Monday, January 7, 2008

Upcoming issues for grad students at UVIC

At the beginning of each semester I start thinking about what the key priorities will be at the GSS office. I am always a bit overwhelmed at the broad range of subjects I am expecting to deal with, and a bit nervous I am missing something. So here is my list, and I am wondering if others see some I don't?

GSS members have some major decisions to make about our internal affairs.

Building expansion:
Should we expand our building, and if so, how much should we invest in expansion (and how will we get the money?!) Watch for a Special General Meeting in February to look at architects plans and to give your executive board direction on what you want your building to be like, and how it should be financed.

CFS Membership:
March 18-20 graduate students will go to the polls an decide on whether to continue membership in the Canadian Federation of Students. The referendum will be governed by CFS bylaws so the GSS so my big concern at the moment is whether our familiar processes can be used--most of our members use web vote in GSS referenda and elections, but it remains to be seen whether the CFS will agree to that process.

Beyond our student union, grad students also continue to face many other issues in their studies:

Office space continues to be a big concern for students on campus. Perhaps the engineers, with so much experience stuffing themselves into beetles could offer advice on sharing an office with 10 other students (and two desks!)

Expansion of the graduate student population through new provincial funding also poses some problems for our members--what if there aren't enough resources in your department already, and now your population is doubling? Some students are worried they may never find a supervisor.

Funding. After much pressure from both students and university administration, the BC government created a graduate scholarship program in 2007 and redesigned some others, like MITACS. Great news! But is the program design working for graduate students? I would like to hear more from students who are involved in the various funding programs established this year.

Most frustrating to me is that fellowships administration continue to be a problem... and so we continue to be a thorn in the side of the administration. Check out our original report on fellowship policy if you don't know about this issue.

For many students, poverty, housing, immigrant/international students rights and lack of adequate childcare are problems faced in their lives outside of school--but that cause problems academically. Generally support for these campaigns comes in the form of writing letters in support of agencies lobbying effots. For example, the GSS has been active in supporting the BC childcare campaign.

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