fields”, UW’s senate was told recently as it approved a new master’s degree program that the two universities intend to sponsor jointly.

If approval comes at WLU as well, the MA in “ancient Mediterranean cultures” will start with 6 to 8 students and grow until there are 12 to 15 at a time, the senate was told.

The cultures in question are Rome, Greece, and the Near East, so that students will be taking courses with such titles as “Local Cultures in Hellenistic Greek Poetry”, “Eastern Mediterranean Trade and Cultural Exchange”, “Roman Frontiers and Provinces”, “Ancient Religions Through Epigraphy”, and “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Its Consequences for the Mediterranean”. In the year-long program, a student will take four courses and write a thesis, or take six courses and write a “cognate” research paper.

“The objective of this program,” says a report to senate, “is to provide students with a wide overview of the Mediterranean basin as a culturally and historically linked horizon. Instead of focusing on a narrow geographical area within a chronologically limited cultural sphere, it is expected that students will learn where developments within one Mediterranean culture influenced developments within other cultures. For this a broad-based interdisciplinary approach to the study of the ancient world will be encouraged.

“The program allows students an opportunity to enhance their understanding of the history, languages and civilizations of the Mediterranean basin in antiquity, either as a terminal degree or in preparation for a doctoral program. The Master's program emphasizes research techniques as well as ensuring a sound knowledge of the primary sources, both linguistic and archaeological. Admission to this program will normally be from a Classical Studies or Near Eastern Archaeology background, including an adequate preparation in ancient languages.”

Approaching ancient cultures in that way is “an innovative concept that finds few parallels”, the report said. “In a country such as ours, where multiculturalism is nourished, and at a time when globalization and international trade is the focus of considerable attention in a number of fields, we believe that there is strong justification for a program that studies similar cultural features in an ancient context.”

Three main fields of study are involved: archaeology and art, history, and literature. “It is necessary for students to be well acquainted with all three fields in order to comprehend the development of ancient Mediterranean cultures as a linked phenomenon,” the report said.

UW and WLU together have 13 faculty members in the area, a critical mass “second in size within Canada only to the University of Toronto,” senate was told. “To ensure the cohesion of the program and the development of collegiality, we are emphasizing the importance of equal participation by both departments. . . . Students will register at the university of their choice but will have access to courses offered at both locations.”

They’ll finish the MA “with wide-ranging and comprehensive expertise”, the report said. Likely one-third to half of them will then go on to do a PhD somewhere, while the other half “will find related careers in such areas as secondary school teaching, library science, museum work, freelance writing, the travel industry, government service overseas, editing for publishing houses, or professional archaeology.”

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Busy breakfast, noon and night

UW president David Johnston is in Toronto this morning, giving a breakfast talk on "Industry plus Academia: An Equation for Driving Innovation". It's part of something called the "Mind to Market Breakfast Series", organized by the Ontario Centres of Excellence, which orchestrate research and technology transfer in selected fields, including plenty of it at UW. (OCE has an office in the Accelerator Centre building on the north campus.) Speaking at the Toronto Board of Trade premises in First Canadian Place to a $75-a-plate crowd, Johnston promised to share "what's in the water at Waterloo" and talk about the advantages to business of getting involved with academia.

The development and alumni affairs office "is embarking on a new system implementation project," says Maryann Gavin in a note from South Campus Hall. "Earlier this year, we purchased the Raiser's Edge Enterprise System, which will replace our current database, Benefactor. Raiser's Edge is a complete fundraising and alumni relations management tool that will help us to cultivate relationships, communicate with our constituents, and to make informed decisions through better data analysis and reporting capabilities. The project will have its official kick-off on April 16th, hosted by the vendor, Blackbaud (headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina), to which all ODAA and IST staff have been invited. The implementation project is expected to take 12-14 months."

A note from Gerd Hauck, chair of the UW drama department: "As part of the emerging student exchange between the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Central Florida and the Department of Drama and Speech Communication, a staged reading of "The Trial and Execution of Jesse James" by UCF student Chris Metz will be presented at the Theatre of the Arts tonight at 7 p.m. The playwright will be in attendance at the reading and participate in the talk-back session following the reading. Admission is free. In exchange for Chris Metz, UW drama student Michael Albert is having one of his new plays staged at the University of Central Florida this week."

The Update newsletter published for alumni of St. Jerome’s University makes note in its latest issue of Don Strickler, who “has checked his last bottom line” and retired after 21 years as comptroller of St. Jerome’s. “I’ll miss working with people here,” he says, “but there comes a time to move on. I’ve had a really good life, so now there’s an opportunity to give something back.” That points him toward volunteer work — “I’d like to help out at community events like the recent Four Nations Women’s Hockey Tournament” — as well as recreation, in the form of K-W Oldtimers hockey and maybe some golf.

A morning-long "natural rationality conference" is taking place this morning in UW's department of philosophy. • Organizers have set June 18 as the date for this year's Matthews Golf Classic (more information online, and in this Daily Bulletin as the date draws closer). • Organizers of the committee putting together a 50th Anniversary Dance on May 5 say a DJ for the event has now been chosen — "Fat" Albert O'Connor, a UW graduate — and note that tickets are available, at $20 a head, at the Humanities box office.

And . . . a number of UW leaders, including the deans of most of the faculties, are making a visit to the stronghold of the Ontario government today for what has been dubbed "Deans' Day". At Queen's Park they'll meet individually with a number of legislators and government officials, and the day winds up with a reception at which president David Johnston will speak briefly. The visit is aimed at raising Waterloo's profile in government circles and cementing personal connections.


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