Pages Home About this blog Community Guidelines Privacy Statement Contact Us Wednesday, April 20, 2011 Updates Just a couple of quick updates to share with everyone. 1) Thanks to reader suggestion, we have added a widget to the sidebar showing the most recent comments on the blog. It is at the bottom of the sidebar for the foreseeable future. 2) The homepage no longer carries a link to the full blog in the "Notices" section. Instead, it will carry a link to the newest post on the blog. The blog has also been added to the U of A search engine. Searches for "colloquy" or "blog" on the homepage will bring back Colloquy as the first result. 3) Those who are on Twitter and who follow the U of A feed will also receive tweets about most of the posts on the blog. There is also a widget on the right sidebar that allows readers to subscribe to the RSS Feeds for both posts and comments. Those with a gmail account can also follow the blog by signing in and clicking on the "Follow" button at the top of the Colloquy site. And that's about it for now. Thanks! at 10:52 AM 0 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: General Tuesday, April 19, 2011 Answers to town hall questions As promised, here are the answers to the town hall questions that came in via the blog and Twitter. On the $11 million dollar surplus listed in the University's Comprehensive Institutional Plan. I missed the first part of the President's response, so I have included text from this post that provides a comparable answer. The audio picks up with the President providing the second reason for the surplus. "The first is a reevaluation of our assets. This improvement in the value of our assets was due to the improving economy, and as the economy continues to improve we might see additional gains of this type. This has not lead to an increase in the University’s income, however. It similar to when the value of your house increases. It’s good news, but you don’t have access to the extra value." Listen! On campus morale. Listen! On special ballot polling stations on campus during the federal election. I again missed a bit of the audio on this, because I asked the question on behalf of the student who contacted us through Twitter. The President noted that there is a polling station on campus for students who live in Lister Centre, and that other polling stations exist off-campus for those who live in the area. In the aftermath of special polling at Guelph, and the controversy that arose there, Elections Canada is no longer allowing special ballot stations on campuses across Canada. Listen! There will be video provided via YouTube once it has been edited down into proper segments (by question). There is a time limit on YouTube videos, so we can not post them as one piece. at 4:13 PM 0 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: Town Hall Wednesday, April 13, 2011 Ask a question for the President's town hall On April 19th, President Samarasekera will be hosting her annual spring town hall. Following brief remarks, there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion relating to initiatives, events and issues of importance to the university community. Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 Time: 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm Location: Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS) 1-430 Please register online at: http://www.president.ualberta.ca/2011SpringTownHall In addition to the normal venues for asking a question—either in person or through the registration form—the President will also be taking questions through both Colloquy and Twitter. Any faculty, staff or students who have questions may submit them here in the comments, or through Twitter. If using Twitter, please submit your questions to @ualberta, using the hashtag #ualbertapres or #ualbertaTHall. Please use your real name in your submissions, as well as your status on campus as faculty, staff, or student (we will also take questions from alumni). This will hopefully allow us to pull a question from each pool, giving the President a broader range of questions to answer (if you are using a Twitter handle that is different from your name, we will contact you asking for your real name and status on campus.) Please have your questions submitted to us by 12 pm, MST, on Monday, April 18, 2011. We can’t guarantee that your question will be answered at the town hall. The President will answer as many questions as she can, but priority will be given to questions asked by those in attendance. Questions that are answered by the President will also be posted here on Colloquy following the Town Hall. We will use a web application called Audioboo to record President Samarasekera’s responses, and they will be posted using the Audioboo player widget. During the town hall, university staff (and interested others) will live tweet the event using the hashtag #ualbertaTHall. Tweets will come through the main U of A twitter account, as well as other accounts run or used by staff. We will tape the town hall, and post the video to YouTube. We will also attempt to take a picture or two for our Tumblr page. Social media is another way for the University of Alberta to communicate with, and receive communication from, members of the U of A community. This initiative is a broadening of the town hall concept, and will allow even more people to interact with the President. We are excited by the opportunity these tools provide us in interacting and engaging with more members of the campus community, and look forward to receiving your questions for the President. For more information on the town hall itself, please contact Sara.Dick@ualberta.ca or 780.492.1525. at 11:11 AM 9 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: Town Hall Friday, April 8, 2011 Staff reductions