UPDATES FROM THE GSA 2020-08-28

UPDATES FROM THE GSA 2020-08-28

Thank you for your responses on GSA Political Involvement. At the GSA Student Issues Action Committee meeting on Monday, August 24th, we discussed replacing the Policy and Political Neutrality and Anti-Discrimination with a new Policy on Anti-Oppression. We are very thankful for the graduate students who have given their time over the past two months. As this work continues, we are committed to updating this document to reflect the current needs of graduate students. If at any time you want to elicit feedback or join the Student Issues Action Committee, please email Sydney Valentino, GSA VP External. The GSA Academic Workshops survey is still open – the deadline is next week on Friday! We would love to hear from you, please see more details later in this email.

A note about Student Events: Since we opened up the Student Groups Events Management portal in May, please be aware we are only allowed to have virtual student group events – no in person or on campus events will be approved. Please email us if you have any questions.

WELCOME MONTH 2020

WELCOME MONTH 2020

The calm before the storm. We are ramping up to have a number of awesome events over the month of September. Please join us in welcoming new graduate students and congratulating returning students at Welcome Month 2020. Please see our website calendar for more details. 

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT EXPERIENCE

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT EXPERIENCE

Calling all International Students! Would you be willing to share with Carleton University Professors, Professor Saul Schwartz and Professor Anil Varughese, your experience during COVID-19 and your concerns for the upcoming school year by participating in a 10-minute survey?

Your completely anonymous answers will help them to better understand the major challenges faced by you and by other international students during COVID-19 outbreak.

Click on this link to take the survey.

UPDATES FROM THE GSA 2020-08-21

UPDATES FROM THE GSA

On August 14th, the GSA met with University Administration on campus, including President David Farrar. At this meeting, we spoke about international student issues, services offered by Athletics and Recreation (follow The Pulse on Instagram for free classes), and actions in support of oppressed groups on campus. They reported to us about the ongoing External Review on Black Student-Athletes’ Experience and actions taken to support Equity, Diversity and Inclusion on campus, including the hiring of Dr. Arig Al-Shaibah. We will keep you updated on these items and others as they come to hand! We established more regular communication between us and the University Administration and we look forward to advocating for you at these meetings. If you have specific concerns you would like to address for future meetings, you can reach out directly to Shawn Hercules at gsapres@mcmaster.ca

A note about HSR: Some students experienced a disappearance of the HSR tile and were unable to obtain their voucher for the upcoming expiry as of August 21, 2020. This issue should be resolved. If you are a student in the upcoming academic year, please redeem your new HSR voucher as soon as possible to avoid paying for your HSR transit on August 22, 2020.

A note about social media: Please follow the GSA on Twitter or request to join the GSA Facebook group for more regular updates on workshops and news! We post daily about workshops and information for you to stay updated. It is important for us to read your updates, so please expect us to request to follow you back!

Further information on both the GSA Value Proposition our website
For an update on HSR fees please see this link.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR SURVEYS AND GROUPS

OPPORTUNITIES FOR SURVEYS AND GROUPS

The President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community (PACBIC) is seeking new members from the McMaster University community. To be considered for general membership or for a co-convenor leadership role, you must complete the online PACBIC Membership Application. Submissions are due: Friday, August 21, 2020. If you have any questions email here.

Interested in results from Toronto Science Policy Network’s COVID-19 Graduate Student Survey?! Click here for the full report: “The Early Impacts of COVID-19 on Graduate Students Across Canada”. 

Interested in Coding?! Mentors from McMaster Start Coding  (MSC) come from a variety of backgrounds; we have students from life sciences, health sciences, commerce, and more. Computer science is a field that is connected to a variety of disciplines. Prospective mentor applicants are not limited to students in computer science related programs. Mentors will receive adequate training and will receive plenty of support throughout the program. Applicants do not need any previous knowledge; they just need to be willing to learn. For more information about the club and past events please visit the MSC website.

Team Faver is inviting you to take part in anonymous online survey (5-10minutes) about a mobile application of food delivery service on campus. You will be watching a 3-minute video and a 2-minute video and completing some survey questions.  

Team Faver has explained that you do not need to answer questions that you do not want to answer or that make you feel uncomfortable. And you have the right to quit the survey by closing it anytime if you want. No data would be collected from you if you choose to quit the survey. Please email Lola from Team FAVER for their full letter of information on the study. 

