Queen’s Senate is looking to find solutions to support graduate and postdoctoral students who are facing financial stress, mental health difficulties, and housing insecurity.
Senate met on Feb. 28 in Robert Sutherland Hall for their first meeting back after reading week. Graduate student supports was one of the topics of discussion, as well as physical accessibility on campus, and the recent suspension of Bachelor of Fine Art admissions.
“I know graduate students are struggling and this is one of the issues that keeps us up at night at graduate student and postdoctoral affairs—we share [graduate students’] concerns,” Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Affairs said.
According to Quadir, significant headway has been made at Queen’s including removing differences in fees for international doctoral students and increasing minimum funding to $20,000 annually for PhD students.
Senators acknowledged the difficulty of comparing funding packages at Queen’s with other universities because of additional external funding, limited public information, and the packages differing across faculties.
“The problem is huge,” Tara McDonald, associate dean (school of graduate studies and postdoctoral affairs) said.
“There was a 7.3 per cent increase in cost of living here in Kingston between 2021-22. There must be support at every single layer for graduate students.”
The School of Graduate Studies is hosting financial literacy workshops to give students tips and tricks for money management.
According to senators, the University is lobbying to the provincial and federal governments for support.
“We have made an internal decision to change the 10-hour rule, and to change the rule to allow graduate students to work beyond 10 hours,” Quadir said.
“Within [the] next two weeks [we] should have provincial decision.”
Physical Accessibility on Campus
Following up on the Council of Ontario Universities Academic Colleagues Report, Senator Jordan Morelli asked Senate for information on the state of physical accessibility of Queen’s campus.
“There is a building and environment accessibility working group charged with looking at accessibility to buildings on campus. They’ve been dealing with elevators, washrooms, and things like that,” Donna Janiec, vice-principal (finance and administration) said.
The working group is consulted during the design and construction processes for all new buildings on campus, ensuring their physical accessibility. According to Janiec, buildings are “grandfathered” and do not meet current accessibility code.
“It’s a big dollar issue,” Janiec said. “To make an elevator truly accessible means building out from the building and having a large entrance.”
“I’m looking at deferred maintenance funding and seeing how we can meld it with accessibility requirements.”
Senate suggested a report on physical accessibility at Queen’s be brought to Senate in the fall.
Suspension of the BFA
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Barbara Crow announced her decision to suspend admissions to the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program for two years.
“We are very much looking forward to implementing the recommendations brought forward during the consultations and made by the [cyclical program review],” Crow said.
Current BFA students will be able to complete their degree requirements in accordance with the current BFA plan.
“Right now, just the people from the program are being rehoused to Art History. Then the question is about curriculum, and we will make decisions moving forward about that,” Crow added.
The suspension of the program raised questions among to the effectiveness and timeliness of the process responding to feedback from standard cyclical program reviews.
“There have been lessons learned. The process needs to be improved. I’m speaking to the deans to look closely at quality assurance processes,” John Pierce, interim vice-provost (teaching and learning) said.
Cyclical program reviews ensure academic programs meet provincial standards and act as quality insurance for stakeholders.
According to Pierce, concerned stakeholders will be most effective lobbying for resources within the appropriate departments, faculties, and schools.
“These monitoring reports are just for information,” Pierce said. “There is a sense in which [the reports] pass by us without paying attention to them.”
Principal Deane expressed gratitude to donor Bruce Mitchell for $30 million to advance research at Queen’s, and to Bader Philanthropies, Inc. for $75 million USD to rebuild the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.
Deane commented on the “remarkable” initiative between Queen’s Health Sciences and the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) in northeastern Ontario. The partnership will develop curriculum to prepare Indigenous youth to become health care professions.
Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Teri Shearer announced the search for Indigenous scholars through Queen’s National Scholar (QNS) program is underway. The program will create four Indigenous scholar positions at Queen’s and establish a new Chair of Indigenous Studies position.
The Chair of Indigenous Studies is being housed in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Indigenous scholars can be hired by any faculty at Queen’s.
Vice-Principal (Research) Nancy Ross is hosting virtual office hours for researchers concerned their research is associated with security risks. The office hours follow the release of federal and provincial government guidelines for securing funding for research associated with security risks.
In response to concerns about TikTok being a security threat to intellectual property and student confidentiality, Deane suggested faculty “follow the federal government’s lead” and delete Tik Tok from their mobile devices.
A previous version of this article referred to Donna Janiec as Donna Janice and has since been corrected.
The Journal regrets the error
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