Grad Minutes

Here’s what you missed from the Graduate Student Society’s last Council meeting

Illustration by @Reslus

Written by: Michelle Gomez, News Editor

Stipend temporary position for COVID-19 related issues

The Council discussed hiring an additional temporary staff member for working specifically on COVID-19 related issues for the upcoming academic year. 

Director of Academic Relations Rahil Adeli explained that this position would be necessary considering the possibility of an entire academic year of remote learning, as well as the fact that the GSS Directors are “sometimes very highly overworked.” 

The new staff would work with the GSS Directors as well as the GSS COVID-19 task force to focus specifically on COVID-related issues. Additionally, a part of this position would involve connecting with and engaging incoming graduate students online. 

“There’s always so many projects I just feel I can’t really thoroughly work on [ . . . ] we hear from so many more students than we can really adequately help out,” said Matt McDonald, Director of External Relations. 

2020/21 academic year budget

Director of Finance Farina Fassihi noted some budget changes for the 2020/21 academic year due to COVID-19.

The amount allocated to on-campus services has decreased due to campus closure. On the other hand, bursaries that GSS offers have been increased. 

They will also allocate resources for a new Director position. 

Roundtable discussion 

At an open roundtable discussion, the GSS Council discussed SFU’s transition to remote learning and how the change has affected graduate students in their departments. 

Alexi Pauls, Chemistry Representative, noted that the chemistry caucus is concerned about lab safety. Particularly, Pauls noted that crucial information for students returning to labs — such as safety concerns or safety changes — has been going through faculty members, rather than directly to the students themselves. 

Geography Councillor Claire Shapton said that the geography department is “concerned about how we will communicate and also bond with new people in the department,” considering that their regular Fall retreat along with other events and meetups have been cancelled. 

History Councillor Joseph Burton discussed a lack of access to library materials and resources since the closure. He explained that many history students rely on microfilm, items from the special collections, and other archives that are only accessible in person. Due to a lack of access to these materials, Burton noted that many history students find themselves forced to change the timeline of their degree. 

Another issue Burton brought  up was security personnel on campus not being required to wear masks. 

Zora Feren, Communication Councillor explained that the students in the dual masters degree program have been struggling with their Fall plans. The program involves spending one year studying at SFU, and one year studying at a university in China. Feren explained that the cohort that is set to study in China in Fall 2020 has not yet been told whether or not they are going. 

Based on survey information and general discussion from the biology department, Alison Dennert (Biology Councillor) outlined the four main concerns for graduate students in the faculty: undue pressure to return to work, financial security, degree completion concerns, and mental health. 

Urban Studies Councillor Cameron Pearson brought up the issue of supporting students who are also parents, who could be struggling to balance their degrees as well as child care at this time.