GSA Annual General Meeting

GSA Annual General Meeting

The GSA Annual General Meeting will be next week on Wednesday, March 29th from 3-4PM hybrid on Zoom and our GSA Office (see map below). If you want to join on Zoom, please register here. If you are interested in coming in-person to our GSA office, please register here for pizza and include any dietary restrictions. Please note, in-person registration is limited so sign up soon!

GSA Graduate Funding Letter

GSA Graduate Funding Letter

Dear McMaster Graduate Student Community:

As your GSA, our top priority is to advocate for the needs of graduate students on and off campus. With this in mind, we would like to address the current economic fragility of many graduate students at McMaster.  

Graduate students have been particularly impacted by the effects of high inflation and the ongoing costof-living crisis in Hamilton. According to the UTILE housing report published in August 2022 on Canadian student housing, student median rent is 25% higher than the median rent of the general population and 68% of student renters in the Greater Toronto Area have debt related to education. Further, graduate stipends in combination with TA and RA in lieu work vary widely between those receiving tri-agency funding and those receiving a minimum of $13,500 after tuition is paid; where Masters students do not have a minimum funding floor. According to the Ontario Living Wage Network, a living wage in Hamilton equates to $34,671 per year. We acknowledge that graduate funding sources are complex, coming through a combination of TA and RA in lieu work, research grants, and other internal and external funding. However, receiving only minimum graduate funding after tuition is paid means that students often need to find additional work or rely on family to remain financially stable, which can affect student research quality, take away productive time from their academic and research contributions, and put some at risk of additional delays. We believe that this needs to be addressed to ensure that all graduate students can succeed in completing their studies in a timely manner while continuing to make impactful academic and research contributions that secure McMaster’s reputation as a top university world-renowned for innovation and discovery, without driving them to neglect their physical and mental wellbeing due to stress.  

In February 2023, the Graduate Council members voted on the initiation of a task force to review sources and distribution of graduate funding across our university, with the aim of developing a recommendation report for the Provost and Graduate Council by the end of 2023. As researchers, we understand that evidence-based solutions are important. However, graduate students need solutions now. Graduate students cannot afford to wait; many wrestle with financial hardship and no additional data is needed to know that the minimum stipend of $13,500 is simply unliveable. Refusing to sufficiently increase the funding floor undermines McMaster University’s strategic plan and primary objective of Inclusive Excellence, as only those with sufficient financial means and family support will be able to afford a graduate-level education. It also means that talented prospective students will choose other institutions with more competitive funding packages. Finally, many students with insufficient funding take on additional part-time work to afford the cost of living. This reduces the time and energy they can focus on producing high-quality research. This also puts them at risk of being delayed in their studies and becoming overtime, when they lose their guaranteed funding. Without committing to unilaterally raising the floor of graduate funding, McMaster cannot uphold its objective of Inclusive Excellence, it becomes less competitive at attracting new talent, and it reduces students’ time on research. We call on McMaster University to not just create a task force, but to commit to increase graduate student funding overall.  

As your GSA, we continue to advocate for improved financial security for graduate students at

McMaster University. Therefore, we continue to campaign for Raising the Floor, to increase the minimum floor of $13,500 available on top of tuition for Ph.D. students at McMaster University and propose a minimum floor be also instated for thesis-based Masters students. We promote higher graduate student funding at Graduate Council and with university administrators. These issues are not limited to our local community, therefore we engage in collaborations and collegial discussion between graduate students and advocates across Canada, through conferences and advocacy groups including ThinkGrad.   

Therefore, when extraordinary circumstances beyond our control arise that negatively impact student progress, it is the shared duty of not just student advocacy organizations such as the GSA, CUPE3906 and faculty associations, but the entire university administration and community to work together to support students. Graduate students are critical contributors to original research and require substantial funding increases to ensure they can focus on and excel in their research endeavors.   

We call on McMaster University to listen to graduate student concerns by:  

  • Raising the Floor for graduate funding to $34,671 annually, including Masters thesis students
  • Provide overtime funding and tuition relief for Masters thesis and PhD students
  • Increase job security for overtime TAs and RAs in lieu

What can I do as a student?  

Make sure you voice your concerns regarding the lack of sufficient graduate funding by:  

  • Signing the Raise the Floor open letter and circulating it to other students in your department
  • Emailing this letter to and engaging with your Supervisors, Program Directors,

Department Heads and Faculty Deans 

  • Participating in university governing bodies (i.e., Senate and Graduate Council)

Your GSA is always here to support you. Contact us by email at or visit our office during our office hours for specific concerns (1280 Main St W, Refectory Rathskeller Building East Tower 2nd floor, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L7). 

GSA Election Result 2023

GSA Election Result 2023

Results – GSA Election 2023

Start: 2023-03-14 10:00:00 America/New_York

End: 2023-03-16 18:00:00 America/New_York

Turnout: 362 (6.7%) of 5363 electors voted in this ballot.

