Tuesday, November 16, 2010

  • Apology after author is silenced
  • How children follow the action in stories
  • A few other notes for a Tuesday
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

[Cover of Helpless]Apology after author is silenced

University officials issued a statement yesterday in the wake of a Friday night incident in which Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford was prevented from speaking at a scheduled event in the Humanities Theatre.

A group of protesters took exception to what they called the "racist" attitude of her book Helpless, which deals with the four-year standoff over native land claims in the village of Caledonia in Ontario's Haldimand County. Blatchford had been invited to campus by the university bookstore to speak about her book. After some time, it was announced that her talk would be rescheduled.

The events of the evening were live-blogged by the Wilfrid Laurier University student newspaper The Cord, and got some media attention yesterday.

Says the statement that was issued by the university yesterday: "The University of Waterloo was disappointed that a guest invited to share a particular perspective on a topic of importance to Canadians was silenced by protesters. Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford was scheduled to appear at the university on Friday night to discuss her new book Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us. Due to safety issues, the university decided to reschedule the event.

"The university considers Friday’s events as an attack on its presence as a place where issues are explored, discussed and at times debated. The freedom to speak and to learn is fundamental to the institution. Waterloo’s ethical behaviour policy states: 'The University is an autonomous community which exists to further the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and understanding through scholarship and teaching. The University aims to ensure an environment of tolerance and respect and believes that the right of individuals to advance their views openly must be upheld throughout the University.' To ensure there is no doubt of the university’s convictions, Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur apologized to Ms. Blatchford, on behalf of the university community, for Friday night’s disruption. He has asked the community to begin planning for a safe, open and respectful dialogue featuring Ms. Blatchford and her book."

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How children follow the action in stories

a news release from the media relations office

Harry… Hogwarts… just mentioning these names transports millions of us vividly into the mind and world of Harry Potter, especially with a new movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1", due for release on Friday.

Good teachers have always known that stories engage students in a way that facts and figures rarely do. Now a new study from the University of Waterloo, published in the journal Cognition, is shedding light on how children step into the minds and shoes of story characters, and how early they can do so.

“For the first time, we have shown that when listening to a story, four- and five-year olds mentally simulate aspects of the story character's experiences, such as how slowly or quickly they may be moving," said lead author Agnieszka Fecica, a psychology visiting scholar, who conducted the research as part of her doctoral work with Daniela O’Neill, a professor of psychology.

Using a novel method that involved children listening to a story on a computer, one sentence at a time, the researchers were able to discover that children’s time to process the sentences differed depending on how the character was moving. "When we told children that the character was walking past a park and seeing things like children playing baseball and squirrels running, children took longer to process these story events than if we told them the character was being driven past the park," Fecica said.

O’Neill said the results indicate that during story comprehension, children, much like adults, construct mental representations of stories known as situation models. These situation models include details of varied aspects of stories. "Our results suggest that they also include, in a very dynamic way, aspects of how a character would experience the events in a bodily fashion — that is, if they were walking they would move more slowly than if they were being driven," O’Neill said.

Similarly, in a second study, the researchers found that children’s time to process the sentences about a character getting ready to go somewhere was slower when children were told that the character thought going there was "horrible" rather than "great."

O’Neill said that children’s processing times seemed to suggest that they were mentally simulating how eagerly a character got ready, and importantly that this happened even if the child themselves didn’t share this view. “So even very young children appear to be taking into account the impact of both physical actions and psychological states on the speed of a character’s actions," O’Neill added. And this was done in oral stories alone - children simply heard the stories, with no accompanying pictures.

Scholars have long stressed the fundamental nature of our ability to create and comprehend stories. Fecica and O’Neill’s findings shed light on what a growing number of other cognitive scientists believe is a fundamental part of how we, as humans, come to comprehend narratives, by embodying and simulating the narrative events described. The research was funded by a Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada discovery research grant awarded to O'Neill and an NSERC Canada graduate scholarship awarded to Fecica.

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A few other notes for a Tuesday

The department of English has a special event tonight that’s a bit out of the ordinary, as its title suggests: “15 Seconds of Frame: Terminal Zones in the Digital Era + Nightmare Trails at Knifepoint”. It’s further described as a “lecture/ performance and exhibition” by Nick Rombes, who is the author of Cinema in the Digital Age, The Ramones' Ramones, and The Cultural Dictionary of Punk. He is the current visiting artist/ researcher at the Critical Media Lab, which is an English department spinoff (frequently known as “CriMeLab”) in downtown Kitchener. Tonight’s event starts at 7:00 in the CriMeLab, which is located inside The Museum at 10 King Street West. What’s happening? “In a mixture of lecture and performance, Rombes will explore modes and sites of resistance to the tyrannical speed of our digital age.  Drawing on diverse sources, such as fiction, art, theory, film, music, and blood, Rombes will map some of the terminal zones of this era. Rombes will also display his acclaimed serial graphic novel, ‘Nightmare Trails at Knifepoint’, at Exhibit Cafe in The Museum.” In preparation for it all (“as a countdown”), fans can follow the “15 Seconds of Frame” website.

