Friday, April 9, 2010

  • Pay rules still unclear, town hall is told
  • Among the priorities: student 'engagement'
  • New cash-out rule in pension plan
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Pay rules still unclear, town hall is told

There was talk about green space and construction, there was talk about the demand for PhD graduates (strong, with the number of university students worldwide expected to double from 100 million to 200 million), there was talk about improving student “engagement” and reducing the dropout rate — but mostly, there was talk about money, and particularly about salaries.

That was the “town hall meeting” with Waterloo president David Johnston and provost Feridun Hamdullahpur, a 90-minute session that packed the 500-seat Theatre of the Arts yesterday. Like previous meetings of its kind, it was moderated by vice-president (external relations) Meg Beckel, who answered some of the questions in rapid-fire fashion and tossed others to the president and the provost.

The one statement that drew noticeable applause from the faculty and staff audience came almost at the end of the meeting, when one questioner asked Hamdullahpur to return to the issue of salaries, and how the university’s employees will be affected by the public sector “freeze” announced in the Ontario budget late last month. The faculty association is asserting that it’s not covered by the fine print of the freeze legislation, she said; did the provost think the outcome might be better treatment for one employee group than for another?

“You have our assurance,” said Hamdullahpur, “that there will be no differential treatment of staff and faculty.” People clapped at that.

Earlier, he had discussed the freeze — and other aspects of the Ontario budget — at length, stressing that “there are a number of grey areas” and university officials simply don’t know what rules are going to apply. For example, he said, even if the university can’t give scale increases in salaries, it could still be allowable to give merit increases (for staff) and “progress through the ranks” increases (for faculty).

But “until we have some clear directions from the government as to what flexibility we have, we will not be able to provide answers,” Hamdullahpur said. And Johnston took the matter a step further: nobody is going to be getting a pay increase on the scheduled May 1 date this year. “It would be foolish for us to proceed,” he said, “and have to adjust it, upwards or downwards.”

Aside from the salary freeze, the provincial budget was good news for higher education, including Waterloo, the provost told his audience. The government is providing extra funds, on the order of $300 million in the coming year, for universities, colleges and apprenticeship programs to make room for 20,000 more young people. The money must be used for new jobs (and other costs), not for pay increases — and that means Waterloo’s likely to be hiring new people.

As a result, he said, the recent practice of “mission critical” hiring will be relaxed a little, and instead of filling 40 per cent of vacancies, the university will hire somebody for “definitely over 50 per cent” of those vacant jobs, as well as creating new positions, both faculty and staff.

And the 3.5 per cent cut that was going to apply to most of the university’s operating budget for the 2010-11 year will be significantly less, possibly on the order of 2 per cent, Hamdullahpur said.

He promised that “no unit will be put in a position that it will be unable to function” for lack of people, and added that there’s some intention to add to staffing in areas that will improve student services. He expressed the hope that as a result, “staff will be able to enjoy what they’re doing — and help our students to be successful.”

Johnston mentioned later that another growth area is certain to be the course-based or “professional” master’s degrees that are a big part of Waterloo’s plans for graduate study and that bring hefty tuition fees to the university.

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Among the priorities: student 'engagement'

The town hall meeting started with overview remarks first from Johnston, who concentrated on national and provincial economic conditions, and then from Hamdullahpur, who reminded his audience that he’s been in the provost’s job for “seven months and eight days” and said he believes Waterloo is “on a fantastic trajectory” of growth and achievement.

Both leaders repeated their strong support for the Sixth Decade Plan, which sets out Waterloo’s ambitions for an international level of excellence. “But do we have what it takes to deliver on that plan?” Hamdullahpur asked, and then gave his answer: “We have the most important ingredients. We have the staff, faculty and students.”

What the university doesn’t have, right away, is the money, he said. Inevitably, not all the Sixth Decade goals can be worked on at once: “We cannot accomplish all these things at once, and some of them are quite resource-intensive.” Setting some priorities, he said, will be a major task for the annual “K-Bay” retreat of the university’s top executives, to be held just before Victoria Day as it is every year.

Hamdullahpur said he hopes to move towards a “multi-year” budgeting system to help move resources into the priority areas, rather than writing a budget every spring that looks just twelve months ahead.

