Time limit policy comes under fire

GSEC creates a task force to investigate policy, denies Senate authority over its operations

Current GSEC policy, which sets strict time limits on graduate degrees, is under review.
Current GSEC policy, which sets strict time limits on graduate degrees, is under review.
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The new time-to-completion policy, which was passed in March and imposes time restrictions on Master’s and PhD students completing their degrees, has come under dispute.

On May 7, the Graduate Studies Executive Council (GSEC) agreed to create a task force over the summer to investigate factors affecting completion times following recommendations put forward by Senate on April 30.

However, GSEC contests the Senate’s jurisdiction over graduate school policies. A second motion at Senate regarding the issue was deferred to the May 28 meeting. The motion will affirm Senate’s authority over GSEC on all academic matters.

The fourth section of the motion states that Senate can override particular decisions made by GSEC. If it’s passed, Senate will have the power to suspend or rescind GSEC’s time-to-completion policy.

“That’s not what GSEC wants at all,” Becky Pero, SGPS representative to GSEC, said. “They want the ability to govern as they see fit.”

The task force’s terms of reference and mandate will be created through a collaborative effort between the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS).

Currently, the time-to-completion policy sets time limits for graduate degrees. Under the policy, students must complete Master’s degrees in two years and a PhD in four years unless they’re granted an extension.

The time-to-completion policy will remain in effect for students entering graduate studies in Sept. 2013.

According to past SGPS Senator Terry Bridges, the policy was revised during the GSEC meeting in April to allow departments to grant one-year extensions. Departments can now grant extensions to all of their students if it’s discipline-related or on a case-by-case basis.

Bridges, who moved the task force motion to Senate, expressed mixed feelings about the outcome of the May GSEC meeting. He’s a member of a group of graduate students working to keep the discussion alive.

“All of us were happy that the task force motion passed.” Bridges said. “But we’re disappointed that the second motion failed, and we’re uncertain as to what the parameters of the task force will be.”

Bridges said supervisor relations, course requirements, student stress, family commitments and the availability of TA positions are all issues that may affect time-to-completion.

“It’s positive that there is unanimous agreement that a task force should be formed and universal recognition by everyone that there are lots of factors at play,” Bridges said.

The Vice-Provost of Graduate Studies Dean Brenda Brouwer said the task force will be distinct from the one proposed in the Senate motion.

“GSEC agreed to form a task force, not in accordance with the Senate motion, but in accordance with GSEC,” Brouwer said.

GSEC made the decision independently, according to Brouwer, and so the task force will report to GSEC, not the Senate.

The Senate granted GSEC authority over the setting and revision of graduate school policy in 2009, Brouwer said, so only GSEC can suspend and create policy.

Brouwer said the task force will investigate issues affecting graduation times and will present its work to GSEC throughout the coming year.

“It’s going to identify and investigate barriers for time-to-completion,” Brouwer said.

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