Tuesday, March 25, 2008

  • Senate recommends deficit budget
  • Highlights of the past two weeks
  • What 7 profs are doing on sabbatical
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

Teaching award winners are named

This year's winners of two of UW's highest awards were announced at last night's meeting of the UW senate.

The 2008 Distinguished Teacher Awards go to…

• Jane Irvine (geography)
• Monica Leoni (Spanish and Latin American studies)
• Michael Sharratt (kinesiology)
• Ian VanderBurgh (mathematics)

The Exceptional Teaching by a Student Awards go to…

• Andrew Dilts (management sciences)
• Amirhossein Hajimiragha (electrical and computer engineering)
• Erin Spicer (biology)

The Daily Bulletin will have more to say about these winners and their teaching in the days ahead.

Link of the day

Lady Day

When and where

Academic Book Sale outside UW bookstore, South Campus Hall, Tuesday-Thursday.

Systems Design Engineering Project Symposium showcases projects from third and fourth-year students, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Davis Centre foyer.

Krispy Kreme “Free the Children” charity sale, doughnuts $8 a dozen, sales Tuesday-Thursday 10:00 to 1:00 at various campus locations, pickup Thursday, proceeds to Clean Water campaign in Kenya.

Smart Searching: Trellis, Journal Articles, and the Internet. Library workshop 10:00, Dana Porter Library, Flex Lab, 3rd floor, details and registration online.

Student exchanges with German universities: presentation for first- and second-year engineering students, 11:30 a.m., Davis Centre room 1304.

Passport to Health, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

‘Let’s Talk Mortgages’, speaker Sharon Feldmann, presented by Education Credit Union, 12:15, Davis Centre room 1302.

Music student recitals, Conrad Grebel University College chapel, 12:30 today, Thursday, Monday, and April 2.

Federation of Students general meeting 3 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

Waterloo Centre for German Studies presents Jagoda Marini, reading from her novel Die Namenlose, 4 p.m., Tatham Centre room 2218. Information: ext. 33684 or wegs@uwaterloo.ca.

German cinema screening, free: “The American Friend” 6:30 p.m., Rod Coutts Hall room 301.

‘Abandoned by Canada’: Waterloo Public Interest Research Group hosts Abdullah Almaki, detained and tortured in Syria, and Matthew Behrens, Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, 7:00, CEIT room 1015.

K-W Little Theatre auditions for “The Three Musketeers” (performance is in July), continuing today and Wednesday, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., Math and Computer room 2034.

Environment and business conference sponsored by fourth-year environment and business students, Wednesday, Humanities Theatre, information e-mail ebconference@gmail.com.

Walk for Darfur: Event sponsored by UW Genocide Action Group, Muslim Students Association and others, Wednesday; speaker Debbie Bodkin of UN Commission of Inquiry, 12:00 noon, Student Life Centre, followed by fund-raising walk around ring road.

Free noon concert: Linda Melsted (Baroque violin) and Terry McKenna (lute and theorbo), “Divisions on a Ground,” Wednesday 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College chapel.

E-health information security workshop sponsored by Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research, Wednesday-Friday, details online.

Smarter Health seminar: William Albino, Smart Systems for Health Agency, “Helping Improve Ontario’s Health Care Through e-Health Innovation,” Wednesday 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Catalyst magazine launch, Wednesday 5 to 7 p.m., Accelerator Building, suite 240, 295 Hagey Boulevard, by invitation, information ext. 37106.

Laurier Centre for Music in the Community open house and special events Thursday-Friday, Wilfrid Laurier University Theatre-Auditorium, details online.

Women in Politics, panel of women politicians and student leaders, hosted by Team Diversity, Friday 2 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

Annual athletics awards reception Friday evening (reception 5:30, dinner 6:30), Columbia Icefield Gym, tickets $17 from athletics office, PAC.

UW Stage Band spring concert Sunday 2:00, Conrad Grebel University College great hall, admission $8 (students/seniors $5).

UW Chamber Choir spring concert, Sunday 3:00, Waterloo North Mennonite Church, 100 Benjamin Road, admission $10 (students/seniors $8).

UW board of governors Tuesday, April 1, 1:00 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Friends of the Library Lecture: “Afghanistan: Is There an Answer?” by John Manley, former deputy prime minister of Canada, Tuesday, April 1, 4 p.m., Humanities Theatre. Seating is limited; register ext. 32281, or ckieswet@uwaterloo.ca.

