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S.F.U. Biology Graduate Caucus

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Other Business

Friday May 26th, 2006, 3:30 pm

In attendance: Daniel (Yin) Duan, Sudip Ghose, Suzanne Gray, Lina Perez, Erica Jeffery, Clea Moray, Melanie Hart, Agnes Kwok, Theingi Aung, Christiana Cheng, Reza Babajani, Raul Ursic, Keith Tierney.
1. Welcome and introductions
a. Keith Tierney in stead for Dawn Cooper welcomed all.
2. Adoption of the Agenda
a. The agenda was introduced and members were surveyed for additions or changes; there were none.
Motioned by Suzanne Gray and seconded by Raul Ursic, the Agenda was adopted
3. Approval of meeting expenses
Motioned by Suzanne Gray and seconded by Raul Ursic, expenses for the meeting were approved
4. Summer BBQ
a. Last year’s event was held mid-July during the week and was a huge success. Having an event during the week avoids any summer crowding. Caucus members agreed that this year we could use the event as a fundraiser. Continental Meats will be approached again for supplies as they gave us a great deal on meat last year. The funds could be useful in a variety of ways, including enabling other events or hosted speakers. Raul Ursic volunteered to be Chair of the committee for this event. It was briefly discussed if we wished to host other departments and perhaps sell tickets for the event. These issues will be discussed further in future and an email will be circulated. A discussion ensued on providing some funds (which will be recovered) to enable the event. Members agreed $500 should provide sufficient budget.
Motioned by Lina Perez and seconded by Mel Hart, $500 was approved for the event.
5. Graduate student payment and tax
a. Clea Moray was asked to speak about grant funding and tax deductions: it may be that if we are paid through a supervisor’s grant, some expenses (such as books or computers) can be deducted whereas they cannot be if we are paid as an employee. Clea volunteered to follow-up with Barb Sherman.
b. The grad student survival book: in most cases students should be deducting $3000 from the value of bursaries and scholarships received when entering this income on their tax returns; however, some new students seem to be unaware of this deduction. Suzanne Gray and Erica Jeffery commented that some electronic tax-filing software programs deduct this amount automatically but others do not. It was decided that a paragraph will be added to the Grad Student Survival Guide to alert new students to this deduction.
6. Steering committee elections:
a. Nominees were tabled for the following positions:
i. Keith Tierney – Chair
ii. Carolina Perez – Secretary
iii. Dawn Cooper – Member-at-Large
Motioned by Erica Jeffery and seconded by Suzanne Gray, the nominees were acclaimed.
iv. Treasurer – three nominees were tabled:
1. Theingi Aung
2. Daniel Duan
3. Lucy Harrison
Candidates were asked to speak briefly about themselves. Erica Jeffery spoke on behalf of Lucy, who was in-field. Caucus members in attendance were asked to vote on the candidates. Private ballots were tallied by a member not in the elections. In a very close vote, Theingi Aung was re-elected.
Motioned by Christiana Cheng and seconded by Agnes Kwok, Theingi Aung was ratified as Treasurer.
7. News from committees
i. Suzanne Gray – the DGSC will be discussing the external review next week. As you know, a letter was written regarding BISC 800; this has gone to DGSC. The calculations on the difference in cost of a biology PhD and UBC vs. SFU have also gone to the DGSC. The DGSC is aware that our financial position is not good and that our salary places us below the poverty line. In fact, money comes up at every meeting. Suzanne Gray actively communicates our issue. It is hoped that more formal pressure (i.e. with the letter), plus that of the external review, will help improve the situation. The last review may have helped facilitate an increase in GF funding… Changes do occur.
ii. Clea Moray enquired whether a comparison could be carried out on the difference in expense for a master’s degree. Suzanne will carry out the calculations, but the difference is small. UBC MSc students pay less tuition and have lower student fees, and are guaranteed slightly more funding.
iii. Caucus members agreed to invite Larry Dill to speak at an upcoming meeting. It would be particularly appreciated if he would explain the Department’s stance on funding.
b. GIC
i. Raul Ursic – There are discussions of holding a social event complete with a couple bands this summer in the convocation mall.
ii. Regarding the Health care plan renewal with Gallivan & Associates, the rates will go up slightly, partially to offset the tremendous enrollment. The plan will be up from the ~$228/year, but it will remain less than $300/year. We will try to get better benefits from this.
iii. Need a break from thesis writing? If anyone is interested in participating in the Health plan working group, please email Raul (rursicbe@sfu.ca). Duties for this may include attending meetings, suggesting ideas and working through scenarios. It will be a great experience and will be worth it.
c. Scholarship Committee
i. Erica Jeffery – as per last month’s minutes, we didn’t get as many GFs as previously. Later in the summer we will learn who received the awards.
i. Paul Mages – Please double check how much bonus you were entitled to and verify that is indeed how much you received.
ii. Clea Moray enquired whether the TSSU health plan was still needed. Christiana Cheng noted that on the TSSU plan they pay for MSP (i.e. basic coverage), whereas they do not on the grad plan. On the TSSU plan you have to purchase extended coverage
8. Other business
a. Paul Mages sent a note reminding all that there will be a burger and beer fundraiser for a synchronized swimming team, to be held at the Mountain Shadow Pub Saturday, June 3 from 7 pm onwards. Tickets are $10 and are available from Paul (pmages@sfu.ca).
b. Excellence in teaching award: once per year in May the Dean of Science calls for nominations for this award. These requests are passed to the Department, who in turn pass them out to its members (i.e. bisc-all). To be nominated as a TA, the course instructor must write a letter, and the TA must submit a teaching philosophy statement and course evaluations. Congratulations to this year’s winner Mel Hart!
c. An email for voting on the Caucus-hosted speaker will be circulated this week.
9. Meeting was adjourned