again seen as last option in face of 2011-12 budget cuts Provost Carl Amrhein and vice-president (finance) Phyllis Clark have provided an update on expected 2011–12 budget cuts. The provost and vice-president (finance) confirmed that, based on current assumptions, all faculties and administrative units across the University “should expect an average of two percent budget cuts for the 2011–12 year.” This follows the recent Alberta budget which verified that the university will receive a zero percent provincial operating grant increase for 2011–12. “The bottom line is that while the university’s budget will not decrease, it will also not increase fast enough to keep pace with the cost of doing business,” Amrhein said. “What it means will be different for each dean.” In a letter to deans, chairs and directors, Amrhein and Clark indicated that all units have been asked to begin developing budget scenarios based on the two percent cut assumption. As is normal, deans, chairs and directors will be responsible for how cuts are made in their own areas. Amrhein and Clark urged faculties and units to consider position reductions as the last resort. They went on to say that “talented people are without question the university’s greatest asset,” pointing out that it is difficult to rebuild following reductions in positions. Each vice president will also be expected to make a two percent cut overall in their areas of responsibility. “Please be reminded that budget reductions are by no means the only solution being pursued by the university in the face of resource pressures,” Amrhein and Clark concluded in their letter to the deans. Further, citing significant “success with finding new administrative efficiencies over the past several years,” they said the university “will continue to seek additional ways to achieve further efficiencies.” at 1:04 PM 8 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: Budget Enhancing campus communications Last week, a number of communications went out about upgrades to student records systems on campus, upgrades which resulted in Campus Solutions, Human Capital Management, and Bear Tracks being down for the weekend. A memo was sent out from Finance & Administration to all Deans, Chairs, Directors, APOs and campus communicators, a notice was placed on the U of A homepage, and a tweet went out, directing individuals to the notice on the homepage. We have received a few complaints about the way that outage was communicated to the campus community. As such, we are asking for feedback and suggestions from members of the campus community on how they want to receive information of this kind in the future. Administration is always looking at ways of improving communications to the campus community. Currently, Administration uses a variety of means to get the word out: memos, emails, notices on the homepage, social media, announcements at meetings, and individual conversations. Faculties, departments and business units employ the same methods, and many of these communications are intended to reach a diverse audience among students, faculty, and staff. What is ideal for one group is less than ideal for another, which is why we generally choose a number of different options. Still, ensuring that our various communications are efficient and effective remains an ongoing challenge. So, we at Colloquy thought we’d ask the question: what suggestions do people have? What tools or channels are people using? What tools and channels should we be using? As it stands, blanket emails are being used rarely, and selectively, because we’ve had complaints about them in the past. Many members of the campus community consider mass emails spam, and the emails are of no use if people are automatically deleting them without looking at the content. The same applies to other forms (paper memos) or channels (social media) of communication. Opportunities will soon present themselves through Google Apps, as well, and tools such as Google Docs, Groups and Sites will allow for even more cross-campus communications, but we'd like to hear from you on other ways to communicate with the campus community. If you have further suggestions on tools and methods that can be used to enhance our communications, please leave a comment here, or send us your ideas through the contact form. at 12:10 PM 14 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: Communications Thursday, March 31, 2011 Advancing our digital learning environment The University of Alberta has kicked off a three-year initiative to build, enhance and advance its digital learning environment. This integrated environment will facilitate a collaborative learning experience that spans across the U of A and beyond, utilizing a variety of platforms to speak to diverse, mobile, engaged, web-savvy audiences. The web is a ubiquitous tool used every single day by every single student, faculty and staff member at the University of Alberta. It has become as basic an infrastructure need to the academy as classrooms and chalkboards. A well-executed web strategy is a critical component in attracting and retaining the best students, staff and faculty in Alberta, Canada and from around the world, and it is therefore essential that the university deploy time, energy and resources in this area. Failing to do so will continue to result in a diminished online experience for students and faculty at the University of Alberta. In fact, people across our campuses are telling us what we need to do better, and we are committed to listening. We recently completed an online web survey that resulted in 2,700 responses from students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the community. Around 200 of the respondents also volunteered to be part of our online Feedback Forum so they could take an active part in