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S.F.U. Biology Graduate Caucus

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Other Business

Friday April 28th, 2006, 3:30 pm

In attendance: Raul Ursic, Suzanne Tank, Lina Perez, Theingi Aung, Tanya Burk, Paul Mages, Suzanne Gray, Geoff Bradley, Keith Tierney, Simon Goring, Sudip Ghose, Mathias Schuetz, Daniel (Yin) Duan.
1. Welcome
a. Dawn Cooper welcomed all to the last meeting of semester and introduced the agenda.
2. Approval of meeting expenses
a. Moved by Lina Perez, seconded by Paul Mages, meeting expenses were approved.
3. Claiming SFSS monies for next semesters
a. Moved by Suzanne Gray, seconded by Simon Goring, SFSS monies were claimed.
4. External review document discussion
a. Departmental Chair Tony Williams has invited the Department to come up with suggestions for the Department’s response to the document. Comments can go through the DGSC if wished. Discussion: the previous document seemed longer. This document seemed vague, and so it may be possible for little to come of the suggestions. Does the Department have to act on all points? -They generally try to make the suggested improvements but is there any accountability?
b. As suggested by the External Review, the Caucus needs convincing that we have as good as or better a deal than UBC. Suzanne Gray did a comparison of the net income of a PhD at SFU vs. UBC (see attached spreadsheet below). Both SFU and UBC provide funding to grad students through a combination of RAshisps, TAshisp, and ‘regular’ scholarships (when a student does not have NSERC/Michael Smith grants). The SFU proposed income of $18,000 was tested against the guaranteed minimum of $19,700 at UBC. As you know, there is no minimum guaranteed at SFU. Calculations were carried out over a four-year period. SFU tuition was considered at 8 semesters of the full tuition rate followed by 4 at the reduced rate. UBC PhD students are awarded a tuition credit on top of the min. guaranteed stipend. Student services fees were $600 and $758, SFU vs. UBC. The difference works out to $21,904 over four years. At SFU, the President’s stipend, which is currently guaranteed to all PhD students is not a bonus as it substitutes for another scholarship/RAship or TAship in a semester. The difference between SFU and UBC students each semester is $1825. The perceived difference between SFU and UBC seems to be quite real with respect to the net income of PhD students.
c. A number of students raised concerns that the issues with BISC 800 were not adequately addressed in the external review. Since many students feel that BISC 800 has the potential to be a valuable learning tool, Caucus felt it would be useful to draft a letter with suggestions for BISC 800 for the DGSC to review. The letter will address the concerns that were brought to caucus this year and will contain suggestions for future BISC 800 courses. The purpose of this letter will be to show the DGSC that we do see value in this course, have thought about what we would like to get out of this course, and have thought about how we could help with course organization. The letter will be presented by the DGSC student reps at the next DGSC meeting.
5. Search committee update
a. Simon Goring – The committee met on March 18th concerning the potential hiring of two CRC chairs. 52 applications were received for these positions, which are intended for ‘rising stars’. Many applicants have little relevant experience, and so a shortlist of 4 was generated. The candidates:
i. Masima Fujiwara – PhD 2002. Conservation population ecology of marine mammals (right whales, harbour seals) and mathematical/statistical modeling of individual growth and reproduction. Well published and working at UC Santa Cruz right now.
ii. Nicholas Dulvey – PhD 1998. Fisheries management and conservation biology. His research focus is on threat and extinction risk in marine populations, focusing on sharks and rays. Quite well published; focused on open ocean species in the north Atlantic as well as coral reef ecology.
iii. Wendy Palen – PhD 2005. Very good publications and reference letters. This is the most junior individual we’ve looked at. Some salmon work but also amphibians and the role of increasing UV radiation and interplay with dissolved organic matter in decreasing amphibian populations. Works on broad ecological scales to determine validity of prior research and new avenues of study. Her work on dissolved organic carbon is actually quite interesting and worth checking out.
iv. Monika Winder – PhD in 2002. Food web dynamics in plankton, although her excursions from here are interesting (bears and salmon). She examines the effects of climate change and UV radiation on aquatic zooplankton (mostly daphnia).
b. Candidate interviews will begin May 23rd; Departmental presentations will follow, as will lunch with grad students. Emails will be circulated with dates etc.
6. News from committees
i. DGSC is a two-year commitment, and Suzanne’s term will be up at the end of the fall.
b. GIC
i. Raul Ursic
1. The extended health plan with Gallivan and Associates is up for renewal during summer. We are looking for people to join the working group – anyone is interested or has experience, it would be very appreciated if you would join. Email Raul rursicbe@sfu.ca.
2. By beginning of fall, there will be an online survey regarding supervision.
3. There are monies left over from last year’s budget that will be used for social.
4. The SFSS Pub is still losing money ($40k / yr), and so it will be closed for the summer. A new general manager has been appointed.
ii. Ratification of position.
1. Moved by Suzanne Gray, seconded by Paul Mages, Raul Ursic was voted to remain the GIC rep.
c. Scholarship Committee
i. No scholarship reps were present but Suzanne Gray asked if anythingwas known about the number of GFs this year. We were told to expect 51; we got 36. It will be some time before applicants find out if they have won.
i. Paul Mages – This (or next) pay period you should get your signing bonus.
ii. Make sure you are signing up for health benefits!
iii. There may be a move afoot to have all grad students as members of TSSU. This would strengthen the union, and stop the back and forth of joining.
iv. Ratification of position:
1. Moved by Dawn Cooper, seconded by Raul Ursic, Paul Mages was voted to remain the TSSU rep.
7. Biology Graduate Caucus-hosted departmental seminar speaker
a. We could use a few more suggestions, but it would be good to have someone who could speak to a large audience.
b. The budget is somewhat variable as the Department helps.
c. The nominees list will close by next Friday. This will be emailed out and voting will begin.
8. BISC caucus steering committee elections - when do we want to have them, what positions are available and who is interested? An email will be circulated on the elections. Position information can be found on the Caucus website (www.sfu.ca/biology/grad_caucus/)
9. Other business
a. FIFA world cup starts on June 9th, games will take place during summer. Contact Raul (rursicbe@sfu.ca) if you wish to form a viewing group.
10. Meeting was adjourned

