Wednesday, October 22, 2008

  • 'Turmoil and challenge,' but no panic
  • Health services offers annual flu shots
  • Cold facts on an October morning
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

'Turmoil and challenge,' but no panic

Postponing any new hiring at UW for the next six months should let the university avoid more drastic steps when the 2009-10 budget takes shape, provost Amit Chakma said on Monday.

The provost and UW president David Johnston were speaking to the monthly meeting of the university senate a few hours after the president circulated a letter advising departments to “postpone hiring into any new or vacant positions until April 30, 2009. Exceptions will be subject to approval by the Provost, in response to a recommendation by a Dean, Associate Provost or other member of Executive Council. As well, we are asking that discretionary spending, especially on large items, be delayed until April 30, 2009.”

If that step weren’t taken now, there could be a danger of “layoffs and early retirements” if it turns out that UW was facing a financial crunch in the new year, Chakma said.

“It is important for us not to panic,” he told the senate. Said Johnston: “I don’t regard this situation as an extraordinary calamity — by no means catastrophic. . . . Compared to other institutions across the country, we believe that we are in rather good shape.”

The measures are being taken in response to the economic chaos that began in the United States earlier this fall and now threatens a worldwide recession. “Even if the financial system is stabilized,” Johnston wrote in his Monday memo, “it appears that we face a significant period of economic weakness.”

Speaking to the senate, he noted the danger of “flat or reduced university operating grants” if governments find their revenues shrinking, and recalled that grants to higher education from the Ontario government were cut by 15 per cent in mid-year in 1995-96. Anything like that “is highly unlikely” now, he said, but it’s best to be prepared.

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty is expected to present an economic update today, and Johnston predicted that the premier “will do his very best to protect the post-secondary sector”.

He showed senate a summary of the issues that might face the university in a time of economic downturn. Some key points:

• Reduced value of pension fund investments — although, thanks to “prudent management”, a balance sheet for UW’s fund was filed earlier this year showing a healthy surplus, so it shouldn’t be necessary to make any adjustments to employer contributions to the plan before 2011.

• Reduced income from UW’s $250 million endowment funds.

• A shortage of co-op jobs (so UW itself might need to hire more students) and increased demand for student grants and loans.

• “Increased student demand for grad programs” as people postpone entering the labour force. Similarly, “Co-op will be more relevant and in demand,” the president predicted.

He said UW is starting from a good place, as the deficit that had been expected for the 2008-09 fiscal year is being wiped out by the fees from a larger-than-predicted fall enrolment. UW has “relatively low” debt for its construction projects (about 2.8 per cent of annual income, the president said) and “strong financial management”.

His proposed course of action: “Meet first-year undergrad entrance targets for September 2009 . . . recruit hard-to-meet first-year international undergraduate entrance targets . . . reduce undergraduate dropout rates considerably . . . expand existing graduate programs and create new ones.” (Chakma noted that UW has asked the province to fund 700 more graduate student places in the coming year, which would include some extra growth that has already taken place. An answer to the request is expected soon from Queen’s Park.)

In addition, said the president, the university needs to expand its external research funding, keep the fund-raising going toward the often-stated target of $100 million a year, reduce costs where possible, and “use turmoil and challenge to be creative, collegial and bold.”

He commented that UW’s megaprojects — “non-normal initiatives” such as the proposed Stratford campus and the Quantum-Nano Centre — are “not bleeding from the overall budget” because they’re financed by separate support such as private gifts and government block grants.

Justin Williams, president of the Federation of Students, warned at the senate meeting that if enrolment goes up while no new staff or faculty are being hired, the ratio will rise and quality is bound to be threatened. That’s a danger, Johnston agreed, if deans and departments don’t take care in how they deploy their resources. A faculty member on senate asked whether professors will have to spend more effort on teaching in the next year and less on research, and the president said yes, that sounds likely.

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Health services offers annual flu shots

As sharp as ever, the staff in UW's Health Services are ready to stick it to you, with the announcement that flu shots are now available for "high risk" people and in November will be offered to students, faculty staff and family members.

