Know Your Rights Guide

Being a graduate student presents many challenges, processes, relationships, and interactions with different forms of power. Your path as a graduate student will weave in its own unique pattern through these experiences. 

You have undertaken a graduate degree at Simon Fraser University for a reason – you have goals, ambitions, and desires for a future you are trying to build. However, changes in post-secondary education over the previous decades have shifted the way and the environment that we are educated in. The shifts towards more neoliberal universities affect us as graduate students in logistical ways, such as increasing tuition fees (especially for international students who are supporting an underfunded university structure), reliance on industry funding, and the types of precarious and often exploitive labour that are available to us. On a more idealistic level, this shift corrupts the value of our education and what it means to be a student, as we and our research become commodities or tokens of success, often appropriated as a sign of an inclusive environment. 

It must be noted here that SFU cannot achieve its goals of being an engaged research university as laid out within its strategic vision without being accountable to the rights of our most important community members – students. 

The policies and procedures of the university hold a variety of rights that you have as a student that are often hidden within obtuse policy language, leaving many students not knowing where to look or how to interpret what is possible for them. Therefore, this resource centers your rights as a graduate student in the many roles we take on within the institution. Increasing your knowledge of your own rights as a graduate student is a form of power within the institution and will hopefully empower you in your research, work places, and life generally. 

For graduate students the isolation they face in their specific programs and supervisors as well as the power imbalances that are inherent to student-supervisor relationships makes them particularly at risk of having their rights undermined. However, graduate students do not need to exist in isolation and they should not be disempowered in their relationship with their supervisor. Students should have expectations of their supervisor and relationship based on mutual respect. 

Beyond empowering you in your own path, we hope this guide lays the foundation for clearly defining and declaring the rights of all graduate students at Simon Fraser University.