Letter to the Board of Trustees – In Support of Brock’s MRP Graduate Students and Graduate Student Workers

RE: Letter to the Board of Trustees – In Support of Brock’s MRP Graduate Students and Graduate Student Workers 

We are the 4207 Young Workers Subcommittee. Our group is a subcommittee of the CUPE 4207 Local’s Equity Committee and represents individuals under 30 years of age employed at Brock University. Aligned with the Union’s objectives, our mission is to improve activism and leadership capabilities among young workers, protect and advocate for their rights, and ensure their voices are heard. 

At the December 7, 2023 Brock Board of Trustees (“BoT”) meeting, the Board approved the 2024-25 Academic Year’s Scholarships, Fellowships, Bursaries and Awards budget which removed all funding for Major Research Paper (MRP) graduate students, with the exception of a one-time merit based entrance award of $3000 (for incoming students with an 82% average). As Young Workers employed at Brock University, we strongly believe that the Board’s decision was an inequitable answer to the University’s difficult economic deficit. Our subcommittee demands that the Board (1) Reinstate funding to all research graduate programs; (2) Distribute cuts equitably across all faculties when cuts cannot be avoided; (3) Include students in any further fiduciary decisions affecting their funding. The purpose of this letter is to show the BoT that Young Workers are paying attention to the decisions they make and we will not stop voicing our concerns until equitable changes are made. 

The Board rationalized their decision to defund MRP students by stating it was made with the “objective of increasing the more research-intensive thesis-based Masters student population” (Board of Trustees, 7 December 2023 Minutes, p. 3). The Board further rationalized that this upholds “Brock’s commitment to attracting research-focused graduate students and building a more research-intensive University” (p. 3). Although the MRP is a shorter research program than the Thesis stream, it is no less rigorous and no less valuable. Students within the MRP stream produce valuable research and are well-equipped to expand such research at the PhD level. Moreover, the MRP is arguably the most accessible research exit project for many students. Our Young Workers Subcommittee finds that the Board’s rationalization devalues the research of past, present, and future MRP students. Further, we take issue with the Board’s lack of consultation with students–those directly affected by the decision–prior to approval. 

Cuts to MRP funding will disproportionately target programs within the Faculty of Education (“FoE”), the Faculty of Humanities (“FoH”), and the Faculties of Social Sciences (“FoSS”). Meaning, FoE, FoH, and FoSS programs are at serious risk of termination with MRP funding cuts, with many forced to revise or pause their programs. As a result, the University will lose a large number of research-intensive graduate students within these faculties, inevitably limiting the University’s culture and output of research. The decision to defund MRP graduate students has, and will continue to, disproportionately harm graduate students and workers within the FoE, FoH, and FoSS. If the Board does not return MRP funding by 2025-26, we fear this decision will alter the composition of Brock University’s student community indefinitely. 

As members of the Young Workers Subcommittee, we recognize that these cuts will lead to fewer graduate students at the University and therefore less young workers employed at Brock. The majority of CUPE 4207’s Unit 1 membership—Instructors, Teaching Assistants (“TAs”), Marker/Graders, and Lab Demonstrators—are graduate students. As per the CUPE 4207 Collective Agreement, funded graduate students receive preference in hiring for TAships and Marker/Grader positions. Meaning, the Board’s decision to defund MRPs jeopardizes MRP students’ hiring preference. As such, MRP students will experience undue stress in their attempts to find work. Without funding and without a guaranteed paid position, MRP graduate students’ livelihoods are in jeopardy. The Young Workers Subcommittee finds the Board’s decision unjust in that it not only fails to value and support MRP-based students’ research, but also the lives of MRP graduate students, many of whom are young workers. 

CUPE 4207’s Young Workers Subcommittee strives for equity and social justice. We value the work of all grad students and graduate student workers from varying disciplines offer diverse, creative, and knowledgeable perspectives. We are acutely aware that, given the disproportionate effects of MRP funding cuts towards students and workers within the FoE, FoH, and FoSS, the young workers subcommittee will be deprived of the opportunity to work along with its necessary and treasured members. 

Funding sends a clear message within and beyond the university about what forms of education, what kinds of students, and what kinds of work are of value. The Young Workers Subcommittee asks that the Board’s decisions reflect the very salient fact that all education, all students, and all university workers are valuable. We ask that the Board: (1) Reinstate funding to all research graduate programs; (2) Distribute cuts equitably across all faculties when cuts cannot be avoided; (3) Include students in any further fiduciary decisions affecting their funding. 


CUPE 4207 Young Workers Subcommittee 

Morgan Crosby, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Ege Kamber, Psychology 

Claire Thyne, English Language & Literature 

Sarah G. Pierson, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Hamnah Shahid, Psychology 

Kaho Nishibu, Sociology

This letter is signed by the following workers in solidarity with our Subcommittee: 

Stacyann Williams, Equity Officer 2023-2024 

Zoe Williams, English Language & Literature 

Maddie Beaulieu, English Language & Literature 

Jaime Bastien, English Language & Literature 

Faith Lokaisingh, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Olivia Hay, English Language & Literature 

Jessie Hendriks, English Language & Literature 

Guneet Bagga, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Tiffanie St. Lewis, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Laadi Salifu, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Bailey Amos, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Hurakhsh Hazheer, Social Justice & Equity Studies 

Christian Santesso, Political Science 

James Paetkau, Social Justice and Equity Studies