Iron Archives

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

Fall 1989, October 20

Professor John Robinson of Systems Design replied to an Editorial which claimed that the teaching standards at UW were not up to the bar and that the professors were not concerned about teaching.

According to Professor Robinson this problem is due to lack of appropriate formal feedback mechanisms. Course critiques, in his opinion, are not an effective way to improve the quality of teaching, in fact, that have the exact opposing effect. The reasons being, they are unethical, confusing to professors and negative messages communicated through these critiques were more likely to become “self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Course critiques are unethical because they give students the power to possibly end the professor’s tenure as an instructor, but yield this power without responsibility and accountability on part of the students.

Reflecting upon his personal experiences, Professor Robinson states that the results from the critiques were often contradictory to his perceptions and verbal feedback from the students, while sometimes they restated what he already knew. Moreover, a comparison of the results with older critiques lead to confusion as to what teaching style is better.

Professor Robinson states that he failed to understand how quantifying the professors’ teaching abilities through the critiques’ results, and comparing instructors with each other, is supposed to help these instructors improve their teaching styles. He suggests that, through the years, professors have learnt to ignore the critiques so they don’t lower the teaching quality at UW.

Professor Robinson ends the article by suggesting that feedback should be in the form on an ongoing dialogue between professor and class representatives; saying that communication is an effective way to improve teaching.

Luckily enough for students now, engineering has meetings between class representatives, professors and even the Associate Deans of the departments to ensure that students’ concerns are being heard.

Fall 1996, November 29

An article titled ‘Get the $hell out of Nigeria,’ written by Tim Wels, 2B Mechanical was published in this issue. Tim Wels mentions that students from UW, WLU and some local high schools protested against the presence of Shell in Nigeria.

According to this article, Shell started operation in the Niger delta region in 1958 and, due to carelessness by the company, the region was suffering from environmental damage. This was putting the lives of the local Ogoni people in danger. Ken Saro-Wiwa began the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and attracted global attention which forced Shell to temporarily abandon the region in 1993. The Nigerian dictatorship, being funded primarily by Shell, was not happy about it and attacked the Ogoni villages, committing murders rapes and even destruction of houses. The government arrested Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other activists without any charges and hung them. It was the one-year anniversary of the unjust death of these activists that was commemorated by the students.

Wels ends the article by saying, “The responsibility is now in our hands to pressure Shell to divest in Nigeria, and show the world that oil is not worth blood”.

First thing that came into my mind upon reading this article is popular fact that fashion industry uses cheap labour in the third-world countries for manufacturing, which is a violation of human rights. But the industries will continue to do that as long as they have consumers to buy their products.

Fall 2001, November 2

Daniel Martis, 3B Civil, wrote an article titled ‘UW: Liability over Education.’ Martis starts by saying that he came to Waterloo for the academic as well as practical experience gained primarily through work terms. But an incident made him question the practical value of education.

A professor organized a field trip the CEIT (Centre of Environment and Information Technology) building construction site. The site superintendent was contacted and the only conditions were that the students would sign a waiver form and receive a brief orientation on safety and hazards.

When the administration heard about this excursion they discouraged the trips on grounds of liability. If a student got hurt, the contractors on the construction site would be liable, who would pass that on to UW and UW could potentially spends huge amounts of money in settlements of the ensuing lawsuits. In the author’s opinion this is quite ridiculous, as the students had ample experience with construction sites from their co-op terms.

Martis claims this act of putting emphasis on the very small risk over the potential learning experience as a bad precedent and a compromise on Waterloo’s education quality. Cancellation of such trips when the risk is high was justified but not in this incident. Martis ends the article by saying that he is “at a school educating us at their convenience.”

Fall 2005, November 2

Francis Hope, 4N Electrical and Gabriel Chan, 2B Systems debate on “Is the computer/software market saturated?”

In Hope’s opinion it was. Computer, electrical and software engineering, all were basically the same thing except minor differences. In essence, graduates from these departments were all competing for the same job. Hope emphasizes that programming would stay but the reality is that there were way more people entering the market than jobs available for these people. Hope expressed his main concern, “It seems to me that there is more than just one facet to the computer industry, more than just programming… But society and this university seems to fixate more on programming than anything else.”

In Hope’s opinion, computer programming is not a specialization; it is a skill that can be learnt.

On the other hand, Chan argues that the demand for computer-specialized personnel would go up because they are needed everywhere. This demand stems from the socio-economic state of the world. Chan stated, “Capitalism needs a growth model that downplays the effects of overproduction and regulates consumption at a healthy rate while preserving the environment yet keeping as many people happy as possible (i.e. employed),” the solution to which is the software industry. Furthermore, development of new technology would inevitably require rigorous software development. Most of the big companies were housed in USA and they were hitting their saturation level but that did not imply that the worldwide demand would cease too. Chan ended his article by saying, “The dot-com frenzy of the last decade may have been characterized by uncontrolled investment and development, but the next decade will see the maturity and a sustainable and growing software industry.”

Although this question was raised 5 years ago, even today we see computer/electrical/software engineers as the highest in demand. Not everyone will be a computer engineer but being skilled with hardware/software will give a professional a competitive advantage.

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