As the University maintains summer tuition fees, graduate students have been left with their financial stability hanging in the balance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After creating a letter campaign that brought forth more than 800 letters from students advocating for the suspension of summer tuition, Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 901 (PSAC Local 901), the union representing graduate students at Queen’s, released a statement on March 27 in response to the University’s decision to proceed with the normal fee schedule.
In an email response to all graduate students, Mark Green, provost and vice-principal (Academic), wrote that “Queen’s, like many Canadian universities, is not in a position to waive graduate tuition for the summer term at this time.”
The University did not respond to The Journal’s request for comment in time for publication.
In their statement, PSAC Local 901 raised concerns about the closure of various physical campus facilities, stating it will leave many graduate students unable to fulfill the fieldwork portion of their research—particularly those requiring lab space.
“Students cannot complete their research in a timely manner and are not receiving access to the facilities they are paying summer tuition to use and may delay their degree completion,” PSAC Local 901 said in its statement. “[T]he cost of tuition could be better utilized to support the payment of rent, childcare, food, and lack of income.”
Aware of how COVID-19 is affecting students, the SGPS is working to provide additional financial support during the pandemic.
“First and foremost, [we are] ensuring that graduate and professional students receive accurate, reliable, and up to date health and safety information,” wrote Jeremy Ambraska, SGPS president, in a statement to The Journal.
As a result of preventative measures taken across the University, the SGPS has moved their operations online to remain open.
According to Ambraska, the SGPS has become a vocal advocate for graduate students in the campus-wide transition to online classes, focusing on issues surrounding grading, evaluation, accommodation, research, access to labs, timely degree completion, loss of employment during and after school, accreditation hours for students who need licencing, and childcare.
As part of the SGPS’ efforts, Ambraska wrote that the organization has worked with the School of Graduate Studies to provide a COVID-19 emergency bursary for students affected by the crisis and has contributed funds to a group of medical students who are 3D printing personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers. The SPGS remains in talks with the University about new supports for students.
Additionally, Ambraska wrote that the SGPS has been in contact with municipal and provincial levels of government regarding a financial safety net for graduate students. They have also created a COVID-19 virtual information hub for students.
“While graduate and professional students are facing many challenges, we heard most vocally on the need for Queen’s to suspend graduate summer tuition,” Ambraska wrote.
Covid-19, graduate students, SGPS, tuition
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