The GSS Office is open. For COVID-19 pandemic updates and support information for UBC graduate students, click here

The best things about GSS 

There are 10000 graduate students at UBC Vancouver, who form the Graduate Student Society (GSS). GSS defends and promotes the interests of its members academically, socially, and culturally. Since it opened in 1962, Thea Koerner House has been the center of graduate student life on campus. The society’s executive team of five graduate students works with the council, committees, and staff to facilitate connections among graduate students and the university, the government, and the university. We have so many things to be proud of, and now it’s our turn to tell you about them.  

1. Relentless advocacy  

Undergraduate Graduate Students at UBC Vancouver are represented by the Graduate Student Society, which advocates for them to the University, the Government, and the general public. In addition to providing academic, professional, social, and recreational services, we serve as trustees of the Graduate Student Centre at Thea Koerner House. 

2. Peer support  

Grad school can be overwhelming, which is why the GSS offers Peer Support. Through this program, Peer Support Specialists are available to provide students with support, information, resources, and representation. As it is important that hard working graduate students are not left stranded to feel alone, the GSS works hard to ensure that our graduate students are well provided for and well catered to. 

Graduate students providing individual support to students experiencing difficulties are called peer support specialists. In addition to providing information on and facilitation of access to university resources, they will ensure that your concerns are handled fairly and in a timely fashion.  

3. Financial aid  

Financial aid for graduate students at the Vancouver campus experiencing unforeseen circumstances is provided by the Graduate Student Financial Aid program (GSFA), which is administered by GSS.  

Expenses that are incurred directly as a result of unforeseen circumstances may be covered by the fund, including, but not limited to:  

  • Expenses for living and rent  
  • Non-covered prescription medications under MSP, Pharmacare, and AMS/GSS health and dental insurance  
  • Expenses related to moving  
  • Fee for UBC Leaves of Absence    

4. AMS/GSS health and dental plan

The AMS/GSS Health and Dental Plan gives extensive health and dental coverage, particularly made for graduate students to cover most fees not taken into account by regular health care. This plan handles very important amenities such as prescription drugs, dental care, travel health coverage, vision care, and much more. 

5. Elected leadership  

The GSS is led by our passionate and friendly executives, working tirelessly to give our graduate students a flawless experience at UBC and in our society. Each executive is specially elected by members of our own society, so they always have graduate students’ best interests at heart. Moreover, the executives are typically graduate students themselves who work together to serve the interests of graduate students, launch initiatives, and be the voice of all graduate students here at UBC. 

A Joint Letter Addressing Student Safety as Omicron Surges

Dr. Henry and Minister Kang,

As many students in this province are set to return to campus for in-person learning, the extraordinary spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant represents a real and continued threat to the safety of post-secondary students and staff, specifically those who are immunocompromised. We, the undersigned, strongly urge the Provincial Health Officer to change the guidance issued to post-secondary institutions on December 21st, 2021, which “strongly recommend[s] continuation of on-campus instruction for post-secondary institutions in January 2022.”[[1]]

Since the Provincial Health Officer’s guidance to post-secondary institutions was issued in mid-December, the COVID-19 situation in BC has drastically changed. As of January 20th, the total number of COVID-19 cases in British Columbia was 305,715.[[2]] The number of active cases in the province as of January 20th was 37,430, with a total of 2,520 deaths to date.[[3]] In Canada as a whole, the total number of cases has increased to ​​2,868,862, with 32,220 deaths.[[4]] The Omicron variant has shown “evidence of increased transmissibility,” as well as the risk of reinfection for those who have previously contracted a former variant of COVID-19.[[5]] The highly transmissible Omicron variant poses a serious threat to many student demographics.

Post-secondary institutions must take an approach that acknowledges local health conditions, the size of their institution, and the needs of students and staff who are immunocompromised or living with those in high risk categories. For the safety of all students and British Columbians, institutions need to maximize their hybrid learning capabilities and allow students to attend online or in-person, depending on their own comfort levels and circumstances .

Post-secondary institutions look to the Provincial Health Officer for direction when making decisions related to COVID-19. The current guidance encourages institutions to take an approach that will result in an unsafe environment for students and staff. Every student navigates post-secondary education differently, and while there are those who prefer the in-person model, there are many students who face great risks to their health and safety by coming to campus.

