Why Waterloo is not at risk of insolvency

In light of the devastating announcement about Laurentian University, members have been asking FAUW whether there is a need for concern about the University of Waterloo’s financial situation. We’ve asked Linda Robinson, fresh from a deep dive into UW’s finances as a member of our negotiating team, to answer this question. We hope this post from Linda will put your mind at ease by explaining that UW is in a healthy financial condition.

First, be aware that I have no inside knowledge about the University’s financial situation, but I did extensive analysis of the publicly available information as part of the recent salary negotiations. Unlike public corporations, who report their results quarterly, the University only reports annually through the release of their audited financial statements. With an April 30 year-end, we won’t see the full impact of the pandemic until the April 30, 2021 statements are released in the fall of 2021. What we do know is how the University fared as of April 30, 2020, and although this was only six weeks into the shutdown, it does reflect the impact of the ten percent tuition reduction for 2019/2020 and the provincial government’s funding freeze.

There are many financial metrics we could consider when analyzing the University’s finances, and I will comment on a few. Perhaps the most important consideration is that the University of Waterloo has no debt, nor have we since it was paid off in 2018.

Continue reading “Why Waterloo is not at risk of insolvency”

A Q&A about how the Tri-agencies are “modernizing” the grant management process

The Tri-agencies are developing a new, centralized portal to manage grants and applications. Professor James Danckert attended a stakeholder workshop in December. We talked to him about the plans for the TGMS and how FAUW members can provide feedback.

What is the Tri-agency Grant Management Solution (TGMS) Initiative trying to achieve?

The TGMS Initiative is a project to build a central grant portal for all three agencies, replacing the existing systems, with the aim of creating something more user friendly and modern. Importantly, with this system, you won’t need to re-enter the same information multiple times: for example, publications entered for a CV won’t have to be re-entered for a grant report, and information can be ported over from one agency to another.

What’s the timeline for rolling this out?

The Tri-agencies are in the process of finding a vendor to build the system, and simultaneously engaging in ongoing consultation with stakeholders. They are looking to have demonstrations of the proof of concept by early 2021. Once they start building it, they plan to roll things out pieces at a time, which they acknowledge could pose a communication challenge.

Continue reading “A Q&A about how the Tri-agencies are “modernizing” the grant management process”

Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice Kicks Off with “absolutely great” session

On July 16, over 150 people attended an inaugural webinar organized by the Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice (CoP). It featured Veselin Jungic sharing his experiences collaborating with First Nations communities across British Columbia and Alberta to create an innovative, community-based program to engage First Nations children and youth in studying mathematics.

Who is Veselin Jungic?

Dr. Jungic, a mathematics professor from Simon Fraser University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellow and a recipient of several teaching awards including the Canadian Mathematical Society Teaching Award and the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences Educational Award.

What is Math Catchers?

Beginning in 2011, Math Catchers is a program to interest Indigenous elementary and high school students in studying mathematics. Adopting Indigenous ways of knowing, Math Catchers uses storytelling, puzzles, pictures and a variety of hands-on activities to make math relevant and fun. Characters like Small Number and Big Circle are featured in a series of stories showcasing how math is everywhere, a vital part of everyday life.

Continue reading “Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice Kicks Off with “absolutely great” session”

10 ways academics can promote climate justice today

Written by professors Allison Kelly and Sharon Kirkpatrick of the FAUW Climate Justice Working Group.

The pandemic has consumed much of our attention and energy over the last few months, making it understandably difficult to find the mental and emotional space to consider other societal challenges. However, as the pandemic persists, we may gradually be able to turn our attention to issues such as climate and racial injustice that pre-dated – and will certainly outlive – the pandemic. Alongside the devastation of the pandemic come opportunities to reflect on the status quo and to identify ways to create a more sustainable, just future for us all. As faculty members, we are in a unique position to take meaningful action toward climate justice.

Our actions can not only make a difference to the climate justice agenda but may also serve to reduce our own eco-anxiety while modeling actions other members of our community can take. Here are some things we can all consider doing:

  1. Add your voice. Sign petitions advocating for climate-just change at institutional and governmental levels, and share your actions with others to inspire them to do the same. One immediate action we can all take is to support the call for UW to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in a just, climate-safe future, just as our faculty colleagues have done at other top universities such as Harvard and UBC.
  2. Get involved. Join groups on campus dedicated to climate justice, including FAUW’s Climate Justice Working Group, Indigenization Working Group, and Equity Committee. These groups allow us to connect and work with like-minded colleagues and can turn feelings of isolation and eco-anxiety into collective inspiration and action.
  3. Hold the University accountable. Raise climate justice at the tables at which you sit and highlight the co-benefits of actions to advance climate justice for the University’s broader goals – including sustainability, mental health and wellness, equity, and Indigenization – as well as for its reputation as an innovator and risk taker.
  4. Be an advocate. Lobby your professional organizations to tackle climate justice, for example, by reducing conference-related air travel. Our adaptations to the pandemic have taught us that virtual conferences can be highly engaging; they can also be more accessible to those who typically cannot afford travel to in-person meetings, making them more equitable.
  5. Branch out in your research. Be innovative in imagining how you could integrate a focus on climate justice in your research. You may not see obvious links, but climate change will undoubtedly impact all our fields and we desperately need expertise and insights from all disciplines to tackle this issue! Form and join groups of researchers across disciplines that care about this issue.
Continue reading “10 ways academics can promote climate justice today”

Veronica Kitchen’s June 2020 Senate Report

Veronica Kitchen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and an elected Arts Senator who produces a great summary after each University Senate meeting and has agreed to share them here. Her reports understandably focus on items relevant to Arts faculty and are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all the agenda items, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for the official minutes on the University Secretariat’s website.

