AGSA Meeting Minutes – November 26, 2010

Thanks, as always to Lindi for the minutes!

1. Election of a new treasurer:

Farewell to Marlee our past treasurer, welcome to our new treasurer Maggie Woo!

2. Clarification and info re: letter to Department – student issues and concerns

Clarification of 4th year + funding and intent of letter:

Sara wanted to make sure to clarify that although this is worded as 4 year + funding, that doesn’t mean that students have funding for a full four years. There are other sources of funding for your first four years, at the 5th year mark, there are really no funding opportunities available.

Intent of the focus on funding in the 5th year is to draw attention to the disconnect between the imaginary or “official” program length and the actual length of time it takes to complete a PhD, and especially the implications for funding. It is no surprise to anyone that the PhD program takes more than 4 years, but the whole funding structure is set up for 4 years.

The model now is “front loaded” with an emphasis on recruitment and funding early in the program. But perhaps there should be more focus on completion. This has implications for TA allocations too, and people with less funding at the start often have even more trouble after the 4th year.

Presentation to Dean (next week):

On Dec 7, Natalie and Morgan will attend the Department meeting. The Dean of Arts will attend this meeting and students have been asked to give a presentation. Sara suggests that the presentation focus  on fourth year + funding, perhaps mention the GSS motion to show that this not just a problem in anthropology students, but for PhD students campus-wide.

2. Committee/representative updates

GSS update (Meredith)

There was a GSS meeting this past Thursday, a motion passed to approve a position statement on 4 year + funding (the document is available here). Thus this is evidently a University-wide issue

However, this is only a position statement, so the GSS has decided to take on the issue of 4 year + funding, cannot actually do anything about it aside from lobby.

On Dec 14t at 5:30 pm, GSS ballroom, Annual General Meeting – any graduate student who attends can vote: come and vote! Meredith will be presenting a motion to approve a position statement about maternal leave. For voting at the meeting they need to have 100 people. There will be free food and free beer!

3. (Post)Holiday party update

We had a holiday party committee meeting last week:

Curling party – more expensive than anticipated. Vancouver, Richmond, and Marpole clubs too expensive. AGSA could subsidize one sheet, then participants could pay for others? That would reduce the cost.

Alternative options: different winter activities. Snow shoeing, skating, sledding… something less expensive.

Snow shoeing Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain, Cypress? 3-5 km, can rent show shoes

Pub night after?

First Saturday in January? (January 8th)

AGSA can help subsidize rentals and snacks at after-party.

4. Meeting schedule for next term

Wednesdays at 1pm, instead of Thursdays.

5. Dazed and Confused (Natalie)

Re-evaluating the model

Possible sign-up beforehand

Not scheduled for this or next week

5. Meeting with the Dean, pt. 2

Natalie wanted to know what other concerns students have.


4th year + funding

Distribution of funds and opportunities skewed by large cohorts

Large cohort also negative for class contributions, ie) 500, not a productive academic environment.

There are also some positive things about the department:

Mentoring program

506 class, conference

Individual attention from supervisors

Good sense of community

Faculty go above and beyond what is expected

The dean is going on a possible tour around the department. We can’t mention space as a concern in the presentation, but perhaps everyone could hang out in ANSO that day to show how many people there are?

100 courses getting really large, huge workload for TAs – more TAships?

Upper-year undergrads are asking for more specialized classes


AGSA Meeting Minutes – November 10, 2010

Last week we held a supplementary meeting to discuss the AGSA letter to faculty and the responses to the letter from John and from the AGSC. A copy of the letter is available here.

Here are the minutes (thanks to Mascha for filling in for Lindi):

1. 4 year + funding

a) Letter and presentation to the Dean

The Dean of the Faculty of Arts will attend the next Department meeting on Dec 6th [edit: Dec. 7th], and John has asked us to prepare a student presentation for that meeting. This presentation should focus on strengths of the program, as well as student concerns. We should focus on the 5+ year funding issue, with some suggestions about what could be done. The main problem is the disconnect between a 4 year program (on paper and in funding) and the fact that the PhD degree takes longer than 4 years (and this is no surprise to anyone). John suggested trying to establish “writing up” fellowships for students who are writing their dissertations, and this is something we could mention.