Post-secondary institutions have been refining hybrid learning since the beginning of the pandemic. In the midst of the Omicron surge, post-secondary institutions must continue to utilize these online and hybrid learning models that help ensure the safety and well-being of all students. We believe the Provincial Health Officer should be encouraging them to do so.

Signed,


[[1]] Provincial Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Health, Office of the Provincial Health Officer, December 21, 2021, https://adm.viu.ca/sites/default/files/1217020-letter-to-psi-presidents-dec-21-2021-%28003%29.pdf (accessed January 12, 2022)

[[2]] Government of Canada, “COVID-19 Daily Epidemiology Update”, January 17, 2022 https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html?stat=num&measure=total&map=pt#a2 (accessed January 12, 2022)

[[3]] Ibid

[[4]] Ibid

[[5]] Government of Canada, “SARS-CoV-2 variants: National definitions, classifications and public health actions”, December 23, 2021, https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/testing-diagnosing-case-reporting/sars-cov-2-variants-national-definitions-classifications-public-health-actions.html#a3 (accessed January 12, 2022)

Graduate students call on federal government to utilize university residence isolation plans as an equitable alternative to mandatory hotel stay for arriving international students

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Eight graduate student societies and associations, representing 91,000 graduate students across Canada, are calling on the federal government to approve university-administered quarantine plans at university residences as an equitable alternative to 3-day mandatory hotel stay for arriving international students.[/vc_column_text][ultimate_spacer height=”15″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″ css=”.vc_custom_1615766077586{background-color: #008186 !important;}”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][ult_content_box bg_color=”#008186″ box_shadow=”horizontal:px|vertical:px|blur:px|spread:px|style:none|” hover_box_shadow=”horizontal:px|vertical:px|blur:px|spread:px|style:none|”][vc_column_text]

Read Graduate Students’ Joint Letter to the Federal Government 

[/vc_column_text][/ult_content_box][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height=”15″][vc_column_text]On February 21st, 2021, Canada introduced new restrictions on international travel requiring all travellers arriving in Canada to isolate in a federally-approved hotel for three days at their own expense. While restrictions on international travel to Canada are required to ensure safety and wellbeing of travellers and residents, we believe the unequitable barriers to entry to Canada must be mitigated for those that must enter the country for essential travel.

Graduate students are a group that must enter Canada to be able to partake in their studies, which is primarily research which takes place in research facilities on and around campuses.

As organizations advocating on behalf of graduate students, our priority is the health and safety of our respective student bodies and broader community. We believe university residences’ isolation programs are a safe, equitable and affordable alternative to mandatory 3-day hotel stay for international graduate students who must enter the country for their research and studies.[/vc_column_text][ultimate_spacer height=”15″][vc_column_text]“We believe there is an opportunity here to utilize university residence isolation programs as a safe and affordable alternative to mandatory hotel stay that will reduce costs for students and allow for greater utilization of hotel space for other arriving groups. Our university residences’ quarantine plans have proven to be safe and effective programs so far and we think approving them would be beneficial especially as we see universities start to re-open and more students arrive in Canada”.
– Alireza Kamyabi, Vice-President External Relations, Graduate Student Society of University of British Columbia Vancouver

“International graduate students are key contributors to the academic mission of Canadian universities, and we need to reduce travel-related barriers so they can begin or continue their studies here. Our universities’ federally-approved isolation packages are the ideal compromise between affordability, safety, and accessibility for these students.”
– Marc Waddingham, President, University of Alberta’s Graduate Student Association,

“It’s already difficult for international students to adjust to a foreign country. In addition to that, incoming international students face high financial stress due to increased payments that are required to start a life in a new home country. Forcing students to also pay a minimum of $2,000 for a hotel room stay is creating more financial barriers for students, especially when universities are prepared to receive international students during the pandemic and have government approved quarantine plans in place.”
– Humaira Inam, President, University of Saskatchewan’s Graduate Students’ Association[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Read the letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and the Minister of Health

Letter[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

AMS, GSS Meet Provincial Legislators

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The GSS is joining the AMS this week to meet with members of the BC Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and discuss the most pressing issues facing students. The group, led by AMS VP External Affairs Kalith Nanayakkara, and GSS VP External Affairs Alireza Kamyabi, will address topics including housing affordability, support for the post-secondary sector in BC, access to Higher Education (particularly for indigenous students), and additional funding for sources for students.

