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Handbook - General Information

Welcome to the Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought
This Handbook provides information relating to the Program that you will need to read through and keep for future reference. Please refer to it frequently as it will contain most of the answers to the questions you will have!

This Program Handbook consists of regulations and information which are in addition to, or explained in additional detail to the information provided elsewhere on this website or by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

The Program offices are located in the South Tower of the Ross Building. Correspondence, messages, appointments, and general enquires should normally be routed through the Program Assistant, room S711 Ross, (telephone 736-5320). The Director's office is S712 Ross, and the Director can be reached through the general switchboard at 736-2100, ext 77402. Both offices have voicemail.

The students' lounge is S716 Ross. Each student has a mailbox in the lounge, which should be checked regularly. In addition, there is a fridge, microwave and coffee pot that you may use.
Inside the lounge is a computer room exclusively for SPTH students' use. The lounge and computer are accessed by codes, which will be disclosed to students when they register. In the interest of security please do not circulate these combinations. In addition, in the interest of safety and security, please do not leave valuables in these common rooms.

The Social and Political Thought Program strives to avoid being an impersonal bureaucracy, but the Program is a large one and the workload in the office is often overwhelming. There are a number of relatively easy ways in which members of the Program can reduce the administrative burden. The most obvious one is to inform the Program regularly of changes in plans, courses, GAships, etc. A brief note to the Program Assistant informing her of some new development can often save endless bureaucratic hassles at a later stage. Moreover, students need to make a point of discussing with the Director their academic plans: course selection, comprehensive fields, thesis topics, potential supervisors and committees, leaves of absence, etc. Finally, the most effective way of avoiding misunderstandings and confusion is consult this handbook first and be familiar with the rules, regulations and processes, and then to let the Program office (Director and Assistant) know about changes, questions, problems in writing. Also, ensuring that deadlines are not missed will simplify your life immeasurably

Students who have any academic concerns or questions are always encouraged to make an appointment with the SPTH Program Director at their earliest convenience.
Registration Information

Each new student is required to meet with the Director in order to discuss courses and have their registration approved. Students interested in taking courses not currently cross listed to the program, or in taking a Directed Reading Social and Political Thought course should discuss their plans and request the appropriate paperwork from the Director or the Program Assistant at the time of their advising appointment, or by the first week of classes.

New students entering the program will be contacted and have appointments set up for advising between mid-August and early September, or may contact the program office by telephone (416 736-5320) or e-mail (at ) to book an appointment.

Students are advised to observe the Program's registration. Student registration packages will be mailed in late July to all incoming students to the permanent address on file with the Registrar's Office. Students relocating for the summer as asked to ensure the program office received your change of address in writing or via e-mail, and indicating the date that the new address will be effective.

Students in the Faculty of Graduate Studies use a computerized registration system that allows students to register either through terminals located across campus or from home.

Graduate Students are required to be register for each term, therefore students who wish to register for both the Fall and the Winter sessions may do so in August/September. Students who do not register in the Fall term for the Winter term must ensure that they have registered for the Winter term by January 15th in order to prevent a late fee. Summer registration occurs in late April to May 15th, and course offerings will be made available in early April.

Students who wish to enroll in a Directed reading course must complete the reading course form, and have signatures of the selected course director and Graduate Program Director prior to the Graduate Program Assistant clearing an enrolling block on the system for each reading course. The computerized system will not permit students to enroll in the reading courses without computer authorization from SPTH.

Students may find themselves blocked from entry into other courses for various reasons. If this is the case the student will be required to contact SPTH to have the block lifted.

The deadline for registration for the Fall term is 15 September. Students who register after that date will have to pay a late registration fee. Students who are not registered by 15 September also endanger the first payment for their GA, RA or TA. Scholarships may also be impacted if the student is not registered in a prompt and timely manner.

Students are advised to be on campus early in September to meet faculty, fellow students, and the Director.

Most Graduate courses begin after Labour Day (please refer to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Important Dates page for all official dates. However, there are some exceptions to this (usually for courses where the home program offering the course is either Osgoode or Schulich School of Business). Students are responsible for ascertaining the precise date of the first class meeting of courses in which they enroll, although the program will indicate - whenever possible - in the course information if the start date of a course differs from the norm.

