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S.F.U. Biology Graduate Caucus

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Other Business

Friday March 31st, 2006, 3:30 pm

In attendance: Raul Ursic, Thomas Unsöld, Dawn Cooper, Suzanne Gray, Keith Tierney, Oliver Love, Sarah Jamieson, Jordy Thompson, Michael Silvergieter, Suzanne Tank, Andreas Steimel, Brian Ma, Paul Mages, Simon Goring, Jason Catterson.
1. Welcome
a. Dawn Cooper welcomed all and the agenda was introduced.
2. Approval of meeting expenses
a. Moved by Suzanne Gray, seconded by Oliver Love, meeting expenses were approved.
3. "re-hash" of the external review
a. Suzanne Tank: As you know, there was a meeting organized by Suzanne Gray prior to the event for everyone to get together and organize the chief issues for the external review committee. Many students attended this event, and a summary document was written. This was circulated to Bisc grad students before being finalized and handed to the committee. Some faculty intercepted the rough document. The meeting with the review committee lasted approximately 1 h. Some issues were received better than others; an overview of the four main discussed points (funding, supervisor support, courses and office space): the majority of the time was spent on personal funding, which is the biggest issues for students. Some students in attendance, who had not attended the organizational meeting, were unaware of this issue and were not supportive in the meeting. In particular, the TA top up issue may not have been communicated properly – clearly not everyone had read the prepared document. Nevertheless, at the meeting we endeavored to get across that not all grads get full top-up. Tuition payment was acknowledged as an issue by the committee. Likewise PhD recruitment issues, and there was much discussion on this. However, SFU is of the opinion that it is illusory that offers from other schools appear better. We are not sure whether this is actually the case, however, whether true or not, people are not coming. Attendees agreed this does seem the case. Some attendees noted that other offers appeared better, but attended SFU to work with a certain supervisor. On the review committee, one member in particular seemed rigid to grad students’ rights. This person was not receptive to ideas and truncated some discussions. In the meeting, supervisor support was discussed a little, especially around the issues of big labs. Time was spent on clarifying MSc and PhD requirements, on committee meetings being more rigorous, providing better timelines, realistic goals; this discussion was well received. The committee felt that the average time to complete a Bisc master’s degree at SFU was too long. Improvements for Bisc 800 were also discussed; in particular that PhDs with MScs should not have to take it. Ways in which the course could be improved were also offered. With the lack of available courses, it was noted that if you are outside of the university’s expertise, then there may not be courses available. Office space was considered a big issue by the committee. They will make the recommendation to SFU and to the Department, that space is inadequate. Office space in labs, i.e. desk space on lab benches, should not occur.
b. Several people questioned how a Professor could be on the grad student mailing list. The DGSC should not know of certain problems ahead of time. The fact that DGSC had a rough copy of a document outlining certain issues to the external review committee allowed DGSC to appear already on top of the issues, many of which were not new.
c. Larry Dill has offered to come to a Caucus meeting and to make himself available for questions. On the issue of ‘guaranteed funding’, bisc grad students are apparently not guaranteed any funding. The entrance document states ‘We can expect to earn…’ ~$18,000 per year. There is no minimum stipend. Oliver Love – various chairs have been approached about this, but the chairs cannot solidify it. This issue remains up to the supervisor. Things may not get better. Dawn Cooper – this highlights a huge gap in communication and understanding. Can supervisors indicate as long as they have grant there will be funding? Dawn Cooper – good things should emerge from meeting. Oliver Love – it was good to have the issues brought up this time.
4. Symposium wrap-up
a. Paul Mages – The turnout was excellent (100+ people). The party continued late into the evening and was a tremendous success. All food and beverages were happily consumed. Thankfully, there was ample help with clean up. To facilitate an easier event in future, a package was created detailing event setup. The SSB lounge area used for this event actually belongs to Biology and not IMBB, so see Barb Sherman to book it. Please contact Paul Mages (pmages@sfu.ca) if you have suggestions for next year. Posters were great!
b. Scoring of the posters – it was discussed that in future contests, labs could get ballots and each lab could vote (excepting self-voting) by ranking the top 3 or 4 posters. Members agreed this system may be worthwhile.
c. The symposium committee met twice for lunch; a motion was tabled to cover lunch expenses.
i. Moved by Brian Ma, seconded by Suzanne Gray, Carried.
5. Biology Graduate Caucus-hosted departmental seminar speaker
a. Dr. Ricklefs visit was a great success last year. An email will be circulated shortly to ask for new nominees. After pooling nominees, an email ballot will then be circulated.
6. News from committees
i. Suzanne Gray – If you have issues email Suzanne smgray@sfu.ca.
b. GIC
i. Raul Ursic
1. The renewal of the graduate extended healthcare plan with Gallivan and Associates is underway.
2. Bad news: there will be a tuition increase of 2-5% in the fall.
3. The English Dept. got a big grant. This is a big deal as their graduate students do not get paid as we do.
4. If you have any issues email Raul rursicbe@sfu.ca.
c. Scholarship Committee
i. Erika Lok:
1. GF applications are due on Tuesday April 18, at 4pm.
2. Travel awards – To apply, fill out the online form and print it off. Your package must include an abstract and a confirmation of attendance (which can be difficult to get). There are also parts of the document that your advisor must fill out. This award is only good for flights and registration, not food or hotel.
i. Paul Mages (pmages@sfu.ca) is the new TSSU rep.
ii. SFU and TSSU have reached an agreement. To view, go to: http://www.tssu.ca/newsletter/Teaching_Support_Staff_Union.pdf
iii. See the above document for signing bonus information. General wage increases for TAs and tutors will be 1.8%, as of May 2005. General wage increase will be 2%, effective May 1st to April 30th, 2010.
iv. There will be a discussion and ratification vote (this means you need to get out and vote):
7. Other business
a. Raul: the Biology coed soccer team (aka “Soccer moms”) got to semi finals, but lost. If you interested in soccer speak with Raul rursicbe@sfu.ca.
b. Simon Goring: two CRC chairs are open for aquatic conservation; selection starts in May. At the end of May candidates will meet with students. The university does not hire candidates, but recommends them. Ottawa will ultimately make the hiring decision, if they approve of the university’s selections.
c. Summer barbeque? Start considering!
8. Meeting was adjourned