Orchestra@UWaterloo spring concert: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Chopin’s 2nd Piano Concerto, featuring concerto competition winner Taylor Wang, Thursday, April 3, 8:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre, tickets free from Humanities box office.

Last day of classes for winter term is Monday, April 7; examinations April 10-24.

Staff salary system and settlement information sessions, Tuesday, April 15, 12:30 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 113, repeated April 23, same time and room.

Senate recommends deficit budget

A budget that will see UW spend more than it takes in during 2008-09 got the okay from the university senate last night, and will go to the board of governors for final approval next week.

The negative bottom line, calculated at $2.9 million, is possible partly because UW won’t have a deficit in the current year, as originally expected, but a razor-thin surplus.

Spending for the coming year — on faculty and staff salaries, utilities, library materials, office supplies, insurance and computers — is proposed at a record $406.5 million, including millions for the cost of new or expanded programs. Income is forecast at $403.5 million, chiefly from government grants ($187 million) and tuition fees ($175 million).

Keeping the deficit from being closer to $8 million is an “expenditure reduction” of 2.0 per cent, levied on most spending across the university. It’s the latest in an annual series of such cuts, which require UW’s departments to drop activities, keep vacant positions open or find other ways of saving money. For the record, previous reductions have been 2 per cent in 2007-08, 1.5 per cent in 2006-07, 1 per cent in 2005-06, 2 per cent in 2004-05, 2 per cent in 2003-04, 2 per cent in 2002-03 and 3.5 per cent in 2001-02

Provost Amit Chakma, the key figure in preparing UW’s operating budget, has been describing the likely outlines of this budget, including the expenditure cut, for some time, but the actual document wasn’t available until yesterday. “Senate Finance Committee, just before this meeting, received the budget and is recommending that senate recommend the 2008-09 operating budget as presented,” said Chakma at last night’s meeting in the board and senate room of Needles Hall.

Approval by the senate — which came unanimously — is a recommendation that the board of governors, which is in charge of UW’s finances, give “favourable consideration” to the operating budget, according to UW procedure, he explained.

Chakma provided some background and context for the budget, noting that UW is carrying “a structural deficit” although in other respects the budget is balanced.

Explanation: an increase of 5 per cent in tuition fee levels — the most that the provincial government will allow — means an increase of about 2.1 per cent in UW’s total funding. Government grants aren’t expected to go up at all this year, although academic leaders will be listening keenly to what’s said in today’s Ontario budget in case there’s some kind of news for university operations across the province.

Set against the income increase is an estimated 5.5 per cent annual rise in UW’s costs, largely for salaries — both scale increases and the cost of individuals’ progress through the salary ranks. Subtract 2.1 per cent from 5.5 per cent, and UW is falling behind at a rate of more than $12 million a year.

In the past, enrolment growth has helped to bridge that gap — because more students have meant more fee revenue and, sometimes, more grants. But “we are in an environment where the ground rules have changed,” Chakma said last night. “There is no [financial] incentive for us to take any more domestic undergraduate students — the only reason we continue to take them is that they add to our quality.” Some faculties have already reached their maximum potential for taking in international students in greater numbers, he observed.

There was a bit of discussion at the close of the budget presentation, focusing on how or whether UW is doing better than the University of Toronto (the authority there is engineering dean Adel Sedra, formerly U of T’s provost), and on how UW’s decentralization may make across-the-board cuts more palatable.

One senate member observed that repeated spending cuts may in fact result in an unofficial hiring freeze, despite the provost’s assurance that no such freeze is in place. Another reflected on how graduate student tuition is set centrally but grads’ funding is determined at the departmental level, resulting in some students suffering income cuts.

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Highlights of the past two weeks

[Sloss]Life at the university definitely didn’t stand still during the two weeks that I’ve been away. My thanks to colleague Pat Bow for putting out Daily Bulletins that told the campus (and me) about some important developments, including the election of Craig Sloss (left) as the next president of the Graduate Student Association, the awards given to a star from each of the six faculties as UW’s Co-op Students of the Year, and approval by the Ontario ministry of the environment that brings three proposed playing fields in UW’s north campus “environmental reserve” one step closer to reality.

Thursday’s Daily Bulletin included a news release about research by the Geoff Fong team in UW’s department of psychology, described as “one of the first to show that smoking in a car poses a potentially serious health hazard to occupants — particularly children — and that common methods of ventilation do not eliminate the hazard”. I knew that story was coming, and was expected to catch some public attention for Waterloo’s smoking research. Michael Strickland, the university’s director of media relations, tells me it was immediately reported in the Globe and Mail and covered on CTV’s “Canada AM”, and more coverage is to be expected.

