Tuesday, December 8, 2009

  • 'Delicate situations' for faculty members
  • Looking for ‘distinguished’ teachers
  • The geography of the flu virus
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

'Delicate situations' for faculty members

The UW faculty association holds its fall general meeting this afternoon (2:00 in Math and Computer room 4020) and will hear a series of reports, including a confidential update from the chair of its compensation committee, Metin Renksizbulut. He will presumably talk about negotiations toward a new salary agreement between UW and its faculty members that’s due as of May 1, 2010.

Not so confidential is the printed report from the Academic Freedom and Tenure committee, which was headed for much of the past year by the association’s past president, David DeVidi. He has now handed the AF&T responsibility over to Sally Gunz of the school of accountancy.

Here’s a portion of DeVidi’s AF&T report as it was distributed for today’s meeting:

“There is currently one on-going case at arbitration. It is an individual grievance that the FAUW Board voted to support financially, applying its established criteria for offering such support (which include such matters as whether there is a realistic prospect of winning the grievance, whether the case involves issues important to the membership at large, whether the request for financial assistance was made to the AF&T Committee in a timely way, whether FAUW will have appropriate levels of control on the way the case is conducted, and so on). The issues involved include the proper handling of cases of violence in the workplace, what constitutes discipline of a faculty member, and other related issues.

“As it turns out, this case will not be as expensive as it might have been, because CAUT has agreed to provide legal counsel, since the case is one regarded as having implications nationally. The case has taken a very long time because of health issues, first with an arbitrator, then with legal counsel for both sides in turn.

“There is one other case that FAUW is aware of that has been taken to the Human Rights Commission by a member. Since under the Memorandum of Agreement between FAUW and the University we have ‘individual carriage,’ it is a right for faculty members to grieve on their own —under most collective agreements, such complaints go forward if and only if the association pursues them — or take private action, including taking a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, which is what happened in this case. FAUW is not a party to this case, though the Association did seek standing to intervene on one technical matter having to do with the confidentiality of documents about specific individuals.

“By far, most of the work of the AF&T Committee takes place without reaching the stage of formal grievance (let alone arbitration). UW is a large institution, so there are constantly issues that arise. Most often these can be resolved at the level of informal discussion. It is a right of faculty members to be accompanied by an academic colleague whenever they are called to meetings with administrators that might result in discipline, or in situations that might eventuate in grievances, and AF&T colleagues are often a good choice for this role.

“But very often AF&T provides advice for people without chairs or deans ever knowing that the advice has been offered. And, indeed, it is not unheard of for deans or chairs to consult with AF&T about the proper handling of a delicate situation because they want to ensure that people's rights are respected. The number of major hassles at UW is much lower than it is at some other universities, and the role of AF&T in helping things be sorted out fairly at an early, informal stage has a lot to do with it, I think.”

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Looking for ‘distinguished’ teachers

'Tis the season, now that the fall term is at an end, to pay tribute to teachers who are way out of the ordinary. The nomination deadline for this year's Distinguished Teacher Award and Exceptional Teaching by a Student Award come in February, but the Centre for Teaching Excellence, which manages the process, is suggesting that right now is a good time for appreciative students and colleagues to get things rolling and nominate those they think are deserving.

It takes ten nominators to bring up a professor or other instructor for consideration by the DTA selection committee, though the CTE stresses that it's not the number of signatures on some petition that matters, it's the quality of information provided about why an individual's teaching is worthy of an award.

The ten nominators have to include at least five present or past students of the instructor. Nominations should come, says the CTE web site, in "a typed or legible handwritten letter". Background information can range from letters written by colleagues, to "descriptions of teaching innovations".

Distinguished Teacher Awards have been given at UW for more than three decades. The honour includes a certificate, presented at Convocation, and a grant to be used for future teaching activities. Four awards are generally given each year, "in recognition of continued record of excellence in teaching at the University of Waterloo".

The award, the official criteria say, "is open to all those who teach students at the University of Waterloo and is not limited just to those holding faculty appointments. The Selection Committee will look for evidence of intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter, along with evidence of educational impact beyond the classroom.

“The teacher's human quality and concern for and sensitivity to the needs of students are obvious criteria. The Selection Committee will look for a clear indication that the nominee has favourable and lasting influence on students and, where relevant, on colleagues. Evidence of successful innovation in teaching or publications/presentations on teaching and learning would support a nomination, but it is also clear that excellence in teaching does not necessarily require either.

"Members of the University community are urged to renominate candidates who have not won an award in previous years and who continue to show excellence in teaching performance. It only takes one nomination letter in the current year to make a whole file of accumulated past support admissible. Of course, new evidence is always desirable.”

As for the ETSA — aimed at honouring teaching assistants and students in similar roles — the process is very similar. Says the CTE web site: "Nominations should consist of detailed statements making the case for the award. A complete nomination consists of at least five signatures from present or past students of the nominees and from past and present faculty supervisors of the nominee. A minimum of three of the signatures must be present or past students."

But one thing is new this year. The awards for students who teach have a new name, as the result of a financial gift to the university from former provost Amit Chakma, marking his departure last June 30. They're now the Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching by a Student.