[We’ve cut a few very Arts-specific items this time, because this was a long one!]

Items of interest [especially] to Arts on the Regular Agenda

  1. Graduate studies is changing calendar language re: students who are required to withdraw, and making it possible for students who are required to withdraw for academic reasons to voluntarily withdraw instead (thus making admission to another graduate program easier).
  2. Approval of a new Major in Communication Arts & Design Practice
  3. New transfer credit agreement between Arts & the University of Essex, in which students will get a BA and an LLB in Human Rights Law. Open to students taking a human rights minor.
  4. Changes to academic progression and admission to major rules in light of the increase in CR/NCR on student transcripts.
  5. Endorsement of the process in practice for minor changes to academic programming in light of COVID & remote teaching.  

Return to Campus 

Return to campus now has its own agenda item, instead of being delivered by the President. There is a new Integrated Coordination and Planning Committee to regularize return to campus. This will now be delivered in three segments by working groups of the ICPC.

Continue reading “Veronica Kitchen’s June 2020 Senate Report”

What UWaterloo instructors need to know about copyright

Usually when we talk about intellectual property at the University of Waterloo we are talking about Policy 73 (Intellectual Property Rights) which provides that inventors own much of the IP they create. Today, however, we’re talking specifically about your use of copyright-protected materials in class (or on LEARN) as an instructor and the risks of violating copyright.

First, a (very brief!) primer on copyright. A copyright is fundamentally the right to restrict distribution of a creative work. Let’s say I take some pictures of cats. I am the copyright holder of these pictures, and other people cannot legally make copies of, or distribute, these photos without my permission, unless under the so-called fair dealing provision. Fair dealing allows others to use portions of my work for educational purposes.

How do you know what you can use?

As an instructor, you will often be using others’ copyrighted materials for legitimate reasons, and our copyright law permits you to do this without seeking permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances:

Continue reading “What UWaterloo instructors need to know about copyright”

Veronica Kitchen’s April 2020 Senate Report

Veronica Kitchen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and an elected Arts Senator who produces a great summary after each University Senate meeting and has agreed to share them here. Her reports understandably focus on items relevant to Arts faculty and are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all the agenda items, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for the official minutes on the University Secretariat’s website.

University of Waterloo Senate Meeting, 20 April, 2020

This was our second pandemic Senate meeting. It proceeded with many technical difficulties that we are assured will be resolved by the May meeting; there was even some discussion of whether we ought to continue, or had the requisite quorum of people who weren’t having technical difficulties to continue. We motioned, verified quorum, voted, and continued.

First things first: the April meeting marks the end of the Senate year, and so it is time to thank the [Arts] Senators who are ending their terms:

Outgoing Arts Senators: Tara Collington (French) & Maya Venters (student representative)

Outgoing Senators at large who come from Arts: Shannon Dea (Philosophy) (who is also to be congratulated on her appointment as Dean of Arts at the University of Regina; they are lucky to be getting her and we are sad to be losing her!)

Items of interest on the regular agenda

  1. We approved language for the course calendar on procedures and guidelines for terminating relationships between a graduate student and their supervisor. [See page 79 of the agenda posted on the Secretariat’s website.]
  2. Report from the Appointments Review Committee; there were lots of technical difficulties during this presentation so I don’t have a lot to add to the slides that are in the agenda [page 82], but it sounded to me as if over 10 years Math and Engineering in particular are doing better at appointing women, which: Great If True.

President’s report

I know that at the moment this is what most people want to hear about! Again, I captured what I could, but I’d encourage you to refer to the minutes when they are published for the most correct and comprehensive updates.

Continue reading “Veronica Kitchen’s April 2020 Senate Report”

Veronica Kitchen’s March 2020 Senate Report

Veronica Kitchen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and an elected Arts Senator who produces a great summary after each University Senate meeting and has agreed to share them here. Her reports understandably focus on items relevant to Arts faculty and are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all the agenda items, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for the official minutes on the University Secretariat’s website.

University of Waterloo Senate Meeting, 30 March 2020

Well, colleagues, this was different. The February Senate meeting was cancelled (not enough material). We had an extra-ordinary (but in hindsight rather ordinary) confidential Senate meeting on March 9, and then—well. You know. 

Kudos to Karen Jack, Emily Schroeder, the President & VP Academic, the IT folks in the background and everyone else who managed to pull off a 90-ish person Senate meeting on Microsoft Teams having never done it before. Now that was extra-ordinary. 