There was concern about the fact that the university rather pushes recruitment than helping students to finish their studies. This is done in order to increase the Department, so to get more funding, but other things, e.g. 5th year funding and increase in TA-ships are not addressed.

Other things that are problematic is for instance the extension of visa for international students. The letter of acceptance (which students use for their Visas) should also include that a year (more or less) of field research is part of the discipline.

(FYI for international students: The International Partial Tuition Scholarship runs even after the 4th year (up to 6 years, then one needs to reapply), eventually UBC aims to level out the difference between domestic and international tuition.)

AGSA will work on a presentation to the dean, as well as a letter. We will liase with sociology and possibly other departments to present our concerns. It would be really great to have help with writing this letter!!!

b) AGSC meeting:

Gaston, Mike, and Alexia are very eager to help us with our request to calculate statistics of former and 5th and 6th year students so to get a better picture of where the funding system doesn’t work. They encourage us to be “upfront” :o) They also suggested that we liaise with the Sociology students and other Grad student associations at UBC.

We also need to get in touch with 5th and 6th year students, and those that have already graduated. The idea is to create a simple email survey, and we can try to get information from Eleanore to email students in later years of the program, and alumni.

5th and 6th year students often have sessional positions, which often gets in the way of writing up one’s thesis. Also, it’s unclear what’s the case if advisor is on leave (as students need their permission to take on this position). There is also uncertainty how prioritization works for sessional instructors.

AGSC is drafting a document to take to the department retreat, and they will share it with us once it has been written.

2. Allocation of TA-ships

John is willing to meet with students to discuss how TA-ships are allocated – Dazed & Confused might be a good venue.

There are basically 4 criteria when allocating TA-ships:

1) Fit of student to class

2) Evaluations

3) Obligations

4) Recruitment

AGSC are supportive of our request to make the allocation process more transparent, e.g. including the question in the application: what percentage of income would the TA-ship fill? The question came up if that was not already part of the Union’s process.

There is a possibility of our TA-liason attending the TA allocation meeting in the summer. This is a great opportunity for us, as this person would be more familiar with the students’ positions (in terms of need of experience and financial security of TA-ship). We should also have the TA-liason be really well versed in the TA-union materials, so that they know all of that important info.

AGSC also wants TA’s to evaluate what classes they think need and don’t need a TA. In cases where there are no TA’s in class, we should ask undergrads and class instructors. Currently the regulation is that classes with more than 70 students need at least one TA (not always the case). All classes that are hands-on, like the Ethnographic Film class, need at least one TA (Denise).

3. Gendered needs of students:

There is need for a Maternal Leave Policy at UBC, as currently nothing really really exists. Students are forced to go on leave (and lose their student status) or pay tuition. Ana is willing to push the matter, everyone in the Department is very supportive. Meredith will look over the final paper. Everyone is invited to help writing this letter!

We should try to schedule a meeting with the Dean and also talk to other Grad students from different departments, as well as student mothers, as well as mothers among staff. Denise will get in touch with people at Green College.

When we circulate this urge for a Maternal Leave Policy we should ask for agreement in principle, not necessarily adoption of the whole policy.

Meredith suggests to go to one specific person at the GSS, rather than to address the GSS in general

4. What to do with the letter to faculty

After some discussion we decided to wait and see what the AGSC document looks like. We would also like profs to be able to ask us for a copy of the letter if they want to see it. All students were emailed a copy of the letter, and may share it with their supervisors or anyone they want to!

AGSA Meeting Minutes – November 4, 2010

1. Conference Funding (Sara):

  • Save your receipts AND boarding passes! Funding may be given in April according to John Barker, through the department. Possibly $300-$500 per student, depending on how many people submit receipts. AGSA will need to decide on a process to allocate these funds.

