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University of Waterloo | Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Friday, December 11, 1998

  • Tree twinkles atop the library
  • The talk of the campus
  • Biotechnology news at Saskatchewan
  • Another mild winter weekend
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Tree twinkles atop the library

Eyes turn skyward this time of year. And whether they're watching for eight tiny reindeer or recalling the Star in the East, people across Kitchener-Waterloo may marvel at what they see atop the ten-storey Dana Porter Library.

Riding high above the campus this season -- and making a striking vision after dark for anyone travelling up University Avenue -- is a gigantic metal Christmas tree created from a recycled TV tower, strewn with strands of bulbs and topped with a big glowing ball (salvaged from a lamp standard that's no longer in service). The 32-foot (10-metre) tree was lit in early December and can be seen for kilometres across the city.

It replaces the Hagey Hall decorations, which have been a holiday fixture along University Avenue for years. The festive lights traditionally hung on the south wall of the Humanities Theatre began to fall apart and have been put to rest, reports Jim Goodwin, electrical foreperson.

The Christmas tree on Dana Porter is the most spectacular rooftop feature on campus just now, but it's not the only oddity up there, Gazette reporter Barbara Elve found last week. "Curious ventilation devices abound," she reports, adding with regret that there wasn't a gargoyle to be seen. "Instead of the venerable downspouts, UW roofs sport a microwave installation, an observatory, weather and environmental monitoring equipment, and an assortment of communications technology." Her report and photos of some of UW's rooftop features will appear in next week's Gazette.

The talk of the campus

[Simon cover]
Simon's unofficial history of the University of Waterloo, Water Under the Bridge, is for sale ($19.95) in the UW bookstore. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer, at least for those with really big stockings, says the Troll.
Karen Kopciuk in the statistics department, who was organizing Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box on campus this fall, reports that a mention in the Daily Bulletin a couple of weeks ago helped the campaign reach record results: "We collected 62 shoeboxes on campus this year, many more than our previous highest total of 42. Heather van Vliet helped collect 20 more boxes from Renison College, adding substantially to the UW community contribution. As of last week, over 120,000 shoe boxes collected from across Eastern Canada had been sent from the Kitchener warehouse. Shipments have gone to Mexico, El Salvador, Belize, Nicaragua, and Sierra Leone. These shoe box gifts will be delivered to the hands of a child who desperately wants to know someone cares -- to a child such as Angelita Rodriguez, who lives in a garbage dump in Mexico City."

The staff association has announced a few appointments of staff representatives to UW committees. New member on the Employee Assistance Program committee is Elaine Garner of the graduate studies office; alternate is Rebecca Boyd of campus recreation. New members on the staff association nominating committee are Patti Cook of waste management, Verna Keller of teaching resources, and Barb Yantha of the staff association office.

The UW senate won't be meeting on the night of the winter solstice. The senate's executive committee, which met Monday, decided there was nothing for the agenda that couldn't wait until January, and cancelled the senate's December meeting.

The folks in the graduate studies office have been joyfully reunited with Douglas Fir, who was treenapped from their front counter a few days ago. The victim is "somewhat the worse for wear, but glad to be home", reports Penny Pudifin. "The treenappers demanded a ransom of Tim Horton's timbits, but I refused to go along with their demands, knowing that every tree on campus might be in danger of the same fate."

The pension and benefits committee has reached a decision about the drug Viagra, which threatens to exact a stiff price from the staff and faculty health plan if it comes into widespread use. "Viagra has not yet been approved for use in Canada," say the minutes of the P&B; committee's November 17 meeting. "No pattern is emerging re coverage at other universities and organizations. . . . Viagra is one of those 'breakthrough' drugs that is being tested for use in the treatment of other conditions. . . . After consideration, the Committee agreed to the following: That we continue to cover prescription drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (including Viagra when it is approved for usage in Canada) and that we monitor, on a quarterly basis, the cost of these drugs to the Plan. The Committee understood that if costs to the Plan become excessive, a decision will have to be made at that time with respect to limiting coverage."

