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Graduate Student Societies of BC call for more support for graduate education

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner css=”.vc_custom_1602611815690{margin-bottom: 20px !important;border-bottom-width: 20px !important;padding-top: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_inner][ultimate_heading main_heading=”Government policies must take into account key differences between undergraduate and graduate education” heading_tag=”h4″ alignment=”left” margin_design_tab_text=”” main_heading_margin=”margin-bottom:20px;”][/ultimate_heading][dt_fancy_separator][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner css=”.vc_custom_1602612115662{border-bottom-width: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text][Vancouver, BC – October 13, 2020]

Media Release

 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]Graduate Student Societies of British Columbia, representing over 18,000 graduate students from across the province, is today calling on all political parties in BC to commit to a program of improved and more consistent support for graduate students.

Despite the significant negative impacts that the pandemic has had on graduate programs and research in BC, graduate students have been left with little support by the province. Students are now calling on the political parties of BC to recognize that graduate students are distinct from undergraduates in key ways and require support that takes these differences into account. It is clear that the differing needs and supports important to graduate students have not been historically well-recognized by provincial education policymakers, and while this is an old problem, during the ongoing pandemic it has had the consequence of leaving large numbers of graduate students in a vulnerable financial position.

The Graduate Student Societies of British Columbia urge the parties vying to form the next government to adopt three policies that will help graduate students deliver innovative research that benefits the entire Province:

 


1) Expand the B.C. Graduate Scholarship and make it a permanently funded program.

The BCGS program, introduced by the BC government in 2018, has provided merit-based funding to hundreds of graduate students across the province, enabling them to continue their research programs with financial peace of mind. However, unless extended, the fund is set to expire in 2021. We would like to see the program become a permanent feature of the graduate education landscape and have it expanded to include students in non-STEM disciplines.

 


2) Widen the eligibility criteria of the BC Access Grant to include graduate students.

Given their extended years of education and the increasing cost of tuition, the burden of student debt on graduate students is significantly higher than undergraduates1. Despite this fact, there are no needs-based grants for graduate education in BC even though a program exists for undergraduates. Allowing graduate students to apply for funding under the newly created BC Access Grant would, as the name suggests, improve access to education for those struggling with financial barriers to graduate studies.

 


3) Recognize, and take into account through policymaking, the distinct needs of graduate students and the critical role they play in promoting the social and economic development in the province.

The educational context in graduate programs is vastly different from those found
in undergraduate programs. Political parties in BC need to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to supporting post-secondary education is not optimal, and that support for graduate programs needs to take into account the distinct characteristics of graduate students, from financing to motivation to demographics. In particular, graduate programs are research intensive, enroll a large proportion of international students (with top international talent recruited to BC from around the world), and have many participants with new families and young children. It is also important to apply these insights to a broader range of government policies in order to better serve graduate students during their period of study.


 

Here is what graduate student leaders across BC have to say about these proposed policy changes:

“Graduate students create vast society-wide benefits with their research often leading to the creation of new technologies, new businesses and new ways of understanding our society, and they pass that new knowledge on as teachers in many programs. Introducing these changes would demonstrate that the Province appreciates the value of the contributions graduate students make and would be an investment in BC’s knowledge economy.”Alireza Kamyabi, University of British Columbia Graduate Student Society

“These are reasonable and eminently achievable policy goals that will provide increased financial security and predictability to graduate students across the province without giving headaches to those drawing up government budgets in Victoria.

We’re often overlooked in conversations about post-secondary education, but graduate students give up years of employment income and other opportunities in order to develop their research skills and keep BC at the forefront of the new knowledge-based economy, often juggling full time study with family responsibilities. These changes would put them on a more secure financial footing and allow them to focus less on debt and bills, more on their research and teaching.” Matt McDonald, The Graduate Student Society at Simon Fraser University

“Graduate students contribute so much to their universities and to the development of their society, in general – We are teachers, researchers, our work is published and can achieve academic clout for their institutions to boost their popularity—We can discover new methods scientifically, politically, or otherwise that can contribute to how policy is formed and what technological advances are made… It is very important that Graduate Students’ vote for a leader who will recognize our uniqueness in contributions as well as needs.”Abby Dooks, Northern British Columbia Graduate Student Society

“Graduate students are much more likely to have families of their own relative to
undergraduate students. The need to support families is already a significant barrier to
graduate education and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this. Improving the
accessibility and affordability of childcare is one very easy and effective way to support
graduate students, however, the unique labour market situation of graduate students must also be a consideration in the on-going pandemic relief efforts.”Drake T. Rushford, University of Victoria Graduate Students’ Society


About Graduate Student Societies of British Columbia

Graduate Student Societies of British Columbia is composed of the University of British
Columbia Graduate Student Society, the Graduate Student Society at Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria Graduate Students’ Society and the Northern British Columbia Graduate Student Society, together representing over 18,000 students in BC. These four organizations are registered under the BC Societies Act and are tasked with providing services to, and advocating on behalf of, the graduate students attending their respective institutions.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

U-Pass Response Guide

 

UBC GSS, and AMS, together with other Metro Vancouver public post-secondary institutions and student associations have come to an agreement with TransLink to collectively resume the U-Pass BC Program for September 1st, with continuing support from the Province of BC.

