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!

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