Referendum Q2 Yes
Question 2 “Yes”
Committee Committee Chair: Marguerite Marlin Members: Marguerite Marlin, Sasha Kovalchuk, Sarah Wahab, Kalyna Horocholyn, Holly Corbett, Ira Lewy.
Committee Platform While this committee acknowledges that this proposal has potential shortcomings, we posit that its positive attributes outweigh the negative ones – and that it is the best option being provided to graduate students at present.
Shortcomings of this Plan
1) It does not provide in-person counselling.
2) It does not provide long-term counselling (to sum up an explanation in GSA Council meeting minutes: students have four sessions to address specific issues, after which separate issues may be addressed in a different set of four sessions. For longer-term issues, students may be referred to the community for access to appropriate services).
Benefits of this Plan:
1) It provides counselling that is accessible to all graduate students, even those who do not live close to McMaster’s campus or whose circumstances do not enable a regular in-person presence on campus. The GSA does not currently have data on the number of students in this situation, but results from the fall 2016 survey suggest that those numbers are high. The survey results showed that even when graduate students had access to the Student Wellness Center for counselling, a greater proportion (24%) of graduate students paid out-of-pocket for off-campus services, versus 18% of graduate students who frequented the Student Wellness Center free of charge. In addition, students who do not have a TA-ship or sessional job at the university are more likely to live outside commuting distance to McMaster. This is the demographic for whom a clear gap in access to counselling will exist as of September 2017, and it makes sense to focus the most on what their needs are likely to be.
2) It respects the expressed will of the democratic majority of students in terms of fee increases. After the 2016 referendum asking for the same amount requested in Question 1 of 2017’s referendum failed, the GSA conducted a survey on graduate mental health in fall 2016. A clear majority (59%) of respondents stated that they would only be willing to pay either 0-$10 or $10-20 extra per term for regained access to counselling at the Student Wellness Center. This proposal has the benefit of respecting expressed financial limits of the majority of students, as the cost falls well within the range that most survey respondents felt they could support.
3) This proposal would not require graduate students to accept a new contract for compulsory ancillary fees containing concessionary language. If this plan is approved by graduate students, we can work together to build upon it – on the one hand continuing to press our right to see benefit from the fees we currently already pay to the Student Wellness Center, and on the other hand working to enhance the Student Assistance Plan if the university remains uncooperative in this regard.