Meeting with External Reviewers

Here is the memo that we presented to the external reviewers today. We left them each with a copy, letting them know that we’d be happy to extrapolate further on any point if they want to email us.

We did our best to synthesize the feedback we got from you. Please know that we value the feedback you provided, and even if it didn’t show up in the memo, we would like to follow up with you and speak to relevant people in the department about your concerns.

The reviewers were very receptive, and assured us that they would be taking this feedback into consideration when they prepare their formal review, which will be made publicly available once they’re finished (probably in the new year).

We feel that we’ve opened some great dialogues with those of you who sent us feedback, and we’d like to keep those open. If you didn’t send us feedback in time for this meeting, please feel free to send it whenever. These are exactly the type of issues we want to attempt to address as your co-chairs.

Thanks again for your contributions.


Caroline Diezyn and Adam Bowes



November 23, 2015

Meeting with Dr. Alan Bewell and Dr. Nicolas Witschi re: departmental external review

Graduate English Society Co-Chairs:

Caroline Diezyn ( and Adam Bowes (



-we feel well-prepared and supported with honest explanations of some of the baffling idiosyncrasies of the processes regarding applying to external funding, conferences, etc.


-the grad students are in resounding agreement that we would be lost without our tireless and long-suffering admin staff


-the diverse interests of our talented faculty come up again and again as a positive aspect of the English department



-there’s a lot of anxiety around the changes recently made to the PhD1 year structure and when they take their comps. Students going through this year currently express concerns over time management when they are studying for their exam while teaching and attending courses.

-students feel that the first two years seem secluded from the dissertation. If students had to organize their dissertation committee before choosing their comps fields they could consult with their committee about the best choices in order to ensure that studying for the comps is part of the bigger picture of the dissertation.

-there is an inconsistency with how each field organizes its reading list (some are much longer than others). What’s more, there seems to be an inconsistency in the way each committee describes the worthiness and use of completing comps to their candidates. It’s difficult to motivate oneself to complete comps when one’s committee is disparaging the premise of this type of exam at all. Which leads to…

-there’s a lot of skepticism around the efficacy of comps and whether or not they accurately measure a candidate’s competency or qualification in a field

-many universities in North America use different models for their qualifying requirements. Would changing to a system that uses the “designing a course” framework be more beneficial, for example?

-there’s a lot of anxiety around the fact that though a student’s transcript shows only P(ass) or F(ail) or Pass with Distinction, students are assigned specific number grades. The anxiety arises from the inevitable comparisons made between students when there ultimately needs not be any basis for comparison beyond “passed.” More concerning, though, is when a student fails an exam, and receives a grade only a few points shy of a pass. While it might seem generous to award a student a grade very close to a pass, the effect on the student’s psychological well-being is that they will continue to wonder where they lost those few points that have effectively changed their lives. As a result, it might be beneficial to change the system so that students receive only P or F or P w/distinction rather than number grades, since that is all that will show up on their transcript.

Departmental support

international student concerns:

-working to support oneself over the summer when funding isn’t provided is exponentially more difficult for international students who may not be able to seek outside employment because of their visas

-international students feel that the department doesn’t consider their unique concerns and needs when it comes to the added expense of moving here and living as an international student

X-year student concerns:

-students who are beyond the 4th year in their dissertation and no longer receive funding also don’t receive essentials such as office space or mailboxes which makes it difficult for them to be integrated into departmental life and affects their ability to work at finishing their dissertation.

-they also have voiced concerns that they feel isolated from the rest of the department because the department seems to place priority on those in their first four years but doesn’t provide support for those paying tuition out of pocket in subsequent years.

-similarly to international students, X-year students would like support in finding employment off-campus to support themselves without departmental funding. For example, dissertation committees/professors cultivating relationships with local businesses (schools, tutoring companies, etc.) beyond forwarding emails would go far to help place students into meaningful positions of employment.

travel funding:

-travel funding has recently decreased to $300 and students are finding it difficult to justify conference travel (let alone research travel) with this amount. Other options are available on campus but they are more competitive.