The AMS, GSS, UBC as well as other public post-secondary institutions and student associations in the region, through surveys and consultations, learned that a large number of students rely on public transit not just for access education, but to also access essentials needs and services – whether it’s to visit the doctor, see family, buy food or safe leisurely activities.

What is the U-Pass BC program:

The U-Pass BC program is a subsidized transit pass program that provides post-secondary students with universal, accessible and affordable access to public transit across Metro Vancouver. The U-Pass BC program costs $170 per academic term or $42.50 per month, providing students with a full 3-Zone Pass per month, which would normally cost over $170 a month.

All my classes are online, do I still have to pay for a U-Pass:

All post-secondary students in Metro Vancouver are required to pay the U-Pass fee. This pooled financial effort is the reason Translink is able to provide a reduced cost, subsidized transit pass specifically for post-secondary students. By having everyone contribute together towards the U-Pass, students can enjoy highly subsidized and accessible public transportation.

I am not living within Metro Vancouver, do I still have to pay for the U-Pass:

Students studying/living outside of Metro Vancouver can apply for a U-Pass exemption. More information on this can be found here.

I don’t need the U-Pass/ I can’t afford the U-Pass, how can I get out of it:

You can only be exempted from the U-Pass if you are either living outside the Lower Mainland or if you meet the exemption eligibility criteria as outlined in your SSC U-Pass exemption form. If you are facing financial hardship you may be eligible for the AMS Winter 2020-2021 Subsidy which offers either a full or partial reimbursement of your U-Pass fee. You can apply for the Winter Subsidy through the following link by logging into AMS CampusBase with your CWL.

 

 

For more information on the AMS Winter 2020-2021 Subsidy please visit here:

 

I’m immunocompromised and will not be using public transit this fall. What should I do:

We understand this concern and have worked with UBC Enrollment services to ensure that immunocompromised students are eligible for exemptions.

For this exemption, you first have to register with the UBC Centre for Accessibility. After you have done so, please go to your SSC, click Finances, U-Pass Exemption, select the disability exemption form under medical disability, and note “disability” as your reason for exemption.  More information

 

 

GSS supports extension of the BC Graduate Scholarship in 2021 BC Budget Recommendations

The UBC Graduate Student Society welcomes the recommendations made by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to the BC Legislature in preparation for the 2021 BC Budget.

The Committee’s Report on the Budget 2021 Consultation includes key recommendations that will benefit graduate students, including a multi-year extension to the BC Graduate Scholarship and expanded eligibility to include graduate students in non-STEM disciplines.

Alireza Kamyabi, Vice-President External Relations at the UBC Graduate Student Society comments.

“I’m excited to see recommendations that support grad students across the Province. Extending the BC Graduate Scholarship is something that the Society has been pushing for, for several years and I’m particularly pleased that the proposal includes extending the funding to students outside STEM disciplines.

This is a time when many students are struggling economically because of the pandemic. Investing in BC’s advanced education sector is an excellent way to support our economic recovery that will pay for itself over time.

Two other recommendations that I think will benefit graduate students in the longer term, are the creation of a  provincial international student education strategy, in consultation with students, post-secondary institutions and other key stakeholders, and addressing financial barriers related to the direct and indirect costs of education, including child care and transportation.

I know that international students and students with dependents have distinct needs and the Society will be consulting with grad students across campus to make sure these needs are met as the Province develops these new plans.

I believe that if these recommendations are implemented, they will help enhance graduate education in BC by making it more financially accessible and inclusive, something the GSS supports wholeheartedly.”