GSS VP External, Alireza Kamyabi says: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to meet with so many members of the legislative assembly to discuss real problems of affordability and access but also to emphasise that students have an important role to play in ensuring the Provincial economy flourishes in a post COVID world.”[/vc_column_text][ultimate_spacer height=”15″][vc_single_image image=”24706″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][ultimate_spacer height=”15″][vc_column_text]The specific policy proposals recommended by the Societies include:

  • Include students in rental support programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Make certain that there are predictability measures for international students in terms of tuition fees and ancillary costs through the Tuition Limit Policy.
  • Invest in affordable housing for Indigenous people and communities.
  • Include non-STEM disciplines in the BC Graduate Scholarship and establish permanent funding for the scholarship.
  • Expand the BC Access Grant to include graduate students.

[/vc_column_text][ultimate_spacer height=”15″][vc_column_text]Ali continues: “Extending the BC Access Grant to include graduate students, and making the very successful BC Graduate Scholarship a permanent program that can also support students outside STEM disciplines would make a tangible difference to graduate students. These changes would also support research in host of priority areas for the Province.

Housing affordability is a perennial problem for students, that has only been made worse by COVID-19. Ensuring they are included in available rental support programs during the pandemic would help students manage the immediate uncertainties.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

University Announces Funding Boost for PhD Students

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The University has approved an increase in  the annual minimum guaranteed funding package for PhD students, which will be $22000 from September 2021. The current package is $18000.

This welcome increase in a consistent source of income will particularly help the most financially vulnerable students.

This change will bring this core funding above the poverty line benchmark set by the Government of British Columbia at $20,000 per person.

Increasing the minimum stipend was once of the main recommendations from the GSS’s 2019 presentation to the Board of Governors, which was informed by the GSS Student Satisfaction Survey and the GSS 2019 Funding Survey. The responses to the latter survey reinforced the financial challenges graduate students face, with 60% of respondents reporting difficulties managing basic expenses, and signaling the cost of housing as a particularly heavy burden.

This change was driven by a collaborative effort between the Graduate Student Society and the Faculty of Graduate Studies, who have worked with campus partners, to develop this proposal and to ensure that making this change would not adversely affect access to graduate programs, or any student’s existing funding supports.

The increase in minimum funding, coupled with the recent implementation of the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative Award (PAEI), which was also a direct outcome of the advocacy efforts of the GSS, ensures an improvement in affordability for all PhD students, and most significantly for those in the most need. The PAEI was rolled out in Summer of 2020, covering 17% of the tuition cost after awards, and will increase to 25% effective September 2021.

GSS VP Academic and University Affairs Nicolas Romualdi comments: “We’re delighted to see the University endorsing a policy that will support graduate students in such a significant way. It was heartening to see the broad cross campus support for making this change quickly from faculty and administration alike.

Increasing this core funding is the best and most equitable way to ensure that students across all programs, and from all backgrounds can afford graduate studies at UBC.  

We believe that funding graduate students benefits the entire University Community, as it allows students to focus their efforts on research rather than finding ways to make ends meet.

I would like to personally thank the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and her team for all the effort that went into the analysis of this proposal. I would also like to thank my predecessor, Tarique Benbow, for the work done to create and carry out the 2019 GSS Funding Survey, whose results continue to inform and support our advocacy efforts in this area.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

GSS Council Summary – December 2020

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Welcome to the summary of GSS Council on December 10, 2020 (December’s Council happens on the 2nd Thursday instead of the 3rd to allow our Councillors to take a break for the holidays, even though that might not involve travel this year!).

Congratulations to our new Councillor(s): Bethany Adair (Medical Geneticfs), Taryn Scarff (Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries), William Canero (School of Community and Regional Planning), and the re-election of Virginia Pichler (Microbiology and Immunology).

We also welcome a lot of new and renewed Affiliated Organizations: Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE) Graduate Student Council, GrasPods (BC Cancer Graduate Student and Post Doctoral Fellow Society), Geography Graduate Student Association, Institute of Ocean and Fisheries Graduate Student Society, and IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Safe Space).