2. Letter to Department Re: Student Issues (Sara):

  • A letter was written and addressed during department retreat and the revisioning of the grad program.
  • Thank you to everyone who took part in the student poll. About 80 votes were submitted by 27 people (remember, each person was asked to choose 3 – although some didn’t) Student poll results:
  1. 5th year funding (22 votes, 25%)
  2. TA allocation transparency (14 votes, 16%)
  3. Gendered needs of students (11 votes, 13%)
    • These 3 concerns became our “top 3 recommendations” in the letter, the remaining issues were: streamlining program (10 votes, 11%), improving communication between supervisors, students, AGSC (8 votes, 9%), creating a research design seminar (7 votes, 8%), alternative evaluation formats (5 votes, 6%), social cohesion of the department (4 votes, 5%), study space (2 votes, 2.5%).

    4) Meeting with John Barker Re: Letter (with Sara and Diana):

    • Study space – administrative problem, no real solution; basement space a potential if Faculty of Arts allots it to Anthropology upon assessment of space needs.
    • Lockers available for storing belongings as an alternative.
    • TA allocation process – offered explanatory meeting, open to TA liaison idea; funding needs and financial situation not known to those on selection committee
    • Issues brought up during AGSA meeting Re: letter review:
    • Security issues with TA office
    • Students with SSHRC funding and TAships
    • possibility of creating an AGSA bursary or support for emergency funds for food, etc?

    5. GSS Meeting update (Meredith):

    • Working on policy for dealing with leave (sick, maternity), would like to invite students to create solidarity to ensure their voices are expressed at the meeting. Reps will let us know when it comes time for this

    6. Department Meeting (Morgan):

    • Campus security – break-ins in ANSO, 2-3 am, thus no real student danger
    • No night patrol in area
    • Security audit in works for the area, placing deadbolts on some doors
    • There will be a meeting with Dean, at the next department meeting. John would like to invite students to help voice concerns at that meeting.
    • SSHRC funding – forwarded 10, 7 affiliated (total 23 applications)

    7. Treasurer’s Update (Marlee):

    • Balance: $833.99
    • Fundraising – student emergency food fund? Medical costs? Need to decide
    • Treasurer appointment: Current appointment ends in January, new position to be voted on at next meeting (Dec).
    • Treasurer’s duties: Collect bank statements, hold debit card, reimbursing students

    8. T-Shirts and Logos (Diana Marsh):

    • Diana presented some logo ideas, she will email them to AGSA to distribute and possibly vote on.

    9. Committee Members for Holiday Party (Sara):

    • We would like to have a holiday party in early December, we need a committee to plan this! Anyone who is interested in volunteering to help plan the party, please email Sara.

    10. TA Update (Ana):

    • Unfortunately we ran out of time at the meeting for this (sorry everyone!) but Ana has learned from the TA Union that  the union counts the 4 years of appointment preference independently to the year we are in within our academic program.
    • When any of us leaves for a term or a year for research then that year is not considered as part of our 4 years of priority. In other words the TA-ship reappointment preference clock is stopped and that year is available when we come back form field work. Thus if a person had previous TA-ship, he/she went to the field for a year (and so the “TA-ship clock” had stopped during that year), and we have no funding from the university because we are in our 5th year of academic program, then would be in the high priority to get a two term TA-ship because we are on our 4th year of TA-ship preference.  This high priority is lost if we have other funding (scholarship or work) for that year or if we took a TA-ship while doing field work. This priority ends when the 4 years counted by the union end.
    • What this means is that many students may have a hiring priority to get two TA-ships in the 5th year of their program. This is a big difference than not having that priority at all.
    • Here is the wording from the collective agreemen (article 13.03):

    (v)           An employee who declines an offer of reappointment as a Teaching Assistant in order to interrupt his/her program of graduate study for a period not to exceed one (1) year, or who is formally recognized by the University as being on research leave or engaged in field work, for a period not to exceed one (1) year, will not jeopardize his/her consideration for reappointment under Article 13.03(b) and will not lose a year of preference for appointment.