Anybody in the "high risk" group can visit the clinic (it's in the white building overlooking the pond across from the Student Life Centre) and see a nurse any time between 9 and 5 Monday to Thursday and 9 to 4 on Fridays.

Among the people who might be on campus and are officially classified as "high risk":

  • UW police, daycare workers and Optometry students currently in clinic.
  • Persons 65 years of age or over.
  • Those with diabetes or other metabolic disease, chronic cardiac or respiratory conditions (asthma), cancer, kidney disease, blood disorders or anyone whose immune system is weakened.
  • Anyone who lives, works or volunteers in a nursing home, retirement home or chronic care facility.
  • People who live in the same household as, or are in close contact with, a person who is at increased risk of the flu’s more serious effects.

For the "healthy" population — everybody who's not classified as high-risk — the flu immunization clinic is November 11, 12, 13 and 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

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Cold facts on an October morning

Paving work is scheduled in several spots on campus over the next few days, the plant operations department advises. This morning, crews will be doing their tarry thing in the South Campus Hall and Doug Wright Engineering service area; this afternoon they'll move on to the Chemistry road, beside the CEIT building, and then, if time allows, to the Math and Computer loading area. Tomorrow, after Math and Computer is finished, the work turns to the Matthews Hall service area and the roadway between Needles Hall and the Dana Porter Library. No paving is scheduled for Friday, but Monday the crews will be back to finish up the NH and Library job.

Monday night's meeting of the UW senate began with some comments from president David Johnston about the way plans are moving ahead for a campus in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular. "Varying degrees of disquiet" have been expressed by some senate members and faculty, Johnston said, particularly on matters of human rights and the social environment in the UAE. If there are still concerns, he said, questions can be sent to him or to the secretary of senate (university secretary Lois Claxton) and he'll report at the senate's next meeting, in November. As for the process by which UW's governing bodies are giving approval to the plan, he noted that in October 2007 the board of governors gave approval to an agreement between UW and its "local partner" on the project, the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training. He added that there will be "more fulsome" discussion before senate is asked to approve any matters, such as curriculum for the UAE campus, that are specifically its responsibility. "So," said the president, "we'll proce4ed with our Abu Dhabi plans as we have."

An e-mail message yesterday gave staff the lowdown on computer training courses offered in the next few weeks: "Information Systems and Technology and Organizational & Human Development are pleased to announce that the Skills for the Electronic Workplace electronic registration brochure for the November and December 2008 courses is now available online. The digital brochure is a PDF that can be filled out and submitted for registration via email. In addition to SEW’s popular core programming for electronic workplace applications, highlights of this late autumn brochure include courses on Graphics for the Web, Search Engine Optimization, as well as courses on the use of technology in planning & organizing. Download your copy of the SEW Registration form. Alternatively, to download the brochure directly from our website, please visit and select 'Technology/SEW' from the left-hand navigation menu. Hard copies of the brochure have been mailed out to those staff that do not have access to e-mail. As well, hard copies of the brochure are available upon request. More information about IST and its SEW course offerings can be found on our website."

Kate Jessop of UW's marketing and undergraduate recruitment office is off to southeast Asia this week and next. "The main focus of this two-week tour," she writes, "is independent school visits to the top high schools in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. This is our first recruitment tour in Southeast Asia. We are building on the efforts that Andre Jardin and the Faculty of Math have built in Singapore and Malaysia over the past few years. I will be participating in public fairs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. I am also hosting a University of Waterloo event on Saturday, November 1, at the Canadian Education Centre in Singapore for all prospective undergraduate and graduate students." It's all part of the effort to increase the number of international students, who pay the full cost of their UW education or even more. The just-published Performance Indicators report for UW says international students make up 9 per cent of UW's undergraduates (or as much as 24 per cent in mathematics) and 25 per cent of graduate students (35 per cent in math and 31 per cent in engineering).

A number of contact lens researchers from UW's school of optometry are away this week in Anaheim, California (forecast high today, 34 Celsius). They're attending a meeting of the American Academy of Optometry, today through Saturday. Nine UW experts will be presenting papers: Eric Papas ("The Causes of Chronic Contact Lens End-of-Day Discomfort and Dryness"), Desmond Fonn, Trefford Simpson, Lyndon Jones, Kathy Dumbleton ("Silicone Hydrogel Lens Materials"), Debbie Sweeney, Mark Willcox, Dwight Cavanagh ("Probable Causes of Fungal and Amoebic Infections") and Brien Holden.