 

Council heard several important guest presentations, including:

  • one from our very own Dean Susan Porter from the Faculty of Postdoctoral and Graduate Studies about the Graduate Life Centre project and the successful advocacy to increase minimum funding for PhD students;
  • the annual audit presentation from our accountants (our paperwork got a shoutout);
  • and a set of presentations from StudentCare, the company that provides your Extended Health & Dental Plan, on some possible options for a legal representation service for students

Council passed a “consent agenda”, a set of bylaw amendments previously approved for the 2020 AGM to be included in the upcoming referendum, and some larger ones separately also for referendum. These included proposed changes that are small and “housekeeping” in nature like how we edit our Policy Manual typos (exciting!), to larger proposals such as a new fee to maintain the GSS Graduate Student Financial Aid, an emergency fund for graduate students that are in financial distress. All these proposed amendments can be found in the Council minutes and will appear in the upcoming referendum in early 2021. Other discussion maters included updates on the VP University & Academic Affair, Nicolas Romualdi, and his office’s work setting remote invigilation policies, a financial update from Financial and Executive Oversight Officer Tayo Olarewaju, debate on endorsing the #StudentsforLoujain campaign, and updates on committee goals from the Governance & Accountability committee.

As always, minutes will be available once approved on the GSS website for more details. The next meeting will be on Thursday, January 21, 2021. All graduate students are welcome to attend!

 

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BC Provincial Government forms Cabinet

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On November 26, 2020, the provincial government swore in its new Executive Council under the leadership of Premier John Horgan.

The UBC AMS and GSS would like to congratulate all new cabinet members on their appointments and specifically, their commitment towards providing British Columbia with leadership throughout these unprecedented times. Additionally, we would like to congratulate Minister Anne Kang, a former AMS and GSS member, on their appointment to the role of Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training.

We look forward to working with them and their ministry towards making certain that post-secondary students are supported during these unsure times. We would also like to thank Minister Melanie Mark for their leadership in the past three and a half years as Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training. We look forward to seeing their accomplishments as the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sports.

More locally, we would like to extend our congratulations to MLA David Eby on their reappointment to Attorney General of British Columbia and their new appointment to Minister responsible for Housing. We look forward to continuing to work with MLA David Eby on multiple affordability and accessibility priorities.

UBC GSS and AMS are excited to continue to work with the provincial government in our collective effort towards creating a more accessible and affordable post-secondary education system for all British Columbians.

 


For Media Inquiries:

Eric Lowe
Communications & Marketing Manager

Ben Hill
Communications Director
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Graduate Student Societies of BC welcome much-needed investment in SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships

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Graduate Student Societies of British Columbia, representing over 18,000 graduate students from across the province, welcome the announcement of a $26 million investment in SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships by the federal government of Canada.

This funding will support 540 doctoral student researchers in areas of critical social importance, such as the effects of climate change; the development of sustainable food systems; Indigenous languages; law and environmental revitalization; the impacts of chronic and recreational cannabis use; and psychological resilience from past traumas.

PDF copy of the story

“Graduate research funding in Canada has been stagnant for far too long. Graduate students are the backbone of Canada’s research and innovation sector and its future. We are very pleased to see this much-needed investment in SSRH Doctoral Fellowships” said Alireza Kamyabi, Vice-President External Relations at UBC Graduate Student Society. “Now more than ever, we are seeing the importance of understanding how our society and social institutions function. Our graduate student researchers in social sciences and humanities are driving those projects, and we’re glad to see them be supported.”

 

GSSBC acknowledge that more action is needed to revamp Canada’s research sector and will continue to work with allies across the Canada to advocate for necessary investments in social sciences and humanities research funding.

 

“We are so appreciative that the government is recognizing the important work that needs to be done in order to further understand and rectify these large-scale issues. Funding is a necessity for graduate students to continue such important work and allows them to increase their focus on research instead of worrying about how to make ends meet. We know that graduate students will rise to the challenge that large-scale issues pose and we are grateful for the governments support”

Abby Dooks, Director of External Relations, University of Northern British Columbia GSS[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Study Room, Thea Koerner House, UBC

GSS Loft, Rm. 4202 of AMS Student Nest, UBC

Leon’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Thea’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Penthouse, Thea Koerner House, UBC