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Graduate Studies Executive Council (GSEC) at Queen's University: Vote Against Policy Changes: Time-To-Completion and Limit Extension Times

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Subject: Proposed Policy Changes: Time-To-Completion and Time Limit Extensions

Dear Members of the Graduate Studies Executive Council (GSEC),

I have just signed a petition urging the GSEC to vote against the motion to reduce time-to-completion and time limit extensions for Master’s and Doctoral Graduate Students at Queen’s University. While I recognize it is possible to finish a Master’s degree in two (2) years and a Doctoral degree in four (4) years, there are many factors that make completing any graduate degree difficult. These circumstances must be heard and taken into account when making decisions that affect graduate students at Queen’s University.

In a recent survey released on October 16th, 2012 (“What action could government and universities take to ensure that PhD students graduate in a reasonable time frame?”), graduate students were asked to respond to questions about factors affecting time-to-completion. The results of this survey have yet to be published and disseminated to graduate students. It is unethical to make a decision that directly impacts students without first publishing these results. The survey emphasized funding and supervisor relationships as the main determinants of completion “in a reasonable time frame.” These are key determinants of students’ program completion, yet this is a narrow understanding of the multiplicity of factors affecting graduate research and completion times.

Some of the challenges faced by graduate students provide motivation to complete their studies on time, while others compromise a student’s ability to meet institutional requirements. These include, but are not limited to: financial limitations, funding expectations, mental and physical health (including invisible disabilities and chronic/acute illness), family commitments, student-supervisor relationships, availability of committee members, field research limitations, unanticipated research setbacks, equipment problems, and teaching/professional development expectations, among other circumstances. As a member of an academic institution that claims to embrace equity and show concern for students’ mental health, you must take seriously these challenges experienced by our diverse graduate student population.

As a graduate student directly affected by the proposed motions, I demand the following:

1) The results of the above-mentioned survey be made public;
2) The two (2) motions be made public, more transparent, and include further discussions with graduate students;
3) Greater transparency of the decision-making process for determining what constitutes “extenuating circumstances”, and “valid reasons as determined by the Department or Program” regarding extensions;
4) Critical discussions evaluating how these changes will affect Graduate students’ withdrawal rates, mental health and wellness (related to Queen’s four (4) point policy on Mental Health), and the overall quality of research produced at Queen’s;
5) The creation of a working group that includes graduate students, faculty, and staff to discuss issues regarding time-to-completion and provide recommendations to GSEC.

As a graduate student, and for reasons outlined in this letter, I urge you to vote against the two (2) graduate completion limit motions.


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