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Thursday, February 17, 2011

  • Secretary of the university leaves today
  • Police investigating 'offensive' posters
  • Curling, skating, hockey, and more
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Claxton: black gown, blue hood]Secretary of the university leaves today

Friends and colleagues say goodbye today to Lois Claxton, secretary of the university — one of the institution's top administrative officers and most influential behind-the-scenes figures. It’s her last day on the job, and a farewell reception starts at 4 p.m. at the University Club.

Claxton (right, at June 2009 Convocation) is off to Ottawa to work on programs for the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, much as she did when he was president at Waterloo from 1999 to 2010. She’ll carry on with one Waterloo responsibility, though: working with the presidential nominating committee until its job is done and the university has its next president, later this year.

“I like to keep ‘me’ private,” Claxton said yesterday in her office in Needles Hall, cleared nearly bare as she winds up 20 years of what she calls “trying to make things work”. Raised in Kitchener, she had worked for the federal government before coming to the university in 1979 as a librarian and library department head. She was appointed secretary of the university as of January 1, 1991.

“It really is something to be at the centre of things,” she says about the work she’s done and the action she’s seen. “What could be more exciting?”

As head of the university secretariat, Claxton has worked with four presidents — Doug Wright, James Downey, Johnston, and now Feridun Hamdullahpur — and six provosts. She’s also watched the university, and therefore the work of the secretariat, grow ever more complex, particularly with the proliferation of external “partnerships”, all of them requiring coordination, diplomacy and detailed legal work.

As well as handling meetings, elections, policies, procedures, grievances, appeals, reports, affidavits and contracts, the secretariat is responsible for contact between the university and its lawyers. Claxton says she’d just as soon as see it stay that way, although some universities have taken to hiring their own in-house counsel. But the question of how to structure that kind of business will have to be addressed, she agrees. “The flow of legal affairs has increased through here hugely.”

In general, she said, over her twenty years “what’s changed is volume and what’s changed is complexity. We have so many more relationships, at different levels.” In addition, there’s a new enthusiasm on the part of the provincial government — the university’s biggest single paymaster — for being involved in resource allocation and other decisions. There’s a new assertiveness by student representatives on the university’s governing bodies, as students pay more of the bill and feel more entitlement. There’s a new volume of “compliance issues” and regulations in areas ranging from work safety to human rights and freedom of information. All those issues come through the university secretariat, and the related departments (police, safety, conflict management) that report to the university secretary.

Other areas that have arisen in recent years are records management (“part and parcel of where a modern institution does have to get to”) and risk management. “Waterloo has done with risk as we do with most things,” Claxton says. “We’ve pushed it down to the grass roots as much as possible.” But it still falls to the secretariat to collect information, raise concerns, and brief the members of the board of governors, who are ultimately responsible for the university’s finances, its management — and the risks it runs.

She says Waterloo has been nothing less than “blessed” by the high quality of external figures, from business, government and other areas, who have agreed to serve on the board of governors, and put in long hours of work on committees that aren’t often in the public eye.

In some ways the secretary, and her staff, are working closely with those board members and with the president, the provost and other top administrators. In other ways, though, she has a “neutral” role: “There certainly is a separation when it comes to things like grievances,” when administrative actions are being challenged. “People come here and know they can have ‘conversations’. The police reporting here, to a non-partisan neutral area, is important.”

And what of the daily routine itself? “I spend so much time in meetings. I spend so much time in the course of a day just giving advice.” With Claxton’s departure, most of the duties of the university secretary will fall to the associate secretaries: Marie Armstrong, Rebecca Wickens and Erin Windibank. Vice-president (administration and finance) Dennis Huber will officially be interim secretary of the university until a new appointment is made.

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[Display of i3 buttons and documents]

The 'i3 Challenge', inviting student proposals to improve the main entrance to the Waterloo campus, has reached the semi-final stage. The top 10 proposals have been selected from among 21 entries received in the competition’s first stage. “These teams will be moving onto the next round,” says Steve Krysak of the environment faculty, who’s helping to manage the contest, “and closer to winning $100,000 from the President's Office to create a new entry-way to campus and a long term vision for the south campus gateway. The teams will refine their initial concepts based on committee feedback, as well as comments solicited from the UW community during a one-week public engagement campaign. Stage two submissions will contain all materials from stage one, plus 3D illustrations of the design proposal and a detailed description of project phasing.” Then four teams will be selected by a jury to participate in stage three, involving a digital or physical 3D model, starting in April.

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Police investigating 'offensive' posters

An e-mail message from president Feridun Hamdullahpur went across the university at midday yesterday:

"Some of you today may have received an email from a gmail account that purports to be from me. Be assured that all communications from the president's office of this university will come from a email account. The message in the email refers to a recent incident on campus where individuals have denigrated women by distributing offensive posters. Of course, neither I nor any of my colleagues would support such a thing, and our police services continue to take appropriate action.

"This kind of behaviour in our community is rare and unacceptable, and one I know our faculty, staff and students don't support. On behalf of the university, thank you for your work in making Waterloo an inclusive and open place to learn and work."

A statement came last night from Dan Anderson, the university's director of police services: "UW Police are actively addressing recent incidents on campus where individuals have denigrated women by distributing offensive posters and sending an email purporting to be our President. UW Police have commenced a criminal investigation into the matter. In addition, officers will be making extra patrols in our buildings.

"Anyone with information that may assist in this investigation is asked to contact UW Police at extension 22222."

