The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) at York University recently announced dramatic cuts to graduate student printing allocation. These changes, effective September 2013, include a decrease in free printing that graduate students have access to from $300 per academic year for all graduate students to $75 per academic year for Master’s students and a non-renewable one-time only $300 stipend for PhD students for the duration of their program.
The decision by FGS to unilaterally cut student benefits reflects a broader attack on the graduate student experience at York, as well as ongoing attempts by the university to transfer educational costs onto students. The York University Graduate Students' Association (YUGSA) Executive Committee, representing over 6,100 graduate students, encourages all graduate students at York University to send a strong message to FGS that these cuts must be revoked immediately. We urge the graduate student community to sign the below YUGSA petition and/or to send their own email to the following individuals:
Barbara Crow, Dean of FGS, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fahimul Quadir, Associate Dean of FGS, email@example.com
Sarah Hildebrandt, Academic Affairs Officer at FGS, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice-Chancellor of York University, email@example.com
The decision by FGS to unilaterally cut student benefits reflects a broader attack on the graduate student experience at York, as well as ongoing attempts by the administration to transfer educational costs onto students. FGS appears to assume that printing services may be cut because students are now able to “submit and obtain documents in electronic format anywhere and anytime”. What is missed, however, is the fact that graduate students rely on printing for far more than simply retrieving documents and drafts. The extensive reading that is necessary for graduate work (which is well over 1000 pages per week) is neither possible, nor accessible, to many graduate students when conducted electronically. Having access to hard copies of reading materials, as well as the ability to choose between paper and electronic access, is a fundamental part of the graduate student experience. Furthermore, not all graduate students have equal access to electronic-based learning and such cuts serve to further exacerbate these inequalities. Given that the majority of graduate students live below the poverty line, it should not be assumed that they in fact all have access to affordable options (such as access to computers, internet and printers) beyond the campus.
This change reflects a conscious decision by FGS to callously offload increasing costs onto students and departments. While I do not oppose further investment in our library services, I urge the administration to seek all other avenues of funding to facilitate these important and necessary changes. I call upon the university to maintain its $300 per year printing allocation for both Master’s and PhD students. Graduate students at York are already burdened with unreasonable tuition fees, even in their post-residency years, and should not be made to bear the costs of further improving university services. If FGS is truly concerned about investing in students’ education and the graduate experience at York, it should not cut back on existing financial support. I further recommend that, rather than unilaterally instituting changes such as cuts to printing, the Faculty of Graduate Studies consult with the YUGSA Executive Committee and Council, as well as other concerned groups, before implementing changes that directly affect graduate students.