The full list of budget recommendations relating to Advanced Education are:

 

  • Provide stable, multi-year funding for community literacy across BC.
  • Increase resources to adult education to provide a broader range of course offerings and ensure equity in the funding of adult students and school-age students.
  • Invest in upgrading existing post-secondary infrastructure, including encouraging and leveraging opportunities to expand satellite campuses in rural, remote and underserved communities.
  • Support post-secondary institutions in advancing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by ensuring post-secondary education is accessible to Indigenous learners and honours and recognizes Indigenous culture.
  • Create a provincial international student education strategy, in consultation with students, post-secondary institutions and other key stakeholders, which examines the business model, the cultural, academic and economic integration of international students, and intended goals and outcomes of post-secondary education.
  • Provide sufficient support to post-secondary institutions for teaching and learning tools, infrastructure and technology, and training to facilitate professional development for the online delivery of courses.
  • Explore mechanisms, such as allowing the use of accumulated surpluses, to provide post-secondary institutions with short-term flexibility to navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic.
  • Invest in post-secondary education and expanding the number of seats available to students as a means to facilitate economic recovery and address immediate and projected gaps in the labour market, including ensuring local training and reskilling opportunities and reducing barriers for underrepresented groups.
  • Provide flexible reskilling and upskilling opportunities in online and in-person formats with a lens to equity, reconciliation and accessibility, and recognize skills acquired through prior and experiential learning, to support workers displaced due to automation, shifts to digital technology and the pandemic, including promoting and expanding technology and trades-related training and careers.
  • Provide a multi-year extension to the BC Graduate Scholarship and expand its eligibility to graduate students in non-STEM disciplines.
  • Facilitate access to education by addressing financial barriers related to the direct and indirect costs of education, including child care and transportation.

 

Kate Sedivy-Haley: 2020 Graduate

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Graduation ceremonies may be virtual this year, but we wanted to congratulate students graduating, who have contributed to the work of the GSS over their time at UBC.

Kate Sedivy Haley: PhD in Microbiology and Immunology.

 Dr. Sedivy-Haley studied responses to Salmonella infection in macrophage activation states, including the “tolerant” state seen in sepsis. She identified differences in gene expression that may account for different levels of resistance to Salmonella. This could help us to improve the ability of macrophages to resist infection and treat sepsis.

What are you hoping to do now you’ve graduated?

Now that I’ve graduated, I’m starting an internship with the Council of Canadian Academies, contributing to research and writing of reports on complex issues of public interest, including funding for natural sciences research. I’m hoping this experience will help me transition to a career in science policy.

What roles have you taken on for the GSS and what has been the best part of working with the Society?

I was the Chair of the Code and Policy Committee from October 2018 – February 2020, and Chair of the Governance and Accountability Committee from February 2020 to April 2020. The best part of working with the GSS was being able to collaborate on graduate student issues with so many dedicated people in committees and on the executive team.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Victoria Gomez: 2020 Graduate

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Graduation ceremonies may be virtual this year, but we wanted to congratulate students graduating, who have contributed to the work of the GSS over their time at UBC.

Victoria Gomez

Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS), UBC iSchool graduating June 2020

What are you hoping to do now you’ve graduated?

I’m looking forward to a career in public and community libraries, once they open back up, and continuing work in archives and digital collections on the side. Regardless of the profession, I am hoping to take forward my skills in teaching information and digital literacy, working with multicultural communities and language learners, and advocating for the interests of marginalized or underrepresented voices.

What roles have you taken on for the GSS and what has been the best part of working with the Society?

The best part of working as a Councillor and Committee Chair for the GSS was getting to know and collaborate with students from across UBC with a varied set of skills and expertise, for the common goal of advocating for and bettering the lives of graduate students at UBC. It was a pleasure to work with such brilliant minds and see the hard work that went into such important causes as providing financial aid to students, directing the strategic plan of the GSS for the future, and advocating for equitable pay to student employees. The leadership and relationship-building skills I learned will be useful for the rest of my career and life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Challenging Racism and Discrimination

Recent events have brought into sharp focus the deep-rooted racism and violence that Black and Asian communities in North America continue to face. Racism has no place in modern society, whether it takes the form of violence or systemic discrimination, and whether it is directed against Black, Asian, Indigenous communities or any other ethnic minorities.

Tackling discrimination means not only highlighting and challenging individual acts of prejudice but addressing the systemic problems that continue to oppress and disadvantage marginalized groups. We welcome President Santa Ono’s open letter outlining the University’s commitments to equity and diversity.

The 10,000 graduate students we represent come from across the world to study at UBC. As such they bring diverse perspectives and direct experiences of discrimination. Their voices can play a powerful role in challenging prejudice and in spreading knowledge outside campus.

Students’ academic and personal ambitions should never be compromised by discriminatory actions. This begins with the opportunity to engage in higher education, by removing barriers which disproportionately exclude individuals of marginalized groups.

On campus, inclusivity must be embedded in all aspects of life from curriculum planning to service design. This must be championed even if it requires challenging long-established conventions. Our commitment to Equity & Diversity is only true if it is absolute and unwavering.