determining the future of the U of A’s digital environment. If you would like to join the online Feedback Forum, please sign up here. In addition, web engagement sessions continue to take place with deans, chairs, faculty and staff in all faculties and administrative units. As they identify their specific needs across all of our platforms, these needs are being added to the overall university web strategy. Most university sites, our own included, are primarily focused on the wants and needs of departments. This collective myopia has resulted in a website that leaves users bewildered and frustrated, and as a whole it serves no one well. The new vision, above all else, commits to a user-centred design, where the needs and wants of our audiences are put first. A cohesive online environment will have an immediate, positive impact on our audiences, allowing people to quickly find the content they need in a design that represents and reflects our leadership position as a post-secondary institution. It will also provide them an integrated experience with their university’s communications tools and learning platforms. So what does this really mean? Are we spending $3.5 million over three years on a website? No. We are building expertise critically needed at this university, expertise that will help us fully realize the institution’s digital future. Resources are being re-allocated and in some cases augmented to develop and execute a re-architecting and integrating of our key datasets across the university. We are measuring all aspects of this work using comprehensive analytics. We are also using the best in open-source features along with our current enterprise systems, leveraging industry partners for key components only when required. The university is in fact already taking some big steps in the right direction. Some examples include: In December 2010, an agreement was signed with Google to provide students, faculty and staff with Google Apps for Education—a key building block for our vision as we move forward. In late March, U of A students were invited to begin making the switch over to Google Apps for Education. In the first nine days, 23,000 students made the switch. We have begun migrating eClass to Moodle 2.0, a robust open-source learning management system that offers an improved set of features for instructors and students, and which integrates with Google. In the fall of 2010, UAlberta became the first Canadian Foursquare Campus, and already has more than 10,000 check ins at our campus locations. The university is also utilizing a variety of other social media platforms to interact with students, faculty and staff, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Memolane. A uAlberta app has been designed for the iPhone, with other platforms (Blackberry, Android) in development—providing easy access to U of A news, events, courses, timetables, maps of campus and transit information. Enabled by our web, mobile, social networks and IT systems capabilities, we hope to create the best, leading-edge digital infrastructure for teaching and learning at any Canadian university. Our initiative will tap into an interdisciplinary team of faculty experts and online technology leaders who will collaborate in designing and implementing a fully accessible, usable and mobile digital environment as part of a new five-year IT plan under development. That environment will integrate features from Google, Moodle, our social media networks and our core data in Peoplesoft, libraries and research. This initiative has already received tremendous support and input from our faculties, units, students and alumni, and will require continued commitment from the entire university community. We encourage your feedback as we move towards our ultimate goal of becoming the best example of a post-secondary digital learning environment in the country. If you have any questions about the university’s web strategy, I would be happy to answer them here on the blog or via email. Jennifer Chesney Executive director, web strategy at 9:01 AM 18 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: Web Monday, March 28, 2011 On Comments Several people have indicated to us that they have submitted comments to the site that were not approved for posting. Comments on Colloquy must abide by the community guidelines outlined on the site, but we have not even seen these comments, and are therefore trying to determine how and when they were lost. We believe it might have something to do with different versions of Firefox, and will be doing some testing today to determine whether or not that is the source of the problem. In the meantime, we ask that you leave comments either by using a different web browser, or by sending them to us through the contact form. We apologize for the inconvenience, and are working to solve the problem as quickly as we can. **Update** We believe we have found the issue. In Firefox, users will need to enable third party cookies. Instructions on how to do that can be found here. at 10:23 AM 2 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: General Tuesday, March 22, 2011 First Comprehensive Institutional Plan Approved "A new document that outlines the University of Alberta’s short- and long-term plans, goals and resource needs, was approved by the university’s board of governors March 18." Highlights of the University of Alberta's Comprehensive Institutional Plan (CIP) can be found here. at 8:28 PM 4 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: CIP First Day of Spring Brings New Academic Plan Yesterday afternoon, members of General Faculties Council (GFC) approved Dare to Deliver, the University of Alberta's Academic Plan for 2011–2015. Receiving a strong endorsement from representatives of the academic professional officers, the