On April 30, 2020, York University hosted a Virtual Town Hall for students to ask senior leadership about the university’s response to COVID-19. During this Town Hall, Dean of Faculty of Graduate Studies, Thomas Loebel, indicated that while the university is aware that this pandemic has caused various disruptions to graduate student academic progress and research, the Faculty of Graduate Studies will continue to assess these disruptions on a case-by-case basis.
Following this Town Hall, Dean Loebel released a statement addressing a petition signed by 1,625 York graduate students who are requesting a suspension of summer tuition fees and automatic program extensions, including a full additional year of guaranteed funding that is equal to the baseline funding that all graduate students received in the 2019-2020 academic year.
The York University Graduate Students’ Association is disappointed by Dean Loebel’s response wherein graduate students are being encouraged to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and/or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), and to take a leave of absence if they are unable to progress in their degree. While we understand the difficult position that the pandemic has put York University in, it is clear that the needs of graduate students are being repeatedly ignored.
Many graduate students do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) since our work as teaching assistants and research assistants has migrated remotely. And, if graduate students take a leave of absence, as suggested by Dean Loebel, it is unclear if their non-student status will make them ineligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). In addition, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit mandates that students receiving this benefit demonstrate that they are looking for summer work and will be connected through the Canada Job Bank with employers looking to fill job shortages. This does not address the complex financial and personal circumstances of graduate students, let alone provide any assistance to our international student membership whose eligibility to access CERB and CESB is contingent on their immigration and Social Insurance Number status.
We represent over 6,000 full- and part-time graduate students at York University and we are concerned that the academic and financial needs of our membership are not adequately addressed by York University and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Dean Loebel’s recommendation that graduate students take a leave of absence, suggests that graduate students have stopped working towards making academic progress. However, academic research is our job and we do not wish to stop contributing to our respective fields. Therefore, there needs to be more support for slowed progress. York’s graduate students already fill labour intensive roles including childcare and eldercare, while many live in spaces where continuing their research and coursework has been made significantly difficult.
Given these complex circumstances, York University’s response to its graduate community neglects to address and provide the adequate resources needed during this global pandemic. We are asking that York University and the Faculty of Graduate Studies reconsider their approach in supporting graduate students.
YUGSA Executives and Councillors
Ana Speranza, MA Student, Social Anthropology Graduate Student Association
Ewa Cybulska PhD student/candidate Music Graduate Student Association
Lorena Eduardo, MPPAL, Graduate Student Association of Masters of Public Policy, Administration and Law
Kaitlin Peters, PhD Candidate, Sociology Graduate Students Association
Joana Jabson, Master Student/Candidate for MPPAL, Graduate Students’ Association of Public Policy, Administration and Law
Lauren Lyew, MA Candidate, ComCult Graduate Students Association
Adrien Sparling, PhD Candidate, Civil Engineering Graduate Students Association
Neda Aminnejad, PhD candidate, Mathematics and Statistics Graduate Students Association
Theresa Flagler, MA Student, Psychology Graduate Students Association
Agata Szeremeta, MSc Student, Vice President Earth & Space Science Graduate Students Association (ESS GSA)
Monika Lemke, PhD Candidate, Sociolegal Studies Graduate Association
Allison O’Neil, MA Student, Public and International Affairs Students Association
Raheleh Abbasinejad, MA2, Social Anthropology Graduate Students
Cameron Butler, PhD Student, Social Anthropology Graduate Association
Alexia Brown, MA Student, Graduate Political Science Student Association
Andrew Brown, PhD Candidate, Social and Political Thought
Chevy Eugene, PhD Candidate, Social and Political Thought
Victoria Reznik, MA Candidate, Development Studies, YUGSA Councillor
Sherry Rajabi Socio-Legal studies MA candidate
Patricia Ki, PhD Student, Critical Disability Studies Student Association
Brittney O’Neill, PhD student, Graduate Linguistics and Applied linguistics Student Association
Rahina Zarma, Osgoode Hall Law School
Alexander Christison, Graduate Student, FES
Monica Zombori Disaster and Emergency Management (DEMSA)
Sabika Zaidi, MES student, Faculty of Urban and Environmental Change
Nanditha Narayanamoorthy, PhD Candidate, Humanities Graduate Students Association
Ali Eliasu, PHD Candidate, Mechanical Graduate Students Association
Cosette Gilmour, PhD Candidate, Earth and Space Science GSA
Ewa Cybulska PhD student Music
Mohamadreza Ariannik, PhD Candidate, Electrical Engineering and COmputer Science Graduate Students Association
Derval Slatcher, MA student, Graduate Film Students Association
Rany Danial, MPPAL candidate, Graduate Student Association of Public Policy Admin and Law
Meghana Pramod, President, GSAPPAL, MPPAL Student
Summaiya Zaidi, Chair Graduate Law Student Association, PhD Osgoode Hall Law School
Shraddha Chatterjee, PhD Candidate, Gender, Feminist, and Women’s Studies Graduate Students Association
Kaitlin Peters PhD Candidate, Sociology Graduate Students Association
STEPHANIE JONSSON PHD STUDENT GENDER, FEMINIST AND WOMEN STUDIES
Pablo Ramos-Cruz, PhD Candidate, Social Work Association of Graduate Students
Selvyn Simoes, PhD candidate, Chemistry graduate student association
Balikisu Osman, PhD, Environmental Studies Students Association