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Graduate Students' Association
Graduate Students' Association
“OISE: What's It Like for You?”
 
A Report on the OISE Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Student Survey on Accessibility & Equity
 
Written by (in alphabetical order):
Zahide Alaca, Shawna Carroll , Elizabeth Larson,
Monika Pries-Klassen, Shakina Rajendram & Lifen Wu
 
Full report available for download here.
 
Executive Summary
 
Purpose of Report
 
The purpose of this report is to present initial findings on the OISE: What’s It Like for You? survey conducted by the OISE Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Accessibility Committee. The survey aimed to understand OISE students’ experiences with a range of accessibility and equity issues, including the following: accommodations for individuals with physical disabilities, mental health concerns, and family responsibilities; marginalization due to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, country of origin, and ancestry; physical safety; financial, employment, and research support; support for international and part-time/flex-time students; and support from faculty, administration, and colleagues. We are grateful to all 330 OISE students who took the time to complete the survey. While the following paragraphs serve to summarize the report, we sincerely hope that all readers take the time to read the full report, as it contains students’ personal thoughts, ideas, and experiences. It is also important to remember that the experiences, concerns, and recommendations presented in this report are based on the perspectives of our survey respondents, and may not reflect the experiences and ideas of all students at OISE.
 
Where OISE Is Doing Relatively Well
 
Overall, most students who responded to the survey expressed feeling physically safe at OISE and supported by faculty, staff, and colleagues. On average, students reported believing that OISE does “somewhat well” to “extremely well” in accommodating international students; those with physical disabilities or mental health concerns; and those who may feel marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, country of origin and/or ancestry, gender identity or expression, or sexuality or sexual expression.
 
Where OISE Can Improve
 
Although overall student perceptions were positive, they did not reflect many of the lived experiences of students who themselves identified with these categories. For example, while the majority of students felt that OISE did well in accommodating those with physical disabilities and mental health concerns, almost half of the students who indicated having requested accommodations for physical disabilities or mental health concerns reported that their requests had not been met. In addition, while the majority of students felt that international students were supported, the vast majority of respondents who identified as international students felt that their language, cultural, social and financial needs were not accommodated. Even though the majority of students indicated that they had not experienced marginalization due to race, ethnicity, country of origin and/or ancestry, 53 students said that they felt marginalized at OISE. These findings suggest that OISE needs to engage the entire student population by delving deeper into individual lived experiences in its efforts to improve the student experience at OISE.
Another area for improvement relates to finances, which was a key area of concern for many students. The overwhelming majority of students said they had financial concerns, and many stressed concerns that their current funding packages not equaling a living wage in Toronto. The majority of students did not feel financially supported by OISE, did not feel fairly compensated for their Research Assistantship (RA), Graduate Assistantship (GA), and Teaching Assistantship (TA) work, did not feel OISE provides enough job opportunities, and/or were not financially able to attend conferences. While concerns about the lack of employment and research supports are closely linked with finances, students emphasized that they are not only about money; they need these opportunities to gain experience, strengthen their skillsets, and network for their careers.
 
Sample Student Recommendations
 
The survey asked students to suggest ways to improve specific aspects of OISE. While the wide variety of responses cannot be effectively summarized here, some common suggestions have been provided. Students suggest that OISE hire more faculty to improve research supervision, and hire more faculty of colour and Indigenous professors to better reflect the OISE student body. The level of students’ financial concerns led many of them to suggest that OISE increase their funding package, provide more employment opportunities, or enhance oversight on GAships so students do not end up doing hours of unpaid overtime. Students also recommended that OISE support them in their research by providing more funding for conferences and making more physical spaces or offices available for their research purposes. Regarding issues of marginalization, students suggested that OISE should create more gender-neutral washrooms, and that OISE identify or create more safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals as well as for those who feel marginalized due to race, ethnicity, country of origin or ancestry. Other common suggestions were for OISE to fund sensitivity training for faculty and staff, and promote LGBTQ events and events that showcase OISE’s cultural diversity. Another overarching suggestion from students was to make information about services, programs, and events at OISE more easily accessible for students across departments and degrees whether they are on or off campus.
 
 
We encourage you to read the full report and we welcome your feedback on it. To get in touch with us, please email shakina.rajendram@mail.utoronto.ca.


Best regards,
GSA Accessibility Committee

 

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