For all up to date information on Alexander Sodiqov’s case please visit the website http://freealexsodiqov.org which hosts the most recent information on Alexander’s case, including public statements, background information, petitions and testimonials.

TORONTO – Chrystia Freeland, Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre,made the following statement today on the detainment of Alexander Sodiqov:

“I am concerned by reports of Alexander Sodiqov’s continued detainment
by Tajik security services. Alexander is a PHD student at the University of
Toronto’s faculty of Political Science who was arrested on June 16th
while conducing an interview for a research project.

Alexander, a talented young scholar, continues to be held against his will and
unaware of the charges against him.

Pressure on scholars and journalists, while always present, has risen
considerably over the last several years, putting many researchers around the
world in peril.

The pursuit of scholarly and academic freedom is a core Canadian value.
Scholars like Alexander who do their work in authoritarian regimes make a
particularly brave and important contribution to the global intellectual community
and to open society.

Freedom of communication is an essential human right, and I join Mr. Sodiqov’s
wife, Canadian-born daughter, and his academic colleagues at the University of
Toronto and around the world in hoping for and working towards
Alexander’s swift and safe return.”

24 June, 2014

GASPS Letter of Support for Alexander Sodiqov

 

Our friend and colleague, Alexander Sodiqov, a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, was arrested June 16th, in Khorog, Tajikistan. Alexander remains detained in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, but he has not yet been charged under Tajik law. An edited video of him describing his activities to authorities has appeared online. Otherwise, he appears to have had little if any contact with anyone since his arrest seven days ago. Alexander had recently begun conducting interviews in the country’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. His research concerning civil society and conflict prevention was part of an ongoing project through the University of Exeter, UK.

 

Alexander is a valued member of the University of Toronto community. He and his wife have developed strong local connections in Toronto. Their daughter is a Canadian citizen. Alex’s case has received media attention through The GuardianSlate, and The National Post, and The Economist, among other local and international media outlets.  OSCEFreedom House, and Amnesty have issued statements of concern.  An open letter by international scholars of Central Asian politics, professors, students, and concerned citizens is in circulation, as is an Avaaz petition, in order to raise awareness and share concern about Alex’s treatment and safety. We encourage students, professors, educators, and concerned citizens to sign the open letter and petitions, and to share them widely amongst your networks and through social media, using the hash tag #AlexSodiqov.

 

Alex’s colleagues