Faculty may not hold classes off campus in any but very unusual circumstances. Students have repeatedly complained about the trouble and possible danger of getting to downtown locations and back to the campus late at night. Please note: In the event of inclement weather, classes may be cancelled, and although this rarely occurs, students are encouraged to access the Weather Emergency Line at 416 736-5600 (or check York's homepage) to see if the University has officially closed.

The attention of all students is drawn to the regulations concerning completion of course work provided on the website. It is essential that students ensure essays and all paperwork is submitted in a timely manner. Any difficulties should be brought to the attention of the SPTH Director.

Important Reference Information

Student Client Services: 416 736-5440

Possible Problems

Do you have outstanding fees? If you do have large outstanding fees from the previous session, you may be prevented from registering until you have cleared the outstanding fees or addressed the issue with FGS. To make an appointment to clear any fee blocks, please contact 416 736-5521 directly.

Have you hit a time limit in your program? If you have completed 2 years in the MA program, you must change to part-time status. PhD students are not able to register in the 7th term of study (the onset of PhD III) unless a supervisor has been approved, or in the 10th term of study (the onset of PhD IV) unless a supervisory committee has been approved. If there are extenuating circumstances, please speak with the Director to discuss options.

Students in Full Time Studies

Students are advised to adhere to the guidelines set out in the FGS Faculty Regulations, governing full-time and part-time studies. As well, students doing course work are required to take no less than one-and-a-half courses in a given year to maintain full-time status. Failure to maintain the norms for full-time status may jeopardize eligibility for graduate and teaching assistantships. Queries in this regard should be addressed to the Director or Program Assistant.

Mail, E-mail, and Lists

Incoming Mail for Students and Announcements

Students should check their mailboxes for notices about registration, scholarships, deadlines, guest speakers and information concerning the Program. Except in the case of part-time students, mail received in the Program office will not be forwarded to your current address.

Email Accounts

All students are encouraged to set up their e-mail accounts as early as possible and to provide the Program Assistant with your e-mail account. A considerable amount of information is posted to students through the SPTH listserv. Hardcopy notices of much of this information is also posted in the Student Lounge. It is the responsibility of the students to check their mail, e-mail and postings as deadlines are firm.

Please note: students must have a York email account and are asked to ensure that the program office and the listservs have the correct e-mail address at all times. Frequent changes to e-mail addresses generally assure that important news will be lost.

SPTH Listservs

There are two listservs for the SPTH community: one for students and the other for faculty members. Neither group has access to the other listserv.

General Guidelines for use of the listservs:

  • Please remember that when you hit "Reply All", the information goes not only to the person who sent the message, but to everyone on the listserv.
  • In these days of easily accessible email, sending information to a listserv reaches a lot of people quickly, but as these are academic listservs, please limit your impulse to send information regarding your current "cause" if possible. In addition, if anyone floods a listserv with information on any singular issue or sends large volumes of information to the extent that it clogs other people's mailboxes making them inaccessible, you may be asked to refrain.
  • Student scholarship announcements, program deadline information, and information relevant only to students will be sent on SPT-L. A missed deadline caused by not checking one's email is not an acceptable reason for an extension. Please ensure your email is checked regularly.
  • All listserv participants are asked to review and must adhere to the University Policies, Procedures & Regulations Database (Senate Policy) at .
  • Any student having concerns regarding listserv policies or usage may make an official (written) complaint to either of the Associate Deans in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Computer Needs

Students who require specialized computer needs, or seeking computer related assistance should contact the Help Services at Computing and Communications Services (CCS), Parking Structure 2, Computing Section, phone: 416 736-5800 or ext. 55800.

Graduate and Research Assistantships

Graduate Assistantships

Students who have been awarded a Graduate Assistantship for the upcoming year should consult the Director or Program Assistant regarding their general responsibilities and their prospective supervisors. The Program makes every effort to match Graduate Assistants with positions which may reflect the student's academic interests. However, students should be aware that a match is not always possible. The type of positions available varies from year to year, with some positions assigned by the Faculty of Graduate Studies rather than SPTH. Position information will be available at the start of the academic year..
There are two kinds of Graduate Assistantships that can be offered to students.