GSA President

Option Votes

Letizia Dondi 181 (70.4%)

No Confidence 76 (29.6%)


Total 362

Abstain 105 (29.0%)

Certified Results Page 2 of 3

GSA Vice President Service

Option Votes

Kelley Prendergast 121 (47.3%)

Xiajing Chu 89 (34.8%)

No Confidence 46 (18.0%)


Total 362

Abstain 106 (29.3%)

GSA Vice President Internal

Option Votes

Kusum Bhatta 89 (32.0%)

Nancy Kansal 88 (31.7%)

So Yeon Lee 54 (19.4%)

No Confidence 47 (16.9%)


Total 362

Abstain 84 (23.2%)

GSA Vice President External

Option Votes

Ana Portillo 138 (49.5%)

Jing Zheng 111 (39.8%)

No Confidence 30 (10.8%)


Total 362

Abstain 83 (22.9%)

FRC Social Science


Option Votes

Forough Passyar 26 (83.9%)

No Confidence 5 (16.1%)


Total 43

Abstain 12 (27.9%)

Certified Results Page 3 of 3

FRC Humanities

Restricted to HUMANITIES

Option Votes

Zahra Tootonsb 22 (95.7%)

No Confidence 1 (4.3%)


Total 26

Abstain 3 (11.5%)

HSR Referenda

HSR Referenda

GSA/HSR Referendum:

Every three years the GSA enters renegotiations with the City for a new contract for the upcoming three years. The below represents the four questions the GSA will be bringing to students via referenda. The current rate of the HSR bus pass is $294.15. Voting NO to this referendum means Graduate Students are voting to not accept the agreement and not have a pass for Fall next year.

VOTING TAKE PLACE: February 13th 10:00am- February 15th- 6:00pm. All eligible voters will receive an email with voting details before the election (please check your McMaster emails)!

  1. Full time students (Fall)  

Do you agree to an increase in the FT graduate student Bus Pass mandatory student fee, for the following three years $302.35 in 2023/2024, $307.95 in 2024/2025, and $313.54 in 2025/2026. 

       2. Full time students (Winter) 

 Do you agree to reducing the FT graduate student Bus Pass for January starts; whereas, historically they were charged 100% of the cost of the FT fall (September fee). Though Access was for 8 months. This would result in a cost to students of 66.66% FT fall fee, a decrease of 33.34 % of the FT fee? 

 For example, the FT fall Buss Pass is $302.35 in 2023/2024 then FT winter students (January starts) will be charged a prorated fee of $201.57 for January 2024. (2/3 of the FT fall UCTP fee) 

       3. Full time students (Summer) 

Do you agree to the establishment of a mandatory student fee of 33.34% the cost of the FT Fall Bus Pass for FT graduate students starting in May? Historically, this group did not have access to any Buss Pass.  For example, the FT fall bus pass is $302.35 in 2023/2024 then FT Summer  students (May starts) will be charged $100.78 for May 2024. (1/3 of the FT fall UCTP fee) 

       4. Co-op students 

 Do you agree FT Co-op students at the respective rate (depending on start), with an ability to  opt-out for those students on co-op outside of the city of Hamilton?  Prorated fee for the remainder of the year the student is at McMaster University. 

VOTING NO- means that Graduate Students will not have access to the UPASS (HSR) pass (and the discounted rates herein).

Any questions or concerns should be brought to the attention of

Overtime Relief Fund

Overtime Relief Fund

Are you an overtime grad student whose funding has expired? Have you been unable to receive a sufficient extension in your funding? You may be eligible to apply for the GSA Overtime Relief Fund by the GSA, CUPE 3906 & Alumni Association. Check out the application here for more info. Deadline to apply is February 10th, 2023. 



HSR Graduate Student Survey Result

HSR Graduate Student Survey Result

Thank you for partaking in the HSR Graduate Student Survey. By participating in this small-scale survey, you have aided the GSA in gathering important feedback for what could be improved with the bus service in the City of Hamilton. This information will be relayed during negotiation meetings to improve user experience of the service. We are aware and apologize for not tailoring the survey to those who do not take public transportation, however based on responses from non-bus users, we have been able to omit those votes in overall calculations to not bias the results.

The participation of students in this survey has helped us find important negotiation points for the upcoming 2023-2026 HSR- GSA contract. If you have any further feedback or concerns, please feel free to reach out to the GSA office.

Key point:

  • We received 129 responses to our HSR survey.
  • Out of all participants, 71% of respondents were Ph.D. students and 29% Master students.
  • 80% of respondents use public transportation as their main mode of transport in Hamilton.
  • 88% of participants have redeemed their HSR bus pass, and 81% of those using the bus pass make use of the service on a daily and weekly basis.
  • The most frequented routes taken by 36% of participants is from Central Hamilton to the University, followed by 17% of students travelling from East Hamilton and 17% of participants travelling from Westdale.
  • The buses are mostly on time based on 68% participants.
  • Out of the survey participants 86% of students were satisfied or more than satisfied with the HSR service.


  1. More punctuality with the service is essential. Buses mostly arriving early which leaves students waiting for the next bus in cold temperatures.
  2. Weekend schedule is too infrequent.
  3. More bus frequency required at night.
  4. More double buses required as the buses are very busy in rush hour to and from the university
  5. Direct buses from further distances to the university should be created with minimal stops to reduce travel time.
  6. Announcing prolonged stops by the drivers to the passengers
  7. More accessibility from the Mountain.
  8. More accessibility to Binbrook/Waterdown from Hamilton.
  9. Buses are coming at the same schedule, would be better to be more spaced out between lines stopping at the same stops
  10. The city should have more route 5 buses.
  11. Increase the yearly pass by one week, in order to have the service available after the summer.
  12. More route 10 (Line B) services on Sundays, as buses are very busy.
  13. Dirty buses need to be addressed.
  14. Masks on buses should be reintroduced for safety.
  15. Car users would like to have an opt out option to not pay for the service they do not use.