‘Lack of empathy’ for Laurentian grad students as pay, research funding hits snag

By Shanleigh Brosseau and MacKenzie MacDonald

Some graduate students are facing delays in receiving pay for research and teaching, and are stuck in a process that one student is calling “a disaster.” 

Now, they are calling on Laurentian to review the way it administers financial assistance, and make the process more transparent. 

In the Financial Aid section of its website, Laurentian says that fellowships are available to qualified full-time students. The assistance is designated partially as employment, and partially as a Fellowship, with a pay of approximately $6,000 per year for 10 hours of classroom work per week. 

Raven Ouellette, first-year graduate student in Biology, said she was expecting a portion of that pay in September, but only received it October 22. 

Ouellette said that she had to contact the fee’s office for the refund process to get the remaining amount but “the whole process of trying to get this money [was] playing email tag with [different] people.” 

“[When] I finally got a refund, the [individual] told me [that] I [had received] a refund for both…  [when] I only got the refund for my GTA fellowship.” 

“So I played some more email tag” Ouellette continued. “[I] emailed a [different] people in the fees department [and] still hadn’t heard anything.” 

Process lacking transparency, student says

Ouellete said she finally reached a person, who said the university didn’t have the correct banking information. 

She said that she didn’t feel as though “that was the case” as she was “still [receiving] bi-weekly payments from [her] GTA fellowship.” 

“I think the problem is [that] they aren’t really transparent about how the process actually works and when you will [receive] your money” Ouellette said.

Ouellette said she eventually was paid on October 22, but the whole process left her doubtful that the university has worked out the kinks in the system. 

“In my own opinion, because I am doing research here, I shouldn’t’ have to chase people to get money that’s part of my funding for [my] research.” 

Administrators showing ‘lack of understanding’

Dr. Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde, Professor and Canada Research Chair of Applied Evolutionary Ecology, said that this is not the first time students have complained to him about “the amount of time that it has taken for them to receive their funding or their money.” 

“I think this reflects a lack of understanding by the administrators” Schulte-Hostedde said.
These students, this is what they’re living on, this money that they are getting from their supervisor and their TAship.” 

“I don’t think that [the] people who are in charge of the financial aspect understand how important it is for these students to get their money,” he added. “I think part of the problem is that there seems to be a diffused sense of responsibility around this issue in terms of the administration.” 

“I shouldn’t have students in my office crying because the money I have given them… they can’t get access to it, because some bureaucrat in the university administration haven’t found the time to do it” Schulte-Hostedde said. 

“These students need their money. This is how they’re paying their rent, buying their groceries. This is not bonus money or anything like that.” 

When Lambda reached out to the university’s payroll department to find out if the problem was widespread, Lyane Sauve, Laurentian’s Payroll Administrator, who said that “payroll is confidential, [and that] any payroll questions to be asked is [up to] the individual to request [it].”