Earlier this year the Society formally adopted commitments to champion equality and diversity on campus and beyond. These include:

  • Emphasizing in our advocacy the unique and intersectional issues that graduate students experience, with special respect to those from marginalized groups.
  • Engaging with student representatives from across campus to encourage and promote equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the ways these groups need.
  • Dedication to building community for marginalized groups via academic, professional, social, and recreational services.

We support graduate students who fight racism and prejudice in all its forms, and we actively encourage graduate students to contact us about how we can support marginalized groups more effectively.

The GSS Executive Team

Kimani Karangu (President), Nicolas Romualdi (VP University and Academic Affairs), Alireza Kamyabi (VP External Relations), Sarah Park (VP Students), Tayo Olarewaju (FEOO)


Additional materials

Contact the GSS

The GSS statement on Equality, Diversity and Exclusivity

PDF copy of the statement

How can we THRIVE in the time of Covid?

A normal research day for Theresa Pauly might involve visits to study participants across the lower mainland. Working in the Health and Adult Development Lab, which focuses on the links between social relationships and health, personal contact is an extremely important part of research.

“We work a lot with older adults, particularly couples, so we still advertise via newspaper or posters at community centres and do study visits in person. It’s great to meet with participants for a few hours. Even if most of the study protocol requires completing electronic surveys, face to face interactions provide a lot of insight into participants’ thinking.”

But the arrival of COVID19, and with it social distancing, has changed the normal research routine.

However, the change in circumstances has also offered a unique new opportunity to study social interactions and health, and so the THRIVE study was born. Tracking Health and Relationships in Varying Everyday contexts is led by Professor Christiane Hoppmann and aims to understand people’s thoughts, behaviours and feelings during the social distancing required by Covid.

Anyone over the age of 18 and living in Canada can participate. “If you sign up, we’ll ask you to complete a 45 to 90-minute online questionnaire about your background, personality, social relationships, attitudes, and wellbeing. Then, for ten days, we will ask you to complete two 5 to 10-minute questionnaires per day: one in the morning and one in the evening about your thoughts and how you are feeling, your everyday activities and social interactions.

“The results of our study will help us understand how people can maintain their wellbeing and social connectedness in times of social distancing. We expressly chose THRIVE as a title for the study because we want to convey the message that there are positive opportunities to develop new methods of social interaction even at this difficult time.”

There is certainly plenty of evidence that healthy social relationships are extremely important to good health.

We know humans are social beings, we have a need to belong and that poor social relationships are poor for our health. Studies show that poor social relationships have a similar negative effect on health to smoking or alcohol consumption

COVID has created a unique context to help us understand how to manage isolation, what can help us make the best of the situation.  Gratitude for the positive changes we can see like a view of the mountains untouched by pollution, more focus on creativity, new ways to connect with friends and family. While we all hope that the changes required by COVID will be short lived the resources that we find useful can be applied to help people that struggle with isolation.”

As someone who understands and researches the links between social interactions and health what advice does Theresa have for adapting to life in isolation?

“I enjoy alone time so the initial change wasn’t too bad. The most helpful thing I’ve found is to have a regular schedule. I still build my day as I did before COVID with scheduled work and leisure time and a daily walk for half an hour at lunchtime. I also try hard to set up social interactions each day, even if it is just a quick phone call. One thing I have tried with other grad students which works well is to have everyone in a Zoom meeting but to work independently. It gives you the feeling of working in a team and you can check in when you need to. I also can’t be watching Netflix all day because somebody knows!”

Thankfully despite the disruption to her work Theresa has been prevented from graduating on time: “In June I’ll be defending my thesis. I’ve heard stories from friends in Europe of thesis defences being delayed indefinitely, so I’m really grateful that UBC have been so organised. I just hope that there will enough normality to allow me to hit the ground running on my postdoc in Switzerland this September.”


More information about the study

https://blogs.ubc.ca/thrivestudy/

Sign up for the study:

https://ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6RwFu3ocxjDML1r

 

Immediate GSS Services and Events Changes

In light of the announcement that UBC classes will be moving online as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak the GSS has made the following decisions.

• All upcoming events, classes, and room bookings have been cancelled until further notice. This includes the Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

• Full refunds will be provided when applicable.

• The GSS offices in Thea Koerner House will be closed, but the Society will continue to work. GSS Executives and staff will be working remotely and can be contacted by email.

• Advocacy / Peer Support services will continue to operate normally, with student appointments being conducted online to minimize risk. If you wish to access our Peer Support Services, email advocacy@gss.ubc.ca

We encourage all students to keep up to date with UBC’s latest guidance on the issue: https://www.ubc.ca/campus-notifications/, and to minimize their risks by following the Province’s public health guidance.