Items of interest (to Arts) on the consent agenda

Much of the Senate’s business was moved to the consent agenda in order to make it easier to vote on everything at once. There was an opportunity for Senators to ask to move any individual item onto the regular agenda, but this was not necessary.

  • The Clinical Research Ethics and Human Research Ethics Committees have been renamed Boards, in alignment with common practice at other universities.
  • The MASc in Applied Psychology is to be renamed the MASc in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
  • Final Assessments for English Language and Literature and Italian Studies were approved.
  • For reference, the consent agenda includes the two motions passed earlier this month: to change the academic year dates for the Spring 2020 term, and to allow students to convert a received numerical mark for the Winter 2020 term to CR/NCR easily.
  • A call for nominations for honorary degrees.
  • An interesting report from Johanna Wandel re: the December meeting of the Council of Ontario Universities’ Academic Colleagues meetings.

As always, you can find all of these in further description in the minutes.

President’s Report

As you can imagine, the President’s report was about the university’s response to COVID-19. I captured as much as I could of the discussion and here are (some of) the important bits. There is fuller information on most of this on the University website:

The President and senior response team are in 2x a day phone meetings. Key strategic issues are:

  1.  Continuity for Canadian students (ie incoming first year class, graduates)
  2. Loss of international students and recruitment
  3. Impacts on research
  4. Securing research from cyber threats (phishing)
Continue reading “Veronica Kitchen’s March 2020 Senate Report”

Graduate student supervisors: share your thoughts!

The Task Force on Graduate Student Supervision is seeking feedback from faculty members who supervise doctoral or research master’s students. The mandate of the Task Force is to investigate the mechanisms by which the quality of graduate supervision at both the master’s and doctoral levels is assessed at the University.

The survey is designed to gather your experience with and opinions about supervisory expectations or standards, evidence of effective supervision, strategies for communicating supervisor/student expectations, and what kinds of support/training you believe will be effective.

The survey will take approximately 3-5 minutes to complete and remain open until December 6th 2019 (midnight). This survey is anonymous; participation is confidential and voluntary.

If you have any questions about the survey or the work of the Task Force on Graduate Student Supervision, please contact Angela Rooke (a2rooke@uwaterloo.ca), Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs.

Shifting gears on cycling: 8 ways UWaterloo supports biking to work

—A guest post from the Sustainability Office.

Fall may be in full swing, but it feels like spring is in the air for cycling in Waterloo Region.

There is a growing push for cycling across the community, catalyzed by concerns for accessibility and safety, effective use of space, economic development, affordability, and climate change, just to name a few. New segregated bike lanes on King, Columbia, University, Queen, and Belmont are kicking off much-needed infrastructure transitions outlined in municipal policy and planning. Trail improvements through Waterloo Park and soon the Iron Horse are making for a more pleasant cycling experience. Bike racks and spaces on busses and the iON make multi-modal transportation more accessible.

Efforts have been building on campus as well. Waterloo has been expanding programs and services to make riding a bike a more convenient commuting option.

  1. All campus buildings have adjacent bike racks, some of which are covered (QNC, B1, ESC, and EIT, for example).
  2. Parking Services manages a secure bike locker program, and there is a new secure bike cage under construction between EV3 and ML!
  3. Police Services runs a program to register your bike, so they can better help return it to you if it is stolen.
  4. Cyclists can access an emergency ride home program, $75 per trip 4 times per year, to help with unexpected circumstances (unfortunately, weather doesn’t count!).
  5. If you only ride during the summer, you can suspend your parking permit and regain your spot when the winter weather returns.
  6. Better yet, employees can purchase transit passes for winter months at a 15% discount off the regular transit price (no minimum monthly commitment) so you can bike in fair weather and bus in the cold.
  7. Waterloo has piloted a bike sharing program in 2019 to make getting across campus more convenient.
  8. The Sustainability Office organizes events like Bike Month to recognize cyclists, provide free bike tune-ups from community partners, and offer prizes for logging bike trips.

Of course, these don’t address every barrier. Bike theft remains a challenge, which is why the new secure cage is a critical step forward. We hope the cage is a model that, through partnerships, can be replicated in additional areas of campus if there is demand.

And the University is certainly not an island. It is connected to the network of roads and trails leading to the campus, many of which lack robust cycling infrastructure. It is a familiar sight to come to the end of your bike lane or trail and have to merge into morning or afternoon traffic. Municipal improvements are accelerating, but there is still a lot to do.

Nevertheless, the efforts underway are already shifting the gears upward. Cycling is not just for veteran riders. Diverse members of the University community—from a wide range of ages and abilities—arrive on all types of bikes every day. We’ve put thank-you cards on thousands of bikes across campus, so we know! Efforts to improve infrastructure will continue to make it safer and more comfortable.

If you are curious, explore your options. Google and gotravelwise.ca can pull up routes and directions that optimize bike lanes and trails, including new infrastructure, and the Sustainability website has more information and links to the above services that can help.


Mat Thijssen is the University of Waterloo’s Sustainability Manager. He coordinates the University’s sustainability activities and efforts, in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders on and off campus