Transparency for TA assignments

-the department asks grad students to provide a list of their preferred assignments and often supervisors/professors request students, but it seems that time and again these requests aren’t fulfilled

-students understand that the department can’t make everyone happy all the time but it happens with enough frequency and with so little transparency regarding the system used to assign that it has raised some eyebrows

-students are left feeling that the department is “disorganized or indifferent” toward their preferences

-communication and more transparency regarding the decisions for these TA assignments would be much appreciated


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Breakfast of Champions

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons (1)

Vonnegut was on to something!
Stop by any time from 8:30-11:30 before you hit the books for the day. We’ll provide the freshly brewed coffee, and an assortment of breakfast pastries, including: “fruit Danishes, fresh butter croissants, assorted scones, muffins, and coffee cakes.”

Pick something up to go, bring work to do at the Grad Club while you eat, or escape work altogether and just hang out with your friends and colleagues.

We hope this provides all you hardworking people with some well-deserved respite and nourishment during this hectic time of year!

See the Facebook event here.

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GES Book & Bake Sale


The GES is hosting our book & bake sale on November 16th and 17th!

If you would like to donate any gently used books please contact our co-chairs, Caroline and Adam, who will arrange Monday-Friday drop-offs or pick-ups of donations. Alternately, you may also drop off book donations at Leanne’s office at any time.

Stay tuned for more updates about the book sale including a call for volunteers and baked goods!

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GES General Meeting

Untitled design (3)

Join us for the first general meeting of the year.

Thursday October 15th


See the agenda and minutes from this meeting.

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Thanksgiving Celebration Friday October 9th


Stay tuned for more info over on the Facebook event page!

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The GES visits City Lights Bookshop


Want to get to know downtown London? Here’s your chance. 

“City Lights Bookshop is located in the heart of Downtown London, Ontario. We’ve been serving the fine people of the city since 1975. We specialize in a wide range of used books, vinyl, movies, & music. We carry all manner of cultural detritus such as turn of the century sheet music, retro & modern adult magazines, postcards, antique books, memorabilia from various decades, and much more. It is worth a trip to prospect our labyrinthine aisles for sundry treasures arranged on 2 floors of exploratory bliss. We are a living collage, crossed with a circus that was frightened by a Dadaist.”
Meet us at City Lights Bookshop and bring your reading lists and reusable bags!

Get excited by checking out the store’s website here:

The shop has really kindly offered to stay open “as long as we want” (they usually close at 6). When you see just how much there is to see, you’ll see why they made the offer!

Afterward we can take a walk around the area and Caroline will point out some Points of Interest. Then we can head to a pub for a drink, if people are up for it.

RSVP here.

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Grad English Society Book + Bake Sale


The GES is hosting a two-day Book/Bake Sale from January 28-29 (10am-4pm). The sale will take place in Room 2G28N of the Arts and Humanities/International Affairs Building (formerly Ivey Building).

If you love books, please spread the word! Tell everyone you know and then some!

~Your friendly neighbourhood GES Co-Chairs

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Department of English Steward Solidarity Social

2712776_mainPSACLogoWhat’s that you say about free pizza and beer?

Did you know that socializing over food and adult beverages is one of the foundations of the labour movement that has brought us benefits, equity practices, workplace health and safety protection, and the eight-hour workday? That’s right! Do you think collective organizations of working folks campaigning for better working conditions would have even been possible had it not been for pubs, bars, house parties, and meetings with snacks? Unthinkable!

Continue reading

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The Graduate English Society’s Annual Holiday Party

Holiday Party invite
Invitation courtesy of Social Coordinator Kaila Rose.

We’ve passed the mid-point of the semester and the time for developing final papers, grading exams, and planning journeys home for the holidays is fast approaching. However, on the evening of Thursday, December 4th, the GES formally invites you to escape the winter blues and celebrate all of this semester’s hard work and achievements at our annual Holiday Party.

Sponsored by the GES, the Holiday Party is open to all graduate students, faculty members, and staff in the Department of English. In previous years, it has been customary to have refreshments and drinks on campus in the early evening, with the option to continue the party into the evening at a lounge, pub, dance venue, or house party. Spouses, partners, friends, and colleagues from other departments are welcome to join us for the latter half of the evening’s festivities. However, we ask that attendance of the first half of the evening at The Wave be limited to the Department of English. There is no dress code, although many take the opportunity to wear their holiday finest: glitz and glam and questionable holiday-themed sweaters are all appropriate! If you have children, we do not have childcare available but you are more than welcome to bring them to the event.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact your friendly neighbourhood GES Co-Chairs or our Social Coordinator.

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LGTA Workshops Info Available

Dates for upcoming LGTA workshops have been added to the Events Calendar. For more details see the Documents page.

The first workshop will take place this Friday, October 17th from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. in University College 282.

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