YGSE Open Letter sign now

OPEN LETTER FROM YORK GRADUATE STUDENTS IN EDUCATION (YGSE)

In this letter York Graduate Students in Education (YGSE) would like to address graduate restructuring and enrolment growth that is taking place at York University. As graduate students we are concerned with a number of issues around graduate enrolment growth. We are opposed to restructuring if no adequate resources and supports for students will be provided. We would like to appeal to you, our Graduate Program Director, to advocate for the interests of graduate students in our program. Our concerns with restructuring and enrolment growth are twofold: the increased targets for enrolments for all departments and the cut of 500 CUPE 3903 Unit 2 positions.

We are primarily concerned that the restructuring and enrolment growth plan advocates for a substantial increase in graduate enrolment without ensuring a matching increase in capital and human resources available to graduate students. As of November 2006 the Graduate Program in Education is one of the largest graduate programs at York and has 255 M.Ed. students (37 full-time, 218 part-time) and 66 PhD students (46 full-time, 20 part-time). At its current stage the program provides sufficient capital and human resources to its graduate students. The department has 51 full-time faculty members, which maintains the student to faculty ratio at 1 to 6.2. The supervisory load of faculty is 1.6 and the teaching load is 2.5. However, even at this stage of the program finding a supervisor is a struggle for some students, especially in the M.Ed. program. In order to match the enrolment growth targets, 5 new faculty members are being hired this year (of which 2 are to replace retiring faculty and 3 are to match the enrolment growth). However, we are not confident whether the department will be able to sustain this level of resources and provide adequate resources if the graduate program is to grow. As graduate students, we would like to continue to have access to supervision and committee support. At this point the class caps are held at 15. Despite that, the Doctoral Seminar which is mandatory for all incoming graduate students has over 20 people in it, which raises concerns about the quality of instruction in our graduate program. We would like to stress that if the enrolment numbers are to go up it is important that the class sizes remain the same in order to ensure quality of graduate education.

Students in our program, as well as in other graduate programs at York University, are confronted with financial and other pressures which make it more difficult for them to complete the degree requirements in a timely fashion. The prospect of increasing tuition fees, the growing cost of living in the GTA, and the difficulty in obtaining external funding all contribute to the struggle of graduate students in our program. At this point every graduate student has a Teaching Assistantship, a Graduate Assistantship, or a Research Assistantship. In addition, a number of internal funding opportunities are provided through travel grants and minor research grants. However, if the restructuring plan aims to increase enrolment without an increase in internal funding opportunities in the form of bursaries, awards, and other funds, it will exacerbate the financial problems of graduate students who aim to complete their program of studies in a timely fashion.

A particular concern of the YGSE is the restructuring of 500 CUPE 3903 Unit 2 Tutor positions (TAs) to Unit 1. These jobs will be offered to first-year Masters students in order to fund proposed graduate enrolment growth. This will have a negative impact on the graduate students in education, since for many students Teaching Assistantships is a source of financial support. Also, holding a Teaching Assistantships provides an invaluable working experience and is crucial for securing an academic job in the future. In addition to increasing competition for the available Teaching Assistantships, the pool of students competing for the already limited number of course directorships will also increase. This might force full-time graduate students to seek employment in the private and public sector, which will in turn result in an increase in times-to-complete the program. Thus, the consequences of this restructuring of Unit 2 positions are serious and enduring, and will affect not only current graduate students in our program, but also future cohorts of students who will have to compete for the Teaching Assistantships and course directorships. The YGSE is strongly opposed to the shifting of Unit 2 positions to Unit 1. This initiative does not provide a sustainable model for graduate enrolment growth. Moreover, it discards a valuable expertise of Unit 2 tutors and in the long run will affect the quality of education at York University.

In addition, we are concerned with the elimination of post-residency fees 7 years ago which allowed PhD candidates to pay a significantly lower tuition once they completed their course-work. Now PhD candidates are forced to pay full tuition for the full length of their program which puts an additional financial strain on them and negatively impacts their times-to-complete. We endorse the Graduate Students Association post-residency fee campaign and advocate for the reinstatement of the post-residency fees.

In conclusion, we would like to state that although at its current stage the Graduate Program in Education provides sufficient resources to its students and has made provisions for sustainable growth, we would like to ensure that our Graduate Program grows in a sustainable manner, provides necessary capital and human resources in order to support current and future graduate students, and communicates transparently to the student body with regard to projected restructuring and enrolment growth.

We write this open letter in solidarity with all graduate programs at York. The graduate restructuring and enrolment growth raise a large number of issues which negatively affect not only all graduate students at York University, but also CUPE 3903 members, staff, and faculty. We are committed to working together with the Graduate Students Association, our Graduate Program Director, York staff and faculty to ensure that graduate enrolment growth is carried out in a sustainable and transparent manner in consultation with graduate students.

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Gilbert OdonnellBy:
School and EducationIn:
Petition target:
Dr. Alison Griffith, Director, Graduate Program in Education, Faculty of Education

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