In addition, this study has been reviewed and cleared by the McMaster Research Ethics Board. If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a participant or about the way the study is being conducted you may contact McMaster Research Ethics Board Secretariat.

PRODUCTIVITY FOR THE WIN

PRODUCTIVITY FOR THE WIN

On-campus library study space for graduate students near the end of their degree! Apply to work at Mills Library 10am-2pm. More details here

For grad students, summer can be an important time to tackle theses and dissertations, but it’s hard to be productive in the midst of vacations and beautiful weather! Join us for our very first virtual grad writing bootcamp running August 24th-28th to get focused and get stuff done. This week-long series facilitates supportive environments for writing and reflection. The Bootcamp will feature a “Kick-Off: Set Goals and Beat Procrastination!” session on Monday, August 24th 9-9:45am (required to attend for the Bootcamp), following by virtual write-ins from 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm daily. We then will wrap-up our week with a group reflection on Friday, August 28th 1pm-1:45pm. Email any questions here. 

To get the Zoom link, sign up through Oscar Plus: Student > Student Success Centre > Events 

2020-2021 GSA Value Proposition

2020-2021 GSA Value Proposition

One of the core mandates of the GSA is to promote the welfare and interest of its constituents. It does this in many ways, such as advocating for students internally at the University and externally for the HSR UPASS and Health & Dental insurance. The GSA also provides travel funding, bursaries, awards and financial aid to our students, along with contributing to other important aspects of student life, like clubs, social events, workshops, academic colloquiums and recreational leagues. The GSA also collaboratively works with community groups, university bodies, like the School of Graduate studies, Ombud’s and CUPE (which represents our TA and RA in lieu students), on initiatives for our students.

The GSA can only realize these goals through supplementary fees paid by students.

However, the GSA realizes that students are facing many uncertainties and as such, we wanted to assure our members that our services will continue to reflect their needs! But we also understand that financial security is a concern for our members, and as such for the Fall Academic year, 2020/2021, students will see a singular GSA Organization Fee. This fee is $49.97 per annum. It is historically lower than the GSA has been in the past and represents one of the many financial alleviation measures the Association put in place for students.

The organization also reduced the supplementary fee of the Capital Renovation to $0, rather than the previous fee of $37.20. And, we were effective in negotiating a further reduction in the cost of HSR for our students, saving students an additional $43.58, or 10% just in HSR fees for the coming academic year.

We continue to strongly advocate for our students to receive a refund of 25% of fees paid last year for the months that HSR was free because of the pandemic.

Total savings to Graduate Students to date is more than $140 .00.

Fee reductions do not translate to a reduction in services but rather a conscious effort took place by the GSA to reprioritize goals and acclimate to the new normal.

For more information on what the GSA Organizational resources are, please read below!