  1. Graduate Assistantships (GAs), which are fully funded by the Faculty of Graduate Studies
    1. For a maximum of 270 hours over two terms
    2. Students must be registered full-time in the term in which the Assistantship is held
    3. Students will normally be expected to assist a Faculty member in their research or to work on some other project or duties as assigned by the Director of the Program
    4. Students must not be asked to work as a GA for more than an average of 10 hours per week
  2. Matching Fund Graduate Assistantships (MFGAs), which are funded on a shared basis by FGS and by the hiring unit or faculty member. These are normally provided to Masters Students.
    1. For a maximum of 270 hours over two terms
    2. Student must be registered full-time in terms Assistantship is held
    3. Activities required may be research, administrative, clerical or other
    4. Students must not be asked to work more as an MFGA for more than an average of 10 hours per week
Students are expected to remain in close contact with the GA supervisor during the period of the appointment, and to monitor the number of hours worked on a weekly basis. Students are asked to note that if the hours are not completed, the Program has the right to cancel the GA payments. Students are encouraged to discuss any questions, problems or queries with the Director or Program Assistant regarding work assignments, hours of work or special circumstances. The Program office will be requesting regular updates on the progress of the student's work and the hours worked for the student's file

Research Assistants

Research Assistants are Students who are funded directly from Faculty members' Research Grants. These Assistantships are expected to be related to the Faculty members research and the student's research. They are not limited by the 10 hour rule, since they are part of a student's program of study and research. There is no set value, amounts vary from discipline to discipline and faculty member to faculty member.

Teaching Assistantships

Students in the Program obtain Teaching Assistantships in a variety of undergraduate departments particularly, but not exclusively, in Humanities and Social Sciences. Teaching Assistantships are an important and valuable experience for anyone who intends to later teach in a university. They are also a critical source of funding after the first year. Continuing students, therefore, should explore the possibilities of obtaining a Teaching Assistantship for each fall/winter session early in the academic year and file the appropriate applications. The Program can offer advice about possible openings but it is not responsible for placing students. More information is available here or through the Program Office.

The application deadline for the summer session and the following academic year is usually in January, and applications are submitted to all departments and programs that the student in considering, or has the knowledge base to work in. Students are encouraged to define their teaching interests in a broader focus rather than targeting only one program wherever possible.

Teaching Assistantships are available in a limited number and students are requested to respond back to the program offering the TA at the earliest time possible. Failure to do so may put another student at a disadvantage.

Students are also asked to note the following: Many students who have previous teaching experience in a department, (and are planning to continue teaching either the same course, or within the same department) are requested to complete the blanket application for every year they are planning to teach. This prevents many placement problems which may develop due to changes made by hiring departments when enrollment numbers change, faculty members cancel planned (upcoming) courses, etc.

Students are also requested to notify the SPTH Program office once they have received an offer, as well as confirming their acceptance. This is because hiring departments contact the SPTH office when a position suddenly becomes available seeking potential Teaching Assistants. If the SPTH office is aware of a student in need of a position, we can contact them with a lead. If we have not been kept apprised, we will contact only those students who have requested assistance or let us know the status of their placement. Students who are having difficulties getting a TAship, should be in contact with the program office if they have not received an offer by July 25th for the upcoming September session. In addition, if the program has a current CV and/or Unit 1 application, the Director then have the tools to assist the student better.

Teaching Assistants at York are members of CUPE 3903 Unit 1. Their terms and conditions of employment are governed by the collective agreement. A copy of this collective agreement is available from the Administrative Office, Faculty of Graduate Studies, (416) 736-5328, or from Academic Staff Relations, or individuals are encouraged to consult the CUPE website for detailed information including the rates of payment and contract details. Teaching Assistants are hired by the relevant Teaching Faculties according to the terms of the contract.

All Teaching Assistantship contracts must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies on the recommendation of the Graduate Program Director.