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Curling, skating, hockey, and more

Ontario University Athletics’ top curlers are competing in one of the most important bonspiels of the season, today through Monday, as Waterloo plays host to the 2011 OUA curling championship at the Guelph Curling Club. Brock, Guelph, Lakehead, Laurentian, Queen’s, Trent, Toronto, Waterloo, Western, Wilfrid Laurier, and Windsor will compete in hopes of sweeping up a championship banner. Waterloo skip Katherine Pringle will look to bring her team to the top of the podium for a second consecutive year, while Jake Walker, skip of the men’s team, will hope to unseat 2010 champions the Western Mustangs. In the first four days of the competition, teams will play an eight-game modified round robin. At the completion of round robin play, the top four teams, based on win-loss records, will advance to the playoffs on Monday morning. The curling championship schedule and up to date results will be online over the next five days.

[Solo skater]Also getting under way are the OUA figure skating championships, hosted by Waterloo at RIM Park in the east end of the city. Eight universities are taking part, including Guelph, already the OUA champions two years running. Competition runs from 12:00 ("junior silver similar dance") to 5:55 ("open solo dance") today, and from 9 a.m. to midafternoon on Friday. Among the highlights: the Warriors' Christina Morettin hoping to medal in the "gold freeskate" this afternoon. The synchro team skate takes place Friday at 1:15 p.m. and is the last event before the champions are named. A detailed schedule is online.

Meanwhile, the men's hockey playoffs are also taking place; the Warriors defeated Lakehead's Thunderwolves 5-0 in game 1 last night, with game 2 to be played Friday night in Thunder Bay.

City of Waterloo residents are being invited to “join in the conversation about the city’s future” by attending one of several public workshops on its new strategic plan. “We’re encouraging people to dream big and tell us what’s in their Waterloo,” says mayor Brenda Halloran in a news release. “This is your opportunity to get involved and voice your opinions about the direction this city is headed over the next four years and beyond.” Next of the workshops is tonight, starting at 6:30, at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex in the heart of the city. Another workshop is scheduled for the same location next Tuesday, and a final session February 23 at RIM Park. Residents can register for a workshop by e-mail (strategicplan@ or online. The public sessions are, the news release says, “just one of the many ways residents can get engaged in the strategic plan process throughout February. There’s also a video contest, online survey and more. As well, residents can email their comments to their ward councillor.”

And . . . the registrar's office says the 2011-12 undergraduate calendar will go live on its website some time today. "The calendar may be down for approximately one-half hour to an hour," calendar editor Carmen Roecker warns.


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Link of the day

Lantern Festival

When and where

Library workshop: “RefWorks, Advanced” 10:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Queer Sexuality Week resource fair, 10:00 to 2:00, Student Life Centre great hall; panel discussion 2:00.

President Feridun Hamdullahpur speaks to Cambridge Chamber of Commerce about business support programs, 12:00, Holiday Inn Cambridge. Registration.

Education Credit Union session on “Personal Tax Planning” 12:15, Davis Centre room 1302.

Surplus sale of furniture and equipment, 12:30 to 2:00, East Campus Hall.

International Spouses “celebrate love and Valentine’s Day” event (bring wedding photos if possible) 12:45, Columbia Lake Village community centre. Details.

Classical studies lecture: Pauline Ripat, University of Winnipeg, “Cursing in Ancient Rome, Cursing in HBO’s Rome” 4:00, Arts Lecture Hall room 124.

Lecture series in Stratford: Daniela O’Neill, department of psychology, “Preschool Children’s Story Comprehension” 7:00, Stratford Public Library.

Green Explosion Pub Night to promote UW Sustainability Project, from 7 p.m., Bombshelter pub, Student Life Centre.

Students for Palestinian Rights present Norman Finkelstein, “Israel and Palestine” 7:30, Trinity United Church, Kitchener.

‘Harvest’ at the Registry Theatre, Kitchener, outing organized by UW Recreation Committee, 8 p.m.

CMS pilot website demonstration Friday 9 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Dragons’ Den auditions for CBC television program, Friday 11:00 to 6:00, CBET, 295 Hagey Boulevard. Details.

Water Institute seminar: Jack Imhof, Trout Unlimited Canada, “Evolution of the Science and Practice of Managing Stream Corridors” Friday 11:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Senate finance committee Friday 1:30, Needles Hall room 3004. Agenda.

Employer rankings for spring term co-op jobs (“main” group of students) close Friday 2 p.m., results available 4 p.m. Details.

Philosophy colloquium: Jennifer Lackey, Northwestern University, “A Deflationary Account of Group Testimony”, Friday 3:30, Humanities room 373.

Kitchener Rangers vs. Mississauga Ice Dogs, Kitchener Auditorium, outing organized by UW Recreation Committee, Friday 7 p.m.

Niagara Falls bus trip and winery tour organized by Federation of Students, Saturday, buses leave 9:00, tickets $18 from Federation office, Student Life Centre.

Family Day holiday, university closed, Monday, February 21.

Reading week February 21-25, classes not held.

Deadline for 50 per cent tuition fee refund for winter courses, February 21.

Ambassador of China Junsai Zhang, open lecture on Canada-China relations, February 24, 11:00, Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 307.

Application deadline for spring term admission to the university: March 1. Details.

Demonstration for staff of new myCareer@ UWaterloo system, March 1, 2:00, Davis Centre room 1302. Register.

‘The University, Retirement and You’ panel organized by UW Recreation Committee, March 2, 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

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