Petition for social science funding

By Noah Miller

The Social Science Grant Commission has new funds following the announcement of the federal government’s most recent economic action plan, but some are unhappy with the new restrictions.

The government announced a two per cent funding increase for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council on Jan. 27, giving them an additional $17.5 million.

The money is part of an $87.5 million package distributed over three years to temporarily expand the Canada Graduate Scholarships program supporting Canada’s top graduate students.

However, with this funding increase the federal government restricted what the new funds could be used for. According to the budget, “scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities [Research Council] will be focused on business-related degrees.”

“The increase is good, any increase is good,” said University of Calgary Graduate Students’ Association president Rithesh Ram. “What is unfortunate is that the increase is temporary, it’s a one-time deal. It’s also unfortunate that it is going to a certain type of student.”

Ram noted that other faculties are able to allocate funding as they wish and wondered why in this case it was specifically allocated without explanation.

The GSA is handing out a petition among graduate students in the hopes of changing this requirement. The Students’ Union is also getting involved because the current restrictions will affect undergraduate students in the future, said SU president Dalmy Baez.

The federal budget boasts that Canada’s ability to prosper in today’s global, innovation-driven economy ultimately depends on the skills, knowledge and creativity of Canadians.

“This budget has too constricting a focus,” said third-year sociology student Amanda Poulin. “It will restrict what students will study. It will constrict the ideas that can be developed.”

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the SU’s national lobby group, also opposed the government directing how funding is divided by an independent agency.

“While SSHRC has stated that it will interpret business-related degree in the broadest possible terms [this means] significant numbers of PhD students will lose their funding part-way through their degree,” said CASA national director Zach Churchill. “The principle of giving grants and scholarships out on the basis of merit must be preserved in order to fund good, but perhaps politically unpopular, research.”

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