Hours of Work
A note regarding hours of work: The Faculty of Graduate Studies indicates that students are designated as full-time graduate students if they:
are not regularly employed by the University, for more than an average of ten hours per week for any period for which they are registered full-time graduate students. (If the student is employed as a teaching assistant or demonstrator, the ten hours per week represents the total time spent by the student in connection with the appointment and includes the time spent on preparative work, reading set assignments, marking examinations, etc.).
Therefore, in order to adhere to both program and faculty rules, and if an opportunity arises for a student to take on additional work, the student cannot agree or take on additional work until they have the express written of both the SPTH Program Director and the permission of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The full definition of a full time student may be found on the FGS website at:
If students receive an offer of additional work, the student should be aware that no additional work is permitted until all students have at least one full assistantship.  In order to receive approval for the additional work, an email must be sent to the Graduate Program Director and include the relevant course numbers for the course(s) the student wishes to take on, the status of the student's own academic work, and the name of the student's supervisor. The Graduate Program Director will then contact the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval.

Ontario Visiting Graduate Scholars (OVGS)

This is a program that allows Ontario graduate students to attend courses at other ONTARIO universities without paying additional fees. However, it must be pointed out that there is a charge to the institution whose student is taking the course at another University. In order for a York student to take advantage of this program, it must be clear that the course they wish to take is not offered at York at the time the student wishes to take it. Convenience of location is not a reason for permission to be granted.

The following outlines the procedures to be followed by graduate programs for:

  1. A York graduate student take a course at another Ontario University
  2. Approving a graduate student from another Ontario University taking a York Course.

For a York graduate student to take a course at another Ontario University

  • The student completes the Form "Ontario Visiting Graduate Student Application" with the relevant information. These forms can be obtained from the Program office or the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
  • The Program Director reviews the request and the rationale, the course description (supplied by the student) and if appropriate signs the form giving approval for the requested course The form is sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, where it is checked to ensure that the student has not exceed the number of courses allowed to be taken outside of the home program, and that the course is eligible, and that the student is eligible, and if so it is approved by the Associate Dean.
  • The original of the signed form is sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University offering the course (Host University), for approval, FGS retains a copy.
  • Once approved by the host University, (department and Graduate Dean) the host University returned the signed form to the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York.
  • The host University will forward the grade awarded to the student to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. FGS is invoiced by the host University for the course.

Note: It is important that students formally notify FGS in writing if they drop these courses, otherwise we are charged for them.
It should be noted that due to the paperwork involved between two institutions, it is preferable that if a student wants to take a course elsewhere, that they gather the paperwork and begin the process at the earliest time possible

Graduate Student Exchanges

York University has a number of Graduate Student Exchanges available to students. The York International office has information available on the Universities participating in the exchanges, and the options available to students.

All students considering participating in an Exchange are requested to note that in addition to the paperwork required by York International, all graduate students participating in an exchange are required to submit a petition through their program of study to FGS for permission to participate in the Exchange. It is requested that the student submit the petition 2 months prior to the intended departure date.

York International can be reached at (416) 736-5177.

Note regarding exchanges: in order for these students to opt-out of the Graduate student health care plan they need to be out of the country for at least two semesters of the school year starting in Sept and ending in August. The student must submit - via memo - a request to the program office by August 1st requesting confirmation that they will be out of the country on an official exchange, along with the students names and their student numbers, location of the exchange (country), method of contacting the student (either a new address for while they are overseas, or the email address they will be using while away) and confirmation from York International regarding the status of the exchange which will then be prepared into an official letter from the program for the GSA - Health Plan office so they can reverse the charges.

