Dr. Mark Green
Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
1 April 2020
Dear Provost Green,
Thank you for your leadership at this very stressful, difficult and unprecedented time. Almost without exception, I have been very impressed with the responses from the Queen’s leadership, including Principal Deane’s compassionate and wise Friday messages. I hope you and your loved ones are finding ways to stay connected, healthy and grounded.
To date, the only major misstep from this stream of thoughtful and compassionate responses was the announcement to graduate students that tuition for the summer cannot be waived.
Graduate students are making the case that they no longer have access to the university’s facilities, have lost summer jobs and are anxious about what the future will hold. Perhaps some graduate students will be able to take advantage of our unusual situation to focus and to work effectively. But in the graduate course that I was teaching, six of fourteen students found themselves in very challenging circumstances, severely impacting their abilities to focus and do coursework. One had both her parents hospitalized with COVID-19, with her dad on a respirator. Others had returned home and had significant duties and obligations there. Another is struggling with her mental health after distancing herself from an abusive relationship. For some, such concerns are added on top of financial worries and anxieties about their future.
I am writing on behalf of the Department of Gender Studies, whose faculty members have unanimously charged me to ask you to reconsider your decision to not waive graduate tuition fees for the summer. We understand that there will be significant financial consequences for Queen’s if you were to do so. However, at this moment when the world as we knew it is crumbling and the future is very uncertain, our primary responsibility to each other, and especially to those who are more vulnerable, is to extend a compassionate response to a request for assistance. Providing a tuition waiver to graduate students for the summer would be a very effective signal of Queen’s compassion for them, to let graduate students know that we are paying attention and are concerned about them.
On a personal note, I am haunted by the qualitative research interviews I did 2 years ago with students who were food insecure (i.e., they didn’t have enough money for food or worried about running out of money for food.) Many of the participants were graduate students and international graduate students. Some of their stories kept me awake at night. Those stories have re-committed my passion to advocate for a basic income.
Though it would not solve the income-related worries of international students, a basic income available to all eligible adult Canadians, starting at age 18, would alleviate much of the financial stress that graduate students are currently facing and help ease their anxieties for their futures. The Basic Income Canada Network is pushing hard for the Canadian government to put in place a permanent basic income program that would cover the many eligibility gaps and solve the implementation problems with the current emergency response programs. I spoke with Principal Deane about my food insecurity research back in February and he quickly grasped the positive difference a basic income would make for students. This moment of crisis would be an ideal time for Queen’s to become a public advocate for a basic income that would allow eligible Queen’s (domestic) students, both undergraduate and graduate, to pay their rents, put food on the table — and pay their tuition.
Thank you for your attention.
The Department of Gender Studies is grateful for your leadership; we hope you will change your mind about a waiver for graduate summer tuition.
Elaine M. Power, Ph.D.
Head, Department of Gender Studies