Both executives spoke of a renewed emphasis on student quality of life, student “engagement”, student “success”, and retention — an end to the wasteful system by which Waterloo recruits a sizeable number of first-year students who never make it to second year, often for lack of support services and an undergraduate experience that catches their enthusiasm.

Students should be engaged “with the institution, with their professors, and with each other”, said Hamdullahpur, promising “some significant changes”, including reorganization of student services following last winter’s retirement of associate provost Catharine Scott.

Stress is a major issue for students, said Johnston, who had praise for “the superb leader of our counselling services”, Tom Ruttan, and his work in identifying problems that keep students from flourishing. “I worry,” said the president, “that our kids are so career-oriented and so focused that they don’t have enough joy in that four-year or five-year period.”

• Confessing that it felt a little awkward to be defending his own salary, Johnston answered a question posed by Beckel: “Why do the president and vice-presidents make so much money?” He acknowledged that high pay — and especially the large payment to former provost Amit Chakma, who left Waterloo last summer — “has been a matter of concern and irritation”. In general, he said, salaries are a matter of keeping Waterloo competitive, both for executives and for faculty members in general; a rough target is to keep this university “in the top five in Canada” for faculty salaries, and “near the top quartile” of major universities for senior leaders.

• Construction projects have no direct impact on the operating budget, Hamdullahpur said in answer to a question. They’re funded from government infrastructure programs, research agencies, or donors’ gifts, not from money that could otherwise be spent on operations — and in many cases, he said, the construction budget includes money to operate the building for at least the first few years after it’s completed.

• “Our objective is to ensure that there is a parking space for every member of faculty and staff,” Johnston told the audience, admitting that “it may not be quite as close” as once was the case. Building a multi-storey parking garage is “inevitable”, he added, but predicted that it won’t be in the next five years.

A few other notes from the town hall meeting will find their way into the Daily Bulletin in the days ahead. Meanwhile, anybody who wants a different take on yesterday’s proceedings can find it on Twitter, in a lively series of comments posted during the event itself, mostly by @jrodgers (Jesse Rodgers, associate director of VeloCity and former president of the staff association) and @write_girl (Kayleigh Platz of communications and public affairs).

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New cash-out rule in pension plan

Two changes to the University of Waterloo pension plan were approved at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Governors, says a memo that was distributed to staff and faculty members yesterday. Here’s what it says:

[Quotation marks]Both of these Pension Plan changes were recommended to the Board by the Pension & Benefits Committee after careful consideration and consultation, including pension information sessions in November 2009 at which these changes were addressed.

The two changes to the Pension Plan are as follows:

• Starting January 1, 2012, the annual interest credited on required member contributions to the Pension Plan (including the accumulated contribution balances as of December 31, 2011 and future contributions) will be determined using  the five-year personal fixed-term chartered bank deposit rates. The actual rates to be used are prescribed under the Regulations to the Pension Benefits Act. The current method of crediting interest on required member contributions using the four-year average rate of return on the pension fund will remain in effect up to December 31, 2011 (the interest credit for 2010 is 2.01%).

For members with voluntary contribution balances or with contributions under the Flex Account, the interest to be credited will continue to be based on the rate of return on the pension fund.

• For retirements after January 1, 2014, the option available between ages 55 and 65 to be treated as a terminated employee and to transfer an amount equal to the commuted value of the pension benefit out of the Pension Plan will no longer be offered. However, this option will continued to be available after January 1, 2014 to members who retire between ages 55 and 65 and at the time of retirement have a child who is eligible for the impairment credit under the Income Tax Act.

The Pension & Benefits Committee has a number of objectives in managing the Pension Plan including: balancing the needs of the members and the costs of the Pension Plan, ensuring pension funds are used wisely, maintaining equity among plan members and focusing on the core retirement promise which is to pay pensions to employees retiring from the University of Waterloo. These two changes to the Pension Plan meet these objectives[Quotation marks] while maintaining the long-term sustainability of the Pension Plan.  

If you have questions please contact Stacey Parsons, Pension Co-ordinator (ext. 32046) or Wanda Speek, Pension Advisor (ext. 33573), or any member of the Pension & Benefits Committee.