Comparison of UBC and SFU PhD student incomes
Table 1: Based on a four-year program for a student who does not have NSERC or other major scholarship funding (i.e. they rely on the minimum yearly stipend). Both SFU Biology and UBC Zoology state that stipends are a combination of RAships, TAships and small scholarships. Note that taxes have not been deducted here although they are collected each year.
UBC PhD Student SFU PhD Student
Yearly Stipend $19,702 (Guaranteed)a $18,000 (NOT guaranteed)
Tuition per year $0 $3,615b
Student Fees per year $600 $758
Net Income per year $19,102 $13,626
Net over four years $76,408 $54,504
a) UBC Zoology guarantees that all PhD students receive this minimum stipend each year for four years, plus the amount to cover tuition ($3786 per year). SFU Biology does not make a firm commitment to their minimum and does not make any provision for paying tuition. The guaranteed President’s stipend ($6000) from SFU covers one semester (making up part of one year’s $18,000) and so is not a bonus over and above the stipend to help defray the costs of tuition.
b) SFU PhD students pay full tuition for the first 8 semesters ($1446.3) and the “continuing” rate for the remaining semesters ($723.20). Averaged over the 12 semesters of a four-year degree the total per year is $3615.81.
*Note, we have no information about the availability of internal, small scholarships, such as the SFU Graduate Fellowship for UBC Zoology students.
Over 4 years UBC PhD students net $21,904 more than SFU PhD students. This equals $5476 per year or $1825 per semester.
Table 2: The same calculations as above except that here the student has received NSERC PGS D for the first two years of the degree.
UBC PhD Student
(with NSERC) SFU PhD Student
(with NSERC)
NSERC stipend (2 years) $21,000 $21,000
Yearly Stipend (after NSERC) $19,702 $18,000
Tuition per year $0 $3615
Student Fees per year $600 $758
Net Income per NSERC year $20,400 $17,384
Net Income per stipend year $19,102 $13,626
Net over four years $79,004 $62,020
*Note that UBC NSERC students can receive up to $4000 in a one-year top-up. SFU’s top-up procedure involves having a letter from another institution offering more than SFU before a top-up is awarded.
Over 4 years (2 on NSERC and 2 on stipend) UBC PhD students net $16,984 more than SFU PhD students. This equals $4246 per year or $1415 per semester.