Written by: Youeal Abera, Staff Writer
Revisions in the cards for SFU’s practices relating to research personnel
At the latest Graduate Student Society (GSS) Council meeting, Council spoke with members of SFU’s senior administration about students’ frustrations towards SFU’s policies on research personnel.
Two administrators spoke at the meeting: Dugan O’Neil, SFU associate vice-president, research, and Sandi de Domenico, SFU associate vice-president, human resources. They highlighted that SFU’s current employment practices make it so that there are 1,700 grant-funded research personnel. These personnel, instead of being employed by SFU, work under principal investigators, who are the leading researchers of university grant projects and holders of institutional-provided grants. Grant-funded personnel cannot have their contracts extend beyond a year, and they lack a number of SFU’s employee benefits, such as access to the university gym.
Due to this policy, SFU has fallen behind 13 of the U15 Group of Canadian Reseearch Universities, a group of prestigious research universities, as 71% of those post-secondary institutions employ research personnel directly, allowing them access to their school’s benefits and resources.
Dugan and Sandi suggested a number of solutions to remedy this policy.
Firstly, they proposed that the R50 — Research Personnel — policies be revised so that 1,000 research personnel are employed by SFU and provided with access to the school’s benefits.
Secondly, it was proposed that the principal investigators be supported through guidance, similar to how SFU guides supervisors. This involves helping them adhere to clearly established obligations that they must maintain for their employees (such as informing their employees of the services and benefits they have access to at SFU).
Lastly, Dugan and Sandi proposed that all research personnel be better informed on what rights and services are available to them and what obligations they have as staff.
Dugan and Sandi noted that they had already spoken with a number of groups who hope to receive assistant in bringing their propositions into fruition. Currently, they expect that the plan to reform SFU’s research personnel employment practices will be executed by September 2019.
Students express concern over proposed tuition increases
Madison Harvey, a member of the SFU Psychology Graduate Caucus, voiced a concern on behalf of many students within her department regarding SFU’s proposed tuition fee raises.
“We have just had a couple of questions from those in our department about how we can pass on our concerns about the new budget consultation — specifically, how we may be able to do that anonymously,” said Harvey.
Harjap Grewal, GSS advocate and policy advisor, responded that a method for students to provide discreet feedback about the suggested budget was currently under development.
Grewal mentioned that further information on the proposed budgets and student feedback would be posted on the GSS website before the final budget is approved.
“We sort of got this timeline until about February where we’re expecting the final approval of this budget,” said Grewal.
Grewal noted that the decision to solicit feedback online was made to let students raise questions and concerns anonymously.
Grewal also mentioned that disseminating information and receiving feedback through a website would allow the GSS to gather data regarding how many questions are being asked about the proposed budget consultation, as there is currently no such indicator.
Budget for new printer
Pierre Cenerelli, GSS Executive Director, stated that the GSS is looking to purchase a new printer. The 10-year-old GSS printing machine was within close proximity of being rendered obsolete, he said.
Cenerelli announced that the budget for the new printer was $5,000 and that the Council was aiming to buy a used machine.