Printed copies of the “universities” issue of Maclean’s magazine started appearing on campus yesterday, with cover price of $6.95. That’s the one that, just like last year’s, shows Waterloo with a reputation as “best overall” university in Canada. Along with its rankings, the issue publishes feature stories, both about the top-ranked institutions and about what it considers newsworthy topics in higher education. The lead story this year is about “that mysterious substance guidance counsellors call ‘fit’,” the quality that makes one university right for one student and another one right for somebody else. But it’s the one starting on page 77 that has drawn the most comment over the past few days. “Too Asian” casts an eye on stereotypes about some campuses: “Discussing the role that race plays in the self-selecting communities that more and more characterize university campuses makes many people uncomfortable. Still, an ‘Asian’ school has come to mean one that is so academically focused that some students feel they can no longer compete or have fun.”

The article includes a comment from Waterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur about universities’ leadership in bringing diversity to Canadian society. "There is a great tendency in our society to learn more about other nations and other cultures," he is quoted as saying. "Universities are the hotbed of these kind of activities. If you want to see more economic and political diversity, I think they star."

The Ontario government's recently announced program of Trillium scholarships for international students has generated a lively and at times heated debate. A number of university leaders have added their voices, including Waterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur, whose opinion piece appears in today's Waterloo Region Record and Toronto Star

Deaths of several retired staff members have been reported in recent days:

  • Arthur Butcher, who was a kiosk information attendant for parking services from 1970 to his retirement in 1984, died October 17.
  • David Bartholomew, a designer in graphic services from 1968 to his retirement in 1996 (and responsible for much of the iconic look of Waterloo's publications in the 1970s), died October 19.
  • Robert Tattrie, a mail and delivery assistant in central stores from 1975 to his retirement in 2006, died October 21.
  • Marie Hahn, a food services assistant from 1974 to her retirement in 1985, died November 2.

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Link of the day

Eid al-Adha

When and where

International Education Week November 15-19, details online and to be announced.

PDEng presentation: “Challenges of a Unique Enrolment Process” 11:30, Davis Centre room 1568.

Workshop on “The Big Guide to Living and Working Overseas” 12:00, Tatham Centre room 1208.

Country presentation: “Czech Republic, the Heart of Europe” 12:00, Needles Hall room 1116.

Career workshop: “Success on the Job” 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

WatRISQ presents Sheldon Lin, University of Toronto, “Modeling Dependent Risks with Multivariate Erlang Mixtures” 4:00, Davis Centre room 1304.

Germanic and Slavic studies undergraduate career night 4:30 to 6:00, Environment I room 221.

Department of anthropology Sally Weaver award ceremony; speaker Lucilla Spini, UN University, “Anthropologists and the United Nations” 4:30, PAS room 1229.

Students for Palestinian Rights presents Yves Engler, “Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid” 5:30, Location change E2 room 1303.

Hong Kong annual alumni dinner 6:00, Regal Hongkong Hotel. Details.

Canadian Federation of University Women K-W chapter, speaker Emily Richards, “Canadian Living Cooks”, 7:00, First United Church,  Waterloo.

Flu immunization clinic Wednesday-Friday 10:00 to 5:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Touring Players children’s performance: “Circus Terrifico” Wednesday 10 a.m., Humanities Theatre.

Career workshops Wednesday: “Career Exploration and Decision Making” 10:00, Tatham Centre room 1112. “Writing CVs and Cover Letters” 12:00,  Tatham room 2218. Details.

Library workshop: “Explore Newspapers from Around the World” Wednesday 11:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library.

Employee Assistance Program presents workshop with Lesley Nevils, “Desk De-Stress”, Wednesday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

UWRC Book Club: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Wednesday 12:00, Dana Porter Library room 407.

Free noon concert: Elizabeth Rogalsky Lepock and Beth Ann De Sousa, “Witches and Fairies” Wednesday 12:30, rescheduled from November 3, Conrad Grebel UC chapel.

Geographic Information Systems Day Wednesday, with presentations 12:30 to 3:30, Environment I courtyard; keynote speaker Jeff Casello, civil and environmental engineering, “GIS Applications to Transit Design” 1:15, Environment I room 221.

Applied health sciences exchange program information session Wednesday 12:30, Matthews Hall room 1005.

Mathematics international exchange information session Wednesday 4:00, Math and Computer room 5158.

Mathematics and aesthetics in maze design. CS Club talk by Craig S. Kaplan, Wednesday, November 17, 4:30 p.m., Math and Computer room 4061. Details.

New Orleans Night at Mudie’s cafeteria, Village I, Wednesday 4:30 to 7:00.

Engineers Without Borders semi-formal gala, “Sherehe”, remarks from past EWB volunteers, Wednesday 7 p.m., Federation Hall. Details.

Smart Start presentation: Bob Telfer, “Trends in Software Services for Smart Companies”, Wednesday 7:00, Stratford campus, 6 Wellington Street. Details.

St. Jerome’s University reading by Charlene Diehl, former professor of English, author of Out of Grief, Singing: A Memoir of Motherhood and Loss Wednesday 7:30 p.m., StJ room 2017.

‘The Comedy of Errors’ by William Shakespeare, drama department production, preview (by invitation) public performances continue Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m. Theatre of the Arts, tickets 519-888-4908.

Waterloo Unlimited “Roadmap to Research” residential program for grade 12 students, November 18-20. Details.

Ideas Start series at Stratford campus: Anita Gaffney, Stratford Festival, “Marketing the Arts in the 21st Century” Thursday 9 a.m., 6 Wellington Street, Stratford. Details.

Communitech annual general meeting Thursday 5:00, Federation Hall. Details.

Toronto Raptors vs. Houston Rockets, bus to Toronto for the game, Friday evening, tickets at athletics department, Physical Activities Complex.

[W]Warrior sports

Weekly report, November 15

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin