Thursday, January 24, 2008

  • No quick answer after union voting
  • Costs outstrip fee hikes, says provost
  • UW competes to build solar house
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Belly Laugh Day

When and where

Blood donor clinic today 10:00 to 4:00, Friday 9:00 to 3:00, Student Life Centre, make appointments at turnkey desk.

Career workshop: "Career Interest Assessment" 10:30, Tatham Centre room 1112, details online.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Andrew Hunt, UW department of history, "A Resilient People: Living with the Legacy of the Vietnam War" 11:45 a.m., 57 Erb Street West.

Alice Pelkman, manager of financial aid, farewell lunch today as she leaves UW to be assistant registrar at Trent University; for information contact

International spouses gathering 12:45, Columbia Lake Village community centre: Elisabeth Adrian, UW career services, speaks on "Work Search Strategies in Canada". For information e-mail

'Software development on Mac OS Leopard' briefing by Steve Hayman, Apple Canada, 2:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Students Offering Support ("volunteers helping fellow students succeed academically while raising money to build sustainable community development projects") information meeting 5:00, Math and Computer room 4040.

Arriscraft Lecture: Kay Bea Jones, Ohio State University, "Suspending Modernity: The Architecture of Franco Albini", 7:00, Architecture lecture hall, Cambridge campus.

Rose Cousins, folk musician, live at the Princess Café, 46 King Street North, doors open 9 p.m., benefit concert for Alternatives Journal with launch of the "Out of the Box" issue, tickets $15 at the café, coverage in today's Record.

Dropping courses: deadline with no penalty and a 100 per cent tuition fee refund, Friday.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel University College, presents Tim Jackson, Tech Capital Partners, "An Entrepreneur's Journey", Friday 7:00 a.m., Waterloo Inn, details online.

Cognos Cubes training for users of statistical data from Institutional Analysis and Planning office: beginner sessions January 25 (10:00), March 19, May 21, September 24; advanced sessions February 13, April 23, June 11, October 15, details online.

[Cheese]Campus Crusade for Cheese first meeting of the term Friday 4:30, Math and Computer room 4059.

St. Jerome’s University presents Ruben Habito, Southern Methodist University, "Awakening to Compassion: Buddhist Wisdom for a Wounded World" Friday 7:30, Siegfried Hall.

Computer network outage Saturday 12:01 to 6:00 a.m. for configuration changes to Orion network across Ontario. No Internet access to UW, including ACE.

CD release concert: "Every 3 Children", Carol Ann Weaver and other performers from Conrad Grebel University College, Saturday 8:00 p.m., Grebel chapel, tickets $10, call ext. 24226.

Fall term marks for undergraduate courses on Quest become official January 28.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: "Getting the Most out of Multiple-Choice Questions" led by David DiBattista, Brock University, Monday 9:30 a.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, registration online.

Students for Development briefing by students who interned last fall in developing countries, Monday 4:00 at Waterloo International, Needles Hall room 1116.

Montréal alumni networking event January 30, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Ecomusée du fier monde, register online by January 25.

Ottawa alumni networking event Thursday, January 31, 6:30 to 8:30, Canada Aviation Museum, guest speaker Peter Harder (BA 1975), former federal deputy minister, details online.

Gradfest 2008 presentations and exhibitors about services offered to soon-to-be UW graduates, February 4, 10:00 to 7:00, Student Life Centre; reception from 4:30 p.m., Bombshelter pub, details online.

QPR suicide prevention training available February 11 (11:30), March 7 (12:00), April 11 (11:30), call ext. 33528 to register.

Class enrolment for spring term courses: appointments on Quest February 11-16, open enrolment begins February 19.

Family Day holiday Monday, February 18, UW offices and services closed (Monday of reading week).

Texas Hold ‘em Poker tournament, fund-raiser for Food Bank, February 19 at 7:00, TechTown, cash bar available, tickets $50 at Columbia Lake Health Club, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 21-24; submissions welcome now for oral or poster presentations, deadline for abstracts February 8, details online.