Students' Union and the Graduate Students Association, Dare to Deliver passed with near-unanimous support (86 in favour, 2 abstentions, 1 opposed). The academic plan is the academy's response to the vision set out in Dare to Discover, and thus articulates the academic goals and aspirations for the University of Alberta over the next four years. Building on four cornerstones—Talented People, Learning, Discovery and Citizenship, Connecting Communities and Transformational Organization and Support—Dare to Deliver will “allow us to refocus on and consolidate our core strengths in teaching and research, reinvigorating our commitment to delivering the kind of extraordinary student experience associated with a great university.” Over the past 12 months, the academic plan went through many drafts and iterations. We received an enormous amount of feedback and advice from a wide array of individuals, representing the entire campus community. This has truly been a team effort, and we would like to thank everyone who committed their time, energy and effort in making the academic plan a reality. Once again, the campus community has illustrated that talented, committed people are the driving force behind the University of Alberta’s success as a post-secondary institution. Below is the PowerPoint presentation delivered at GFC yesterday, providing an overview of the new academic plan. The presentation is also available as a Google Doc. A complete version of the entire academic plan can be found here. Academic Plan GFC Presentation March 21, 2011 View more presentations from universityofalberta. Carl Amrhein Provost, vice-president (academic) Lorne Babiuk Vice-president (research) **Correction** In this post, APOs were mistakenly identified as "academic professional officers," rather than "administrative and professional officers." We apologize for the typo. at 2:39 PM 1 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: Academic Plan Monday, March 21, 2011 A Clarification-Letter to the Editor Note: This letter was sent to the Edmonton Journal on March 15 as an official correction on the record. It has yet to appear in the Journal; therefore, we are publishing it here on the blog for all to see. We agree wholeheartedly with Dr. G.E. Swaters’ assessment in his March 15 letter that University of Alberta faculty are among the best and most sought-after academics in the world. Our academics are a genuine point of pride for the entire community, and are the reason the university has an excellent reputation at home and around the world. We further agree that as the province’s flagship university we need adequate funding to provide the superior education that Albertans expect and deserve. I must correct, however, several errors in Dr. Swaters’ letter and clarify other misperceptions in his simplified presentation of complex issues. We at the university highly value our academic staff. Indeed, we value all of our people, including support staff. Negotiations are not simply about salary, but about total compensation that includes salary, merit pay and benefits in a province with very low taxes. I would like to clarify the following points raised by Dr. Swaters: • When citing salary settlements of at least 1.5 per cent taking effect at other Alberta universities on July 1, 2011, he neglected to mention that those universities’ faculty received a zero percent increase in ’10-11 when U of A faculty received a 4.75 per cent increase. Academic staff at the U of A subsequently agreed to reduce this pay increase to 2.45 per cent for 2010-11 by taking furlough days (days off without pay), but the remaining 2.3 percent will be restored this April 1. So in fact, all U of A academic staff will see their salaries increase April 1 by 2.3 per cent, regardless of the outcome of the current negotiations and arbitration. • The university does have a performance-based compensation system beyond the negotiated across-the-board increases. These merit raises average an additional 2.3 per cent across the academic staff. • Budgets are indeed about priorities and there is no larger component of the U of A budget than that spent on salaries and benefits. Dr. Swaters has claimed that the amount spent on academic salaries as a proportion of the operating grant has gone down, when in reality it has remained constant. In fact, actual dollars spent on academic salaries and benefits as a percentage of total operating expenditures increased from about 46 per cent in ’06 to 48 percent in ’10, a significant real dollar increase from $281 million to $399 million over that same period. Finally, it would be irresponsible to reach a settlement with one staff group that may have disastrous results for our other employees. Avoiding layoffs is one of the key goals at this time as it was last year. Chris Cheeseman, PhD Vice-provost and associate vice-president, Human Resource Services Professor of physiology, University of Alberta **Update** The Letter to the Editor appears in today's Edmonton Journal. at 2:11 PM 16 comments Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Links to this post Labels: AASUA Newer Posts Older Posts Home Subscribe to: Posts (Atom) Search This Blog Loading... About this blog This blog is published by the University of Alberta to provide an official forum for information sharing, discussion and debate about current topics relevant to the university. The president, vice-presidents, their designates and Colloquy staff will post entries as often as possible to share news and address issues, rumours, questions and decisions. Comments and questions will be moderated by Colloquy staff. Questions will be answered as soon as possible. To suggest a topic of discussion, please use the Contact Us link. Latest Comments Loading... 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