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(April 27, 2000, Gazette)

Universities face infrastructure crunch

On April 10, the Association ofUniversities and Colleges of Canada and
the Canadian Association of University Business Officers released a report detailing a nation-wide university infrastructure problem. Memorial was included in the survey on which the report was based, and which documented deferred maintenance problems at 51 universities coast to coast.

The report found that Canadian universities face a total of $3.6 billion in accumulated deferred maintenance costs.

“The survey confirms our worst fears on the state of Canadian university campuses,” said Duncan Watt, chair of the CAUBO steering committee which provided direction for the report. “University facilities have deteriorated to the point where the capability of the physical infrastructure to support the academic mission and the core functions of learning and research is threatened.”

Like most universities across Canada, Memorial’s physical infrastructure needs repairing and upgrading. The university is facing mounting costs for repairs to classrooms, residences and buildings. Specific repairs include leaking roofs and tunnels, window replacements and work required on concrete sidewalks, roadways and parking lots. In the past, these repair costs were deferred to future budgets, and now the accumulation of these urgent maintenance costs at Memorial have mounted to an estimated $16 million.

“Deferring one’s ongoing maintenance and upgrade was a strategy born in a time of decreased government funding, but obviously the strategy has outlived its usefulness,” said Memorial President Dr. Axel Meisen. “Now many of the maintenance issues with older infrastructure at Memorial must be resolved. There is a significant cost but this is a cost that cannot easily be avoided for much longer.”

Dr. Meisen said Memorial officials have met with provincial government representatives to examine this issue and seek solutions before the university’s academic mission and services to students begin to suffer.

Archivist top volunteer

Linda White won the Faculty/Staff Volunteer of the Year award, presented by the Student Volunteer Bureau. She was recognized for her work with several heritage organizations in Newfoundland. Her contributions to the Newfoundland Historical Society, the Greenspond Historical Society and the Gower Street United Church Archives had a positive influence on a community and popular level, and on a scholarly and government policy level, provincially and nationally. Ms. White works as an archivist in the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, Queen Elizabeth II Library. She graduated with a master of arts degree in History from Memorial in 1991.

Festival of Ideas

The University of Alberta in Edmonton will play host to 5,000 researchers from across Canada and around the world for the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities May 24-31. Held every year since the 1930s, this event is now the largest multi-disciplinary meeting of researchers in North America.

“For researchers, it is the most important meeting of the year,” said Dr. Louise Forsyth, president of the Humanities and Social Science Federation of Canada. “It gives us a chance to present our latest findings and engage with Canadians in discussion about fundamental issues affecting our economy, our society and our culture.”

This year’s Congress, dubbed Festival of Ideas, will feature speakers, public forums, dance, theatre, readings and the largest scholarly book fair in Canada. There will also be six special conferences exploring in depth current research issues of particular interest to Canadians, including the North, Globalization, Justice, Women in the Academy, Employment Prospects for Graduate Students, and Creativity and Innovation in the Arts and Sciences.

NSERC upgrading EA procedure

NSERC is revising its procedure to enable it to better identify projects that might have an environmental impact, and to determine how the environmental assessment of such projects should be conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

To ensure such projects are properly identified, NSERC will require more information on applicants’ proposed research. To that end, the 2000 Researchers’ Guide will include a section on environmental assessment and Form 101 (application for grant) will be modified as well.

The information researchers provide on the revised application form will assist staff in determining whether the proposed research requires an environmental assessment under the Act. When an assessment is deemed necessary, NSERC will contact the researchers and provide them with information on the council’s EA process.

Under the Act, NSERC cannot release funds until an acceptable environmental assessment is received and it has been clearly demonstrated that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

Check www.nserc.ca this summer for more information about EA and NSERC’s EA process. Or contact Robert Roy, environmental assessment coordinator, by e-mail at robert.roy@nserc.ca or by phone at (613) 995-8079.