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Neil Thomson is serving this fall as chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering. A specialist in soil and water contaminants, he took over the chair on May 1, when Leo Rothenburg left that post to get ready to be acting dean of engineering. A new long-term department chair is to take office January 1.

Link of the day

The world didn't end then either

When and where

Bachelor of Social Work information session 11:45, Renison University College chapel lounge.

Faculty of Science Gairdner Foundation Lecture: Tak Mak, Ontario Cancer Institute and University of Toronto, “All the Flowers of All the Tomorrows Are in the Seeds of Today”, 10:30 a.m., for high school students, Humanities Theatre. Afternoon lecture by Sydney Brenner cancelled.

Poet Nathaniel G. Moore reads from his work 4:00, St. Jerome’s University room 3027.

Career workshop: “Professional School Interviews” 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Columbia Lake Health Club Lifestyle Learning: “Tips to Burn Body Fat”, 5:30, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

Grand River Film Festival 2008 screenings of 15 films October 22-25, including some at UW Architecture building, Cambridge. Details.

Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology presents Dave Howlett, “Knocking Down Silos”, 6:00, Federation Hall. Details.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Thomas Homer-Dixon, UW faculty of arts and Balsillie School, “Homegrown or Flown-In: Is Local Food Always Best?” 7:00, 57 Erb Street West.

Earth and environmental sciences seminar: Bill Martindale, Calgary, “Exploration and Development of Western Canadian Devonian Reservoirs”, Thursday 10:00, Davis Centre room 1304.

Blood donor clinic Thursday (10:00 to 4:00) and Friday (9:00 to 3:00), Student Life Centre, book appointments at turnkey desk or call 1-888-236-6283.

China Week literary symposium, “The Nature of Fiction”, Thursday 12:00 to 4:00, Renison UC chapel lounge, by invitation.

Surplus sale of UW furnishings and equipment, Thursday 12:30 to 2:00 p.m., East Campus Hall.

Federation of Students annual general meeting Thursday 12:30 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

‘African Americans in American Presidential Politics’, lecture by history professor Andrew Hunt, Thursday 7:00, Humanities Theatre, free, reservations online.

Sawatsky Lectures at Conrad Grebel University College, revised dates: Mary Oyer, Goshen College, “Hymns That Have Endured”, Thursday 7:30 p.m.; workshop, “Enlivening Congregational Song”, Friday 7:30 p.m., both in Grebel great hall.

Last day for 50 per cent tuition fee refund for fall courses, October 24.

United Way formal dress day (academic regalia or other fancy dress) Friday. Details.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel UC, breakfast seminar, “Managing Generational Differences”, October 24, 7 a.m., Waterloo Inn.

Employer rankings for winter term co-op jobs open Friday 1 p.m.

Applied health sciences lecture: Ron Zernicke, University of Michigan, “Skeletal Adaptation to Diet, Exercise or Injury,” Friday 2:30, Lyle Hallman Institute room 1621.

Fall Convocation Saturday, Physical Activities Complex: arts and applied health sciences, 10 a.m.; engineering, environment, math and science, 2:30 p.m. Details.

Annual Gem and Mineral Show (theme: International Year of Planet Earth), Saturday-Sunday 10:00 to 5:00, earth sciences museum, CEIT building, with dealers, demonstrations, children’s activities, feature lecture by earth sciences professor Alan Morgan. Details.

World Religions Conference with remarks from representatives of nine faiths: “Founders of Religion, Model for Humanity” Sunday 10:00 to 6:00, Humanities Theatre, admission free. Details.

Staff association annual general meeting October 30, 8:45 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Fall open house for future students November 1. Information booths at Student Life Centre, 10:00 to 4:00; academic sessions from 10:30; residence tours; also includes School of Architecture in Cambridge. Details.

Public Service of Canada Career Expo November 4, 1:30 to 6:30, Federation Hall, with representatives of 23 federal departments.

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