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Link of the day


When and where

Extended library hours through April 23: Davis Centre library open 24 hours a day, except Sunday 2 to 8 a.m.; Dana Porter Library open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Details.

Winter term examinations through April 9-23. Schedule.

Fryer, Galois and Hypatia mathematics contests for grade 9-11 students, organized by Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, today. Details.

Accounting and Finance Admissions Assignment test for future students, with information sessions for parents, Saturday 11:00 to 4:00, accounting wing of Hagey Hall (and other buildings).

Senate graduate and research council Monday 10:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Inventory clearance monthly bookstore sale, April 13-14, South Campus Hall concourse.

Canada 3.0 ‘Interactions’ event in Calgary, sponsored by UW Stratford Campus and others, Tuesday 8:30 a.m., 200 Barclay Parade SW. Details.

Staff career workshop: “Exploring Your Personality Type” Tuesday 2:00, Tatham Centre. Details.

Stratford lecture: Brendon Larson, environment and resource studies, “Biodiversity of the Future” Tuesday 7 p.m., Stratford Public Library.

Education Credit Union seminar: “Financing and Purchasing a Vehicle” Wednesday 12:10 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302, RSVP janinew@

Regional Transportation Master Plan open house Thursday 6:00 to 9:00, First United Church, Waterloo. Details.

University senate monthly meeting April 19, 4:00, Needles Hall room 3001.

Luv Lulu, Hate Cancer sale of used workout wear, to benefit Canadian Cancer Society, April 20, 2:00 to 8:00, TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard. Donate items in advance at TechTown, get chance to win $500 Lululemon shopping spree. founder Frank Warren speaks about his site and signs copies of his books, April 20, 7:00, Humanities Theatre, sponsored by Arts Student Union, tickets $35 (arts students $25) at Humanities box office.

Discovery Days in Health Sciences event for high schoolers, Wednesday, April 21. Details.

Campus-wide utility shutdown April 24 at 4 p.m. to April 25 at 8 p.m.: all main campus buildings, no heat or hot water; buildings in north and east areas, including Villages, SLC, Optometry, Davis, DWE and  CPH, also no electrical power.

Unofficial grades for winter term courses begin appearing on Quest April 26. Grades become official May 25.

Fee payment deadline for spring term is April 26 (promissory note) or April 29 (bank transfer). Details.

‘Making Assessment Meaningful’ annual symposium on “learning about teaching”, April 26-27: Monday, Presidents’ Colloquium, address by Catherine Wehlburg, Texas Christian University, 2:00, Humanities Theatre, reception follows; Tuesday, faculty workshops 9:00 and 2:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 26-29, Davis Centre. Details.

UW-ACE upgrade to Angel version 7.4: system will be down April 27, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Opportunities and New Directions conference on post-secondary teaching and learning, sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, Wednesday, April 28. Details.

Advances in Health Informatics Conference 2010 hosted by NIHI, WIHIR, and schools of optometry and pharmacy, April 28-30, Health Sciences Campus, Kitchener.

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference April 29-30, Ryerson University, Toronto. Details.

PhD oral defences

Chemical engineering. Abolfazi Maneshi, “In-situ Polymerization and Mathematical Modeling on the Preparation of Polyethylene-Clay Nanocomposites Using Metallocene Catalyst.” Supervisors, Joao Soares and Leonardo Simon. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, April 19, 2:00 p.m., Doug Wright Engineering room 2534.

Combinatorics and optimization. Koray Karabina, “Discrete Logarithm Cryptography.” Supervisor, Alfred Menezes. On display in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Tuesday, April 20, 1:00 p.m., Mathematics and Computer room 5136B.

Physics and astronomy. Osama Moussa, “On Single-Crystal Solid-State NMR Based Quantum Information Processing.” Supervisor, Raymond Laflamme. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Tuesday, April 20, 2:00 p.m., Research Advancement Centre room 2004.

Electrical and computer engineering. Siamak Fouladi Azarnaminy, “Reconfigurable Impedance Matching Networks Based on RF-MEMS and CMOS-MEMS Technologies.” Supervisor, Raafat R. Mansour. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Wednesday, April 21, 9:30 a.m., CEIT building room 3142.


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