Letter to the Editor: PhD student teaching opportunities

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Re: Bargaining Continues between WLU and WLUFA, November 9th, 2016

Missing from your lengthy article last week was the PhD student perspective relating specifically to bargaining point #2: job security.

As a student leader dedicated to ensuring that the graduate student experience at Laurier is second to none, I offer this rebuttal to WLUFA’s claims that, “the push to make doctoral students responsible for teaching their own courses after only two years may jeopardize the students’ ability to complete their doctoral degrees”.

The opportunity for PhD students to teach during their degree is critical to their future academic career success. Laurier’s designation as a comprehensive University implies a particular level of excellence in preparing PhD students for any career choice. While we acknowledge that some of our PhD students pursue careers other than teaching, many commit their lives to their research and to teaching with the end goal of a tenure track appointment. No one is “pushing” them to teach.

We fully support the administration’s commitment to increasing the number of teaching opportunities for graduate students. We believe that PhD students should be afforded as many teaching opportunities as possible during their degrees.

Student teaching evaluations are consistently required when applying to tenure track openings. Ensuring that our PhD students have gained the necessary skills in teaching has to be a Laurier priority.

Laurier ensures that all graduate students are supported throughout their degrees and are consistently encouraged to consider time to completion. WLUFA suggests that teaching negatively affects PhD time to completion rates. Where is the data that supports this claim?

As graduate students, we know that data is important. We also know that while Laurier is committed to ensuring manageable time to completion rates for graduate students, there are many complex factors that affect an individual’s ability to complete their degrees within the Ministry guidelines.

We do not view teaching opportunities as having a negative impact on PhD completion times.

While our association has historically refrained from weighing in on ongoing contract negotiations between Laurier and any bargaining unit, this particular bargaining point has a direct affect on our members, and on this point specifically, we stand with the university and their desire to increase teaching opportunities for our PhD students.

– Samantha Deeming, president of Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Students’ Association

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