[Three giant screens loom over darkened stage]

Live actors from UW's drama department are dwarfed by actors brought in over the Internet from two other live locations, in a "multi-point telematic" production of "Alice (Experiments) in Wonderland" that opens tonight. The screen at left brings in the University of Central Florida and the one at right Bradley University in Illinois, while the centre screen is UW's feed to the other locations. Tickets to see the performance, Theatre of the Arts version, are $12 general, $10 students, $5 children — details online. Scott Spidell of the UW theatre centre took the rehearsal photo.

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No quick answer after union voting

It could be next month — or later — before results are known from today’s vote on whether the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation will become the union for about 1,000 UW staff members.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board, which is conducting today’s vote, has ordered that the ballot box be sealed and the ballots not counted, at least until a meeting of lawyers for the union and the employer with a labour relations officer in Toronto on February 13. A formal hearing by the board would then take place February 19 and 20.

At issue would be exactly which UW staff would be part of the bargaining unit — the group of employees represented by the union — if unionization goes ahead. That in turn determines whose ballots from today’s vote should be counted.

Says a ruling made by the board on Tuesday: “The responding party [UW, as the employer] disputes the applicant’s estimate of the number of employees in the applicant’s proposed bargaining unit. Furthermore, the responding party . . . maintains the bargaining unit as proposed will lead to serious labour relations harm. . . .

“The Board finds that the numerical difference between the parties may be significant. . . . Given the disparity between the two bargaining units proposed by the parties, the Board is unable to craft a more precise voting constituency.”

OSSTF says there are 924 people in the group it seeks to represent — those in salary grades USG 1-8 as well as housekeepers and janitors in the residences, with some specified exceptions. It says 398 of those people had signed union cards at the time the application was filed last week.

All staff members in the group claimed by OSSTF will be eligible to vote yes or no on unionization in today’s vote. The labour board’s order says that “if an employee’s eligibility to vote is unclear or in dispute, the employee will be given an opportunity to mark a ballot, but it . . . will be sealed in a separate envelope until the employee’s eligibility to vote has been determined.”

UW’s human resources department is advising everybody who is in USG classifications 1 through 8 and the housekeepers and janitors group to show up and vote today, and let negotiators and the labour board decide later whose votes count and whose are to be excluded. Department heads will provide time to vote during the work day, an e-mail memo said last night. "You may vote at either polling station. If you wish to bring I.D., that would be helpful but it is not required."

The unionization issue will be decided by a majority of those who cast their ballots.

The poll will be held in the Physical Activities Complex, small gymnasium, today from 8:00 to 10:00, 12:00 to 3:00, and 4:00 to 6:00. There will also be a poll from 10:30 to 11:30 at the distance education office on Gage Avenue in Kitchener (side entrance).

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Costs outstrip fee hikes, says provost

UW’s provost says he will ask the board of governors to raise student fees by between 3.9 per cent and 8 per cent for the coming year, but warns that the resulting boost in UW’s income won’t keep pace with the rising cost of living.

The reason, provost Amit Chakma explained to UW’s senate on Monday night, is that student fees provide about 41 per cent of the university’s operating budget. So an overall increase of 5 per cent in fee levels — the most that the provincial government will allow — means an increase of about 2.1 per cent in total funding.

The other 59 per cent of operating money comes from government grants, which aren’t expected to go up at all this year, and miscellaneous sources.

Chakma said fees for current students, who will be in the upper years of undergraduate programs next fall, will rise by 4 per cent if the board gives its approval at its February 5 meeting. Fees for first-year students will be increased by 4.5 per cent in “regulated” programs, including arts and science, and 8 per cent in “deregulated” programs, including engineering.

All graduate students will face a 3.9 per cent fee increase and all international students will pay 4 per cent more, Chakma said in an oral presentation to the senate’s monthly meeting.

Set against those increases, he said, is an estimated 5.5 per cent annual increase in UW’s costs, largely for salaries — both scale increases and the cost of individuals’ progress through the salary ranks. Subtract the 2.1 per cent revenue increase from the 5.5 per cent cost increase, he said, and UW is falling behind at a rate of more than $12 million a year on a budget that’s now closing in on $400 million annually.