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The geography of the flu virus

by Karina Graf, from the Inside Scoop newsletter for UW co-op students

Andrew Janes’ most recent co-op term has been a jumble of secrecy and confidentiality.

When first approached for an interview, he agreed. However, soon afterwards he said he couldn’t release any information. His emails sounded 007-esque, with lines like, “until it is released there is not much I can mention” and “the information I could provide at the moment wouldn’t be enough.”

With all the secrecy, you might think he was working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) on a top-secret plot to foil terrorists. Actually, he was studying the spread of the H1N1 virus.

[Janes at his computer]You’ve heard the buzz for months now . . . use hand sanitizer like it’s going out of style. But how do we actually know what’s going on with the H1N1 virus (previously known as “swine flu”)? Janes (right), a 3B geography student, spent his past two co-op terms at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto studying the virus’s spread with a team of experts.

With co-op terms in fall 2008 and spring 2009, he started his second term soon after the outbreak in Mexico was first recognized. His team of physicians, epidemiologists, mathematicians, statisticians, geographers and public health officials accurately predicted how the virus would spread. “With the recent outbreak we’ve been analyzing travel patterns and the spread of H1N1 around the globe,” says Janes. “Our work’s been used to provide information to the province and government during the height of the outbreak.”

As a research assistant/cartographer, he used his Geographic Information System skills learned at Waterloo to map these global travel patterns. “I’m helping in the production of maps and figures for use in reports and journals, and the creation of web maps for display on the biodiaspora.com website.”

The research team began developing a system after the 2003 SARS crisis. The system rapidly evaluates air traffic patterns to accurately predict how diseases and viruses will travel around the world. According to a CTV news article, the team’s H1N1 analysis was conducted less than 24 hours after the virus appeared.

The original secrecy surrounding the project was to prevent information leaking before the report was complete. It has since been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, used by Canadian government health agencies, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, and attracted media attention.

For a geography student, work at St. Michael’s came as a bit of a surprise. “After growing up with a parent in the medical field, I’ve always been surrounded by the health world,” he says, “At first I wasn’t aware of the connections between geography and the medical community, but this co-op position changed the way I look at the use of geography. Most people think geographers will end up teaching, analyzing the physical environment or just making maps, but this position opened my eyes to the variety of uses for GIS and just how diverse geography can be. Geography can be used just about anywhere and using it in medicine is a great way to have a positive influence on the world. I’d like to continue apply my knowledge of cartography and geography within the medical community."


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IT conference under way today

The annual WatITis conference for information technology staff across campus is taking place today in Rod Coutts Hall, with as many as five technical sessions at a time happening for most of the day. The conference begins with a keynote talk by Geoff McBoyle, UW's associate vice-president (academic), and winds up with a reception at the Graduate House.

In between, sessions deal with such topics as the project to introduce a new web content management system; Mobile Application Development (Ed Chrzanowski of the Computer Science Computing Facility); "Web Application Threats and Remediation" (Terry Labach of information systems and technology); career development at UW (Katrina DiGravio of organizational and human development an Neil Murray of human resources); telecommunications; cloud computing; Windows 7; videoconferencing; and the future of the ACE course management system.

Some of the WatITis presentations will be featured in the Daily Bulletin over the next few days and weeks.

Link of the day

Immaculate Conception

When and where

Kinesiology Lab Days for visiting high school students, December 7-11 and 14-16, Matthews Hall, information carchiba@ uwaterloo.ca.

English Language Proficiency Examination today, PAC. Details.

Carol sing led by UW Choir, Chamber Choir and Chapel Choir, 12:00, Davis Centre great hall, cancelled.

Senate undergraduate council 12:00, Needles Hall room 3004.

Arts faculty council 3:30, PAS building room 2438.

Canadian Federation of University Women monthly meeting: Michelle Hur, Enermodal Engineering, “Buildings for a Greener World” 7:30 p.m., First United Church, King and William Streets.

Fall term examinations December 9-22; unofficial grades begin appearing in Quest December 23; grades become official January 25.

Grand River Transit initial sign-up for staff and faculty bus passes through payroll deduction, Wednesday 11:00 to 2:00, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Federation of Students town hall forum on “diversity at UW” Wednesday 12:00 noon, Student Life Centre great hall.

Department of history celebration of faculty achievements, with remarks by six professors about their recent books, Wednesday 2:00 to 4:00, UW bookstore, South Campus Hall.

Christmas dinner buffet at University Club, Wednesday and December 16, 5:00 to 8:00, $36.95 per person, reservations ext. 33801.

UW-ACE Instructor User Group Thursday 10:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Ontario Research Funding celebration of grant recipients at UW and Wilfrid Laurier University, Friday 10:00 a.m., Chemistry II room 064, by invitation, information ext. 33580.

Fee payment deadline for winter term, December 17 (promissory note), December 29 (bank transfer). Details.

Weight Watchers at Work information session and sign-up for winter series, December 17, 12:00, Humanities room 373; information ext. 32218.

Payday for faculty and monthly-paid staff Wednesday, December 23; for biweekly-paid staff, December 18 and 31.

Christmas and New Year’s holidays: UW closed Thursday, December 24, through Friday, January 1, reopening Monday, January 4. Winter term classes begin Monday, January 4.

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