Beyond this campus . . . there's a strong academic connection to the Sick Kids drug controversy that's in the headlines this week. Nancy Olivieri, a researcher at the Hospital for Sick Children, is charging that drug manufacturer Apotex Inc. tried to censor her findings that the drug deferiprone was harmful to patients. Olivieri is also a faculty member in the University of Toronto's department of medicine, and she wants the Canadian Association of University Teachers to investigate the case. Olivieri says a report released yesterday is "openly and unashamedly biased". It was done for the Sick Kids administration by Arnold Naimark, former president of the University of Manitoba, and two other medical academics.

Biotechnology news at Saskatchewan

Big money is coming to the University of Saskatchewan to support what's being dubbed a "Virtual College of Biotechnology" -- the equivalent of a faculty at U of S, but "without the bureaucracy". The university's council approved biotechnology as "one of the university's priorities" late last month.

"The proposal," an announcement said, "envisages the creation of a 'virtual college' that will bring together individuals and courses from a wide range of colleges and departments on campus, without creating the bureaucracy of another college. . . . The goal of the initiative is to make it much easier for students in a variety of colleges to access and study information on various aspects of biotechnology.

"At the outset, the proposed program will consist of two interrelated streams: a stream for those interested primarily in the science of biotechnology (but with an understanding of social, economic, business and ethical issues), and a stream for those whose primary interests are in the social, economic, business and ethical issues associated with the industry (but with an understanding of the science of biotechnology)." It's based in the existing colleges of agriculture, arts and science, commerce, engineering, law, and medicine and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

Then this week came the news that Saskatchewan's college of agriculture has been granted $3.75 million from the Agri-Food Innovation Fund (AFIF) to create "a human resource initiative" in molecular agriculture and applied biotechnology.

Saskatoon is already one of the hotbeds of agricultural biotech in the world, says George Khachatourians, professor of applied microbiology and food science. He noted, though, that the funding will support only two new positions and the equipping of a new laboratory. "I'd like to have another few million dollars, so that we can take the interest and [use that to] do some additional work."

Also this week, Saskatchewan announced that one of its laboratories has become "the first in the world to convert an antibody into an enzyme, a discovery which could pave the way for better tools to kill viruses, dissolve blood clots, and destroy toxins in crop seeds such as canola. The team's findings have just been published in the November issue of the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature Biotechnology."

Another mild winter weekend

Believe it or not, there are "scattered flurries" in the forecast for today -- that'd be the first white stuff we've seen all season. But temperatures are expected to be up in the double digits again next week, as this remarkable December continues. The dry weather is especially welcome to the crew making roof and courtyard repairs to the Humanities building, where the tar kettle is hot and reeking this morning; they'd expected to be working in real wintry conditions.

The statistics and actuarial science department has a talk with a catchy title scheduled for 1:30 today in Math and Computer room 5158: "Valuation of Discrete Lookback Options and Equity-Indexed Annuities", by Sheldon Lin of the University of Iowa.

What happens in war? Brian Orend of the philosophy department will speak on "Refuting Realism's Account of War and International Relations", at 3:30 today in Humanities room 334.

Steam, chilled water and heat will be turned off in Biology II and the Earth Sciences and Chemistry building tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the plant operations department says. Reason: connecting the utilities for the "chemical control centre" area where renovations have been taking place. Heat for the greenhouse will not be affected.

The arts alumni group is off to the Water Street Theatre in downtown Kitchener tomorrow to see their production of "The Magician's Nephew", based on one of C. S. Lewis's Narnia books.

The Graduate House will hold a 25th Anniversary Celebration Christmas Dinner and Dance on Saturday night -- "buffet with all the trimmings, followed by an evening of dancing". A limited number of $12 tickets were for sale; anybody interested might check at the Grad House to see whether there are spaces left.

Conrad Grebel College invites everyone to a carol sing on the patio, led by the Chapel Choir, at 7:00 on Sunday evening.

And at 8 p.m. on Sunday, St. Paul's United College invites the university community to join in a Christmas chapel service of "Candles, Lessons and Carols" in Wesley Chapel.

Monday morning, you won't be able to use the main circular staircase in the Optometry building; it'll be closed for painting for a day or so, says Peter Fulcher in the plant operations department. All the other stairwells in the building will stay open, he says.

CAR


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca | Yesterday's Bulletin
Copyright © 1998 University of Waterloo