“No near-term solution can be found to our structural deficit,” said Chakma. He’s putting together a package for 2008-09 that would involve bringing in more international students (who pay higher fees than Canadians), building up the revenue from UW’s endowment fund, and the “painful” process of cutting spending.

“These are pessimistic scenarios,” said the provost, noting that sunny weather sometimes moves in — such as last year, when the government gave universities an unexpected end-of-year bonus from funds that hadn’t been needed earlier to pay for expansion of graduate enrolment.

Chakma briefly addressed the issue of campus workload and how it’s related to the university’s growing enrolment. “Yes, workload has gone up,” he said, but enrolment growth has been channeled into “strategic initiatives” and special growth funding has allowed UW to hire new people, including about 120 new faculty positions since 2000.

With no enrolment growth, and the annual squeeze between fast-rising costs and slowly-rising income, UW would have been cutting by something like 3 per cent a year, he said. As a result it would be down 150 faculty positions and 300 staff positions from the position in 2000. That would have had a much heavier impact on workload, he said, than what’s actually been happening: a ratio of students to staff and faculty members that goes up by 1.0 to 1.5 per cent each year.

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UW competes to build solar house

A team led by students from the UW school of architecture is among 20 finalists in the Solar Decathlon, a competition sponsored by the United States government “to design, build and operate the most attractive and energy efficient entirely solar powered home”. Competitors in the 2009 Decathlon were announced in Washington this week.

[Architects' drawing of house]“This is the first time that Waterloo has submitted a proposal to the competition,” says a news release from student coordinator Lauren Bardhyt and faculty coordinator Geoffrey Thün. “The team’s concept for the house (pictured), called North House, is a holistic, responsive and flexible strategy for solar living in the diverse territory and extreme climates of northern regions.”

The Solar Decathlon is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which seeks to foster development and facilitate widespread adoption of solar-powered homes that demonstrate solar technologies in marketable applications. Teams will be judged in 10 areas including architecture, engineering, livability, marketability, comfort, power generation for space heating and cooling, water heating, and powering lights and appliances.

The prototype homes will be installed in a “Solar Village” on the National Mall in Washington, where visitors can tour them to learn about design and construction techniques. After the competition, North House is expected to be on display at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It will then become part of a permanent public display at the Kortright Living City Centre outside Toronto.

The UW project, says the news release, “will engage undergraduate and graduate students working in collaboration with leading faculty members at all three institutions. The project will build upon ongoing innovation in sustainable off-grid housing and responsive envelope technology at the School of Architecture, and in PV Thermal solar and integral blind systems within Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering.”

Students from Ryerson University and Simon Fraser University are also part of the North House bid, and it will benefit from research in Net Zero Design and Energy Modeling and Analysis at Ryerson and “new systems of Integrated Interface that deploy mobile and ubiquitous computing utilizing hand-held technologies” from SFU.The prototype house will employ two key strategies developed by the team: “Holistic Solar” — an approach to making buildings and living within them that incorporates the energy and benefits of the sun in all ways possible — and "Haptic Solar”, explained as “Making Sustainable Action Tangible”.

The key to Haptic Solar, says the release, is the development of an Adaptive Living Interface “that will make sustainability personal and physical by developing ways that people can measure sustainability with their own bodies. The current intention is to develop the interface through the device of the cellular phone. Occupants will be able to interact with the technologies and systems of the home and to assist them in making informed decisions about energy use by providing feedback on the energy state of the home. Interface devices and ambient cues will communicate the house’s performance over time, provide integrated controls to all building systems, and living patterns by modeling occupant routines so that the building can adapt its energy use patterns to its use. The phone could become an interactive container of the energy use of the house that will connect the occupant its systems of the house while both at home and away.”

An early challenge for the team is raising more than $1 million to develop and build the house. Some funding will come from the American government, the three universities have each promised seed funding, and the Canadian Design Research Network is kicking in some funds, the release says.


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