We are writing to share the steps that the University is taking to address concerns about the ability of graduate students to progress toward completion of your degree programs during the pandemic emergency restrictions.
The COVID pandemic has been an incredibly trying time, altering what we had come to take for granted and requiring that so much be done by alternative means. We want to acknowledge and express appreciation for everything that you, your supervisors, instructors, Graduate Program Directors and Graduate Program Assistants have done to adapt and support the continuity of graduate education in these uniquely challenging conditions.
For students facing degree completion deadlines, the need to adapt to remote formats has sometimes required extra time. In April, the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) enabled 60-day, tuition-free extensions beyond the end of the Winter 2020 term to hand in final assignments or complete the oral defence of a thesis or dissertation. FGS has extended 60-day, tuition-free completion to degree programs ending this summer. https://coronavirus.info.yorku.ca/2020/04/message-from-dean-loebel-fgs-information-for-grad-students/
For some individual students the emergency restrictions have translated into a more significant loss of access to irreplaceable research facilities, equipment or travel, rendering data collection or project completion impossible at a critical moment that, without remediation, could prevent the planned completion of your degrees within the 2020-21 academic year. Graduate Program Directors and supervisors have been working individually with students to revise research plans in ways that allow students to keep progressing by alternative means, as far as possible.
As communicated by the Office of VPRI to the University community on 28 May 2020, the University has now begun careful planning to re-open access to critical research labs, studios and equipment, as well as some field research, in ways that will adhere to rigorous public health regulations (https://research.info.yorku.ca/news-events/). Every effort will be made to prioritize early access starting in June for graduate students who are facing potential delay to a planned 2020-21 graduation date as a direct result of loss of access to these facilities, where student learning outcomes cannot be achieved by alternate means. Our goal is to enable students who have lost irreplaceable time in the lab, the studio, or the field to remediate and, wherever possible, to graduate on their planned timeline. Please note that all university plans are subject to change based on government health agency directives in this consistently evolving pandemic.
We acknowledge that for some students remediation will require a one-term extension to your degree programs. These one-term extensions will be on part-time status, free of charge, bearing no tuition or fees. To be eligible a student's supervisor and Graduate Program Director must confirm that your program completion in 2020-21 is unavoidably delayed because your approved research project mandated in-person data collection/production, access to lab/studio space and related equipment, or travel, for which virtual access through electronic means could not provide an alternative. Application should occur at the beginning of what would regularly be the final term of your degree, using the FGS petition form with appropriate documentation:
https://gradstudies.yorku.ca/current-students/regulations/petitions-appeals/. Instructions and additional information will be communicated to you directly. They will also be provided on the FGS petitions website and the FGS COVID-19 website.
For financial assistance during a COVID-specific extension, students may apply to their Faculties for consideration for a MITACS Training Award, Research Assistantship, or other forms of research funding. The FGS Emergency Bursary Fund also continues to accept applications, and this summer, some students will qualify for federal emergency student benefits: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/emergency-student-benefit.html.
Students who have been approved for a COVID-specific extension and who have no alternative funding source may apply to their Faculties for a special extension bursary of up to $1,000/month, for up to 4 months. Further information about the application process will be conveyed by your home Faculty Dean’s Office and graduate programs shortly.
Lisa Philipps, Provost & Vice-President Academic
Amir Asif, Vice-President Research & Innovation
Thomas Loebel, Dean and Associate Vice-President Graduate