Helpful Hints
  • If in doubt, please ask. If the Program Offices do not have the answer, we generally know where the answer can be found.
  • Appointments are encouraged (and usually drop-in visits are fine too). We post office hours so students will know when we are usually here. If you need to talk about something that is affecting your academic progress, let us know sooner rather than later. It may save a lot of confusion later on.
  • Join in Program events to get to know the faculty members and other students. It will help immeasurably when you need to build your committee, or need to research in an area of study new to you.
  • Pace your workload. Don't fall behind if possible, but if you do, make sure that your faculty members (course directors, committee members, etc) are aware of the situation in case you need to take an Incomplete. (And if you do need to take an Incomplete, check the deadlines for submission and fill out a petition if needed).
  • Plan your academic career early, give yourself time to develop scholarship opportunities, research goals, and publishing contacts during your time in SPTH. A strong CV builds opportunities and contacts that you will need later in your career to fulfill your academic goals.
  • We hope to make the time you are in SPTH as academically successful and as enjoyable as possible. If you have concerns, issues or suggestions, please convey your thoughts to us.
  • Make sure the SPTH office has your current email address. When you change your address, please also go on-line and update it there, and notify the SPTH office. Please remember that the more times you change your email, the more email will get lost when people sent to your old address.
  • Remember to register. Every term.
  • Let the Program know - in writing - when you are planning to go on an exchange. Please let us know at least 3 weeks prior to your departure.
  • When in doubt, check the website.  If it's not in the handbook, check with the Program office. Asking early saves a lot time later on.
  • Mentioning something in passing in the hall to the Program Assistant or the Director is not officially notification. Please put it in writing, otherwise it may be forgotten.
  • Please put the card with the combinations to the Lounge and the computer room in your wallet, and do not give it out to non-SPTH students.
SPTH Committees

Social and Political Thought has a number of committees that set the internal policies for the program, reviews and ranks admissions applications, scholarships, thesis proposals, new course proposals, etc. All committees with the exceptions of the scholarship and thesis prize committees have student involvement. Students are encouraged to become active participants in the committees. Student appointments to the committees are made through an election process held by the SPT Graduate Student Association.

The Executive
The Program is administered by the Director in conjunction with the Executive Committee. That Committee is comprised of six faculty members representing the three areas of study (History of Social and Political Thought, Society and Economy, and Consciousness and Society), the Director, two student voting members and the student alternates (non-voting). Students not only take an active part in the discussions, but are responsible for conveying information from the Executive meeting to the students in the program. The Executive meet at least once per term, and holds the Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the end of each academic year.

The Curriculum Committee
The SPTH Curriculum Committee is responsible for curriculum review and approval of new course proposals. This committee will also review the courses currently offered and make recommendations to the Director and/or the Executive Committee regarding the recruitment of additional faculty to address possible new course offerings relevant to the program, or to supplement existing course offerings and faculty resources. Course submissions must be submitted to the program office by September 30th of each year in order for them to be reviewed by the Curriculum Committee, for supporting documentation prepared and submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval. This committee normally meets 2 -3 times per year.

The Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee is responsible for reviewing dissertation proposals prior to their submission to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The student will submit the dissertation proposal with all supporting documents to the program office who will copy and distribute the proposal to the committee.  Once the committee has read the proposal, the committee members, the student and - if the student wishes - the supervisor will have a meeting to discuss the proposal.  There are usually three meetings set per year (please refer to the PHD guildelines for specific details).  The committee will meet with each student and their supervisor to discuss and ask questions regarding the proposal, bibliography and resources for conducting the research essential to the successful completion of the dissertation. In addition, the Advisory Committee may make recommendations, additions or changes to the bibliography or suggest additional faculty resources or contacts which may be beneficial to the student. The Committee reserves the right to request revisions to the proposal prior to their approval. Meetings of the Advisory Committee are determined at the start of each academic year.

SPTH has two Admissions Committees - one reviews the MA applications, and the other reviews the PhD applications. Each committee has two faculty members and two student members and is chaired by the Program Director.  These committees operate in the Winter term (February – April) to review the applications, rank each file, and attend program meetings where all rankings are reviewed and the top applicants are selected.

The Scholarships Committee
This committee normally meets during the Fall term to review the SSHRC and OGS applications in the program. It comprises three faculty members. It may also review scholarship applications that are submitted through the program at other times of the year.

Theses Prize Committee
Each year a number of dissertations are recommended by the examiners for the annual Faculty of Graduate Studies Thesis Prize. The committee consists of two faculty members and the Director who review and rank all nominated dissertations and make a recommendation to FGS. The deadline for the Thesis Prize recommendation is February 1st of each year.