An SGPS survey sent to students last fall and winter has found 3.2 out of 10 graduate students feel they aren’t thriving, want skills managing stress and anxiety and feel isolated by lack of designated campus space.
While a thorough report of the findings will be released later this semester, Society President Tyler Morrison described the preliminary findings as “shocking” in a letter to the Board of Trustees.
“The more shocking results stem from questions about mental health resources on campus,” he wrote in a letter to the Board. “Specifically, mental health programming by both student organizations and the University.”
“Students recognize a significant amount of effort goes into creating this programming,” he continued. “However, some students don’t believe the programming is effective.”
In an interview with The Journal, Morrison said some of the current destress workshops available toraduate students may not cover pragmatic strategies dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Meanwhile, the survey revealed other issues like the lack of available campus space and peer support for graduate students.
“We’ve heard [graduate students] are being turned away from the AMS Peer Support Centre, and that’s totally understandable,” Morrison said. “The AMS peer support centre is not equipped for peer-to-peer support of graduate students.”
A disconnect between the experiences of undergraduate and graduate students contributes to support barriers, accordingto Morrison.
“It’s no secret the graduate community isn’t as strong as the undergraduate community,” he said. “You say Queen’s and one of the first things that comes to mind is the student experience.”
“We need to foster communities, strengthen and engage in a way that breaks down some of the silos graduate students can find their way into through their studies.”
Morrison added the Society is hoping to open a small-scale peer support centre for graduate students by next semester.
But the problem of designated campus space for graduate students isn’t easily solved.
“It’s long been a hypothesis of the SGPS that a lack of designated graduate space, a lack of areas to congregate and meet people outside of your faculty can be a cause for feelings of loneliness or lack of thriving,” he said.
While an area on the second floor of Stauffer will be designated to graduate study space later this semester, and the Society has opened a lounge for graduate students in the JDUC, the survey revealed a need for a variety of spaces across campus.
“The survey showed us something we hadn’t thought about before, which is one space doesn’t necessarily fulfill the space needs of every student,” Morrison said. “If the JDUC referendum were to pass, and hopefully it does, we’ll be holding extensive consultation programs with our membership to see what they want their space to look like in the JDUC.”
Ultimately, the Society’s goal is to pursue designated space through redevelopment of the JDUC.
In the graduate students’ referendum, 77 per cent voted for designated space or in favour of achieving designated space in the JDUC redevelopment.
The JDUC redevelopment depends on whether the AMS fee passes. After, there will potentially be years of construction before the new building opens.
When asked about the barrier of fees and time, Morrison said he was currently focused on the JDUC.
“There’s been no tangible discussions about what graduate space outside the JDUC might look like,” he said. “But I can certainly say the University is receptive and understands it’s a priority.”
In terms of other issues currently facing graduate students, Morrison told The Journal that the SGPS’ top two priorities are concerns about time limits to complete research and the struggles of international students.
“It’s important that graduate students understand we know time and completion is an issue and we are working with the University to figure out what resources we can give students to be healthy and successful,” Morrison said.
Concerning international students, Morrison wants to work on retainment and support.
“Bringing international students here doesn’t make us the best school globally: it’s about bringing international students here and making them feel comfortable, making them feel included and setting them up for success,” he said.
The Society will be hosting a town hall on Oct. 23 in McLaughlin Hall from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to openly discuss international student issues, and on Oct. 24 in Dunning Hall, room 11, to discuss time to completion.
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