  • Social Events and Trips
    • The Social Events and Trips this year will be different from previous years. The GSA would like to run events with targeted departments and clubs so that students have a chance to casually connect with peers they would usually see on campus. We want to provide students with unique experiences (e.g. The Phoenix Crafthouse and Grill movie nights, pottery painting, weekly online themed trivia, etc.) and new skills (e.g. virtual cooking lessons, creative storytelling workshop, paint night art packages) that are memorable, health and safety conscious, and support local Hamilton businesses where possible!  Given the isolation of a virtual environment, we hope to have a stronger graduate student community than ever before.
  • Committees and Workshops
    • The GSA committees will continue to meet online and conduct work! Now more than ever, committee work is fundamental to the functioning of the GSA and committees are spaces where the GSA listens to and works collaboratively with students in identifying gaps in student experience, advocating for their needs, and developing plans/actions.
    • To address the needs of students this year, we are also working on a large selection of different workshops ranging from leadership workshops, with our speaker Ms. Cate Hammond, to workshops on how to use LaTeX.
    • Just this summer, we began a collaboration with Waterloo’s Graduate Student Association and Western’s Society of Graduate Students. Through this collaboration, we are providing free workshops for students from all 3 campuses to attend and network. We are also working with our Faculty Representatives and Associations to make faculty-specific workshops to assist you. For example, the Health Sciences Graduate Student Federation, which was recently accepted as a GSA Faculty Association, will be holding a SPICES-funded Science Communication workshop series to help students become better science communicators.
  • Health, Dental and Student Assistance Program
    • The GSA Health & Dental Insurance Plan will occur as it has in the past. In the next academic year, both insurance plans will have the same price as last year, with no reduction in services/coverage. We will also continue to offer a seamless opt-out process for eligible students (I.E- TAs/RAs in lieu- CUPE 3906).
    • We have also strengthened the Student Assistance Program (SAP)! Your mental Health is IMPORTANT! We know during the pandemic that many students will experience various pressures, e.g. examinations, graduations, and job hunting. But don’t worry, we have you covered! EMPOWER ME, available 24/7, 365 days a year, is a multilingual, culturally sensitive, general inclusive resource that connects you with qualified counsellors, consultants, and life coaches for a variety of issues. As a GSA member, you are entitled to sessions delivered in person, by telephone, by video-counselling, or by e-counselling.
  • Advocacy
    • We maintain an open line of communication with the administration of the University and give them updates on the latest insights from our graduate student body. We met with the administration at least weekly during the peak of the pandemic to ensure that our needs as graduate students were known and adequately dealt with. Working closely with them and the City of Hamilton, we were able to reduce the HSR fees.
    • We also continue to maintain close relationships with other graduate student bodies across Canada. This is done through various advocacy efforts, such as ThinkGrad. ThinkGrad is a great example of our GSA Advocacy. ThinkGRAD a think tank of student leaders across Canada discuss and write about issues that concern Graduate Students. The group also collaboratively works with existing federal advocacy groups to ensure Graduate Student issues are heard at all levels of the Government. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting was set, and our respective student organization met discuss the new and unique needs of our students. These communications lessened internal redundancies and strengthened our advocacy efforts, as we were able to compare ourselves against similarly sized schools.
  • Financial Aid and Funding
    • The GSA will continue to fund Graduate Student travel awards. Although travel might look a bit different this year, we will continue to aid students with their associated costs to present/attend conferences (usually in the form of online registration costs). We have also increased our BURSARIES and AWARDS, to get more money into students’ hands! Our Emergency fund has also been replenished for September and is available for students in need to apply.

Thus, the GSA will collaborate with various groups, faculty associations, and clubs on numerous events. In addition to these collaborations, the GSA will support the programming of these groups through club seed money and event funding. Other services being offered to GSA clubs include free bank accounts and website services (please be sure to connect with gsaserv@mcmaster.ca for more details).

While the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the grad student life experience by physically isolating us and bringing with it so much uncertainty, the GSA is ever committed to the welfare of its constituents. The GSA’s approach is to continue to communicate effectively and bring students events that break down isolation barriers while enriching the grad experience socially, academically and professionally. Most importantly, the GSA will actively listen to student needs and obtain feedback to ensure that we provide the best possible service.

Update on GSA and HSR fees

Update on GSA and HSR fees

As some of you might have learnt, the GSA has been advocating for graduate students in regard to our HSR fees. We heard your concerns about transportation and COVID-19, along with a concern for a fare that is reflective of these times.

We are happy to report that these negotiations have come to an end, and a fee for the bus pass for 2020/2021 academic year has been REDUCED. However, this does not mean a reduction in your coverage. Graduate students who are eligible for the HSR UPASS will have it for the entire academic year; commencing August 22nd 2020-August 21st 2021.

Through focused efforts, we gained your responses via email, survey, social media, etc., and that having the pass for the Fall term, though it is online, was still important to our graduate student community.

Instead of the originally assessed fee of $273.68, a new fee of $239.65 will be charged – a savings of $34.04. This also means that our students will not experience an interruption in service during this critical time.

We are also continuing to work with the HSR, so students are refunded for the reduction of service that occurred between the months of April to June 2020—the period for which the HSR did not charge bus riders due the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope these savings will amount to more than $60 total.

For more info, please visit https://gsa.mcmaster.ca/services/hsr-bus-pass/

NEXT STORY

In being cognizant of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GSA has made a conscious effort to reduce fees for our students. Internally, we reduced the GSA Capital Building fee to zero dollars and also ensured there was no increase to our Health and Dental premium.

The single operating fee of the GSA will be $49.97 and will be divided into terms ($16.65 per term). Although this looks different than last year’s multiple fee model, which corresponded to the Provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI) categories, we are confident that the decision is more aligned with the needs of our constituents.  The $16.65 per term fee represents the plethora of services the GSA will offer this 2020-2021 Academic year.  

For this fee, students will continue to have access to social events (faculty, departmental, and community wide), workshops and other professional development opportunities, clubs, access to a comprehensive Health and Dental Plan, and an ENHANCED Student Assistance Program (SAP) that can be accessed worldwide; to mention a few.

Further information on both the GSA and HSR fees will provided in a separate post.