The GSS is working closely with the Faculty of Graduate Studies to minimize the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak may have on Graduate Students. Please continue to follow the instructions given by UBC, and contact our Peer Support Services if you have concerns about being unfairly disadvantaged by the outbreak.

If you have concerns regarding your appointment as a Teaching Assistant, you should direct those to the TA Union, CUPE 2278, and contact either advocate@cupe2278.ca or president@cupe2278.ca

GSS endorses BCFS’s ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’ Campaign

Sara Hosseinirad VP External

The GSS is excited to announce our endorsement of the current ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’ campaign being running by the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). We’re formally joining the list of organizations that have publicly declared their support for this campaign, including SFSS and UBC AMS.

First off, what is this campaign? And who is BCFS?

BCFS is a provincial advocacy alliance of universities and colleges from across B.C. They work to provide post-secondary student with a unified voice to influence access to education, operating at both provincial and federal levels. They’ve had some major victories in their campaigns, including their work to eliminate interest on B.C. student loans (which was successfully passed last year). Now they’re taking on eliminating interest on federal student loans in their ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’ campaign.

For the average Canadian student graduating from an undergraduate degree, they’re typically looking at $5,000 in interest on top of their federal loans. Interest on federal student loans has been shown to unfairly penalize low and middle-income students, making this a system that unfairly punishes those who can’t pay up front. Eliminating interest on these federal loans will help graduates focus less on debt and more on their career and lives. The GSS believes in accessible and affordable education, and we hope to see this campaign succeed.

So, what does our endorsement mean for GSS members?

Domestic graduate students often come to UBC with student loan debt from their undergrad. Despite the fact interest rates stall when individuals re-enter school, when these students finally finish graduate education they’re left with this accumulating expense from their undergrad. This is an additional burden and barrier to students looking to start their lives post-grad.

GSS VP External Relations, Sara Hosseinirad, says: “As always, we at the GSS will continue working and advocating for affordable education. Since this campaign is run by BCFS, they will be taking the lead on the advocacy and campaign work. The GSS will be supporting them by hosting local activities to raise awareness and support for ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’. If you want to have your own voice heard on this issue, any grad student can also sign the open  letter individually.”

OPEN LETTER

Knockout Interest

Grad Life Through a Lens

Backpacking Brothers Graham Fonseca: Winner of the Winter 2019 Photo Contest

Graduate student life is better when it’s shared with friends and peers. Grad Life through your Lens is a competition that is about sharing. Sharing the experiences of campus life with other graduate students by capturing one of the moments of beauty, humour or friendship that make up graduate student life. We want images that capture your experiences at UBC!


Theme: Wonders at work! Show us something about your work or study as a grad student that you find exciting. It could be your workspace, an object or piece of equipment, a person – really anything, as long as it’s linked to your work or study (field work, internships or projects in all fields and disciplines).

Criteria:

  • All UBC Graduate students are invited to participate.
  • No more than 3 entries per person.
  • The judges will be taking in consideration the following: creativity, composition and relevance to the topic/theme.
  • Use common file formats (jpeg, gif, png, tiff) and a max. of 5 MB per photo. Make sure you retain a high-resolution copy of your photographs to ensure we can properly display them.
  • By submitting your photo to the contest, you must agree that you have permission to take the photo of the selected location, intellectual and/or artistic copyright, and individuals, and have their permission to enter the photo in this contest; and as the photographer, you retain copyright to the photo submitted, you grant the GSS a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual license to display your submitted images and use them in future marketing publications, on our website or elsewhere.
  • Judges reserve the right to exclude any photos that are deemed inappropriate and/or are a violation of Canadian Copyright laws.
  • Please do not submit photos of children unless there’s given consent.

Submissions:

  • Submit your photo via Instagram DM (UBCGSS) or to info@gss.ubc.ca
  • Submissions must include your name, title of the photo (description), location the photo was taken, and the name of your program.
  • Submissions close at noon on February 28th, 2020

Judges:

  • Ben Hill, GSS Communications and Marketing Director, Ben manages the communications and marketing functions of the GSS as well as curating the GSS brand. As a communications professional in the the UK and Canada he has led a wide range of digital and print design projects.
  • Pouya Rezaeinia, GSS VP Students
  • Victoria Gomez, MLIS Student, LASSA Co-President, GSS Councillor iSchool

Prize: photo displayed in the GSS Loft as well as website plus $100 Gift Card

*Winner will be announced via email and posted on Social Media as well as the GSS Newsletter

Contact Us: If you have questions, please contact events@gss.ubc.ca

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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