There was the big snowstorm on Saturday night, March 8; there was the “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister” broadcast this past weekend, in which Waterloo’s Kevin Royal came third behind young politicos from Saskatoon and Ottawa; there was the broadcast of a “Best Lecturer” virtuoso performance by Robert Jan van Pelt of the UW school of architecture (results of that competition, organized by TV Ontario, aren’t in yet).

And of course there was the news of a salary settlement for UW’s staff for the next two years, subject to routine approval by the university’s board of governors next week. It’s a complicated business, but the most important point is a two-step process that will be carried out this spring and repeated in the spring of 2009. Each year, first the staff salary scales will be adjusted upwards, so that all the individual salaries will stand lower relative to the “job rate”, making everybody eligible for bigger merit increases. Then the usual increase process will happen, raising scales by 3 per cent and individual salaries by more or less than that figure depending on “job rate” position and merit rating. The result, according to the staff compensation committee, will be “an additional increase to all staff that is equitable with the market adjustment provided for in the faculty settlement” a few weeks ago.

[Johnston speaking]UW president David Johnston (right) is on government service again. Prime minister Stephen Harper announced late last week that Johnston has agreed to resume his role as independent advisor to "finalize recommendations by April 4, 2008, on the mandate for a public inquiry into allegations respecting the financial dealings between Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney." Johnston has been asked to take into account his preliminary report on the matter, delivered January 9, as well as the recently completed hearings by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. Says a statement from the university: “As with his first stint as special advisor, President Johnston has declined to comment at this time, or give media interviews. During his government task he will continue as UW president supported by his senior administration and staff.”

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What 7 profs are doing on sabbatical

Dozens of UW faculty members are on sabbatical leave this season, and here’s another list of some of them, with summaries of their sabbatical plans as submitted to the university’s board of governors. All the sabbaticals in this list are for six months that began January 1, 2008.

Laurent Marcoux, pure mathematics: “Over the next year I intend to focus my research in two areas of Operator Theory. First, I will continue to look into the question of which operator algebras are similar to C*-algebras, and second, I will be looking at a question regarding double commutants of subalgebras of operator algebras.”

Aimee Morrison, English: “My doctoral research and subsequent publications and teaching concern the cultural study of technology: how people integrate, or not, technologies into their everyday lives. This sabbatical will extend this work into a particular subfield, the study of the rhetorical construction of self-hood in online modes of life-writing, culminating in an article, several conference presentations, and a SSHRC Standard Research Grant proposal (with Linda Warley) in Fall 2008.”

Joan Coutu, fine arts: “My intention is to write the manuscript for a book, Whig Aesthetes and the Forming of English Taste, c. 1750. All of the primary and much of the secondary research has been completed. This is a project that was funded by a standard SSHRC grant.”

Chrysanne DiMarco, computer science: “I will be undertaking several collaborative projects: automated generation of personalized health information (collaborators: University Health Network Cancer Center; Grand River Hospital); automated classification of semantic links between documents (collaborators: Google; Professor Fraser Shein, University of Toronto (tentative). I am also transitioning into Bioinformatics, with a project in biomedical information extraction using discourse-based Computational Linguistics.

Weizhen Dong, sociology: “China is undergoing social and economic transformation. Health care system reform has been the most problematic social issue in China. My plan is to write a book on health care reform in Shanghai, China, especially the medical savings account and its equity implications.”

Diana Denton, drama and speech communication: “Using my CFI infrastructure in collaboration with colleagues at other universities in Canada and in the United States, I will be conducting research in the area of ‘Trans-traditional Spirituality: Communicating Across Differences’ to explore ways of integrating spirituality and intercultural dialogue into classroom practice and discover how students are integrating this learning experience. Results will be disseminated in journal articles and conferences.”

Pascal Poupart, computer science: “I will focus on the publication of some of my recent work on partially observable Markov decision processes and Bayesian reinforcement learning in first-rate journals, and the development of ‘intelligent walkers’ for eldercare. The intelligent walker project is a multi-disciplinary effort led by me in collaboration with the Research Institute in Aging at UW and Winston Park Retirement Homes in Kitchener. I expect to spend most of my time in Waterloo, but may occasionally travel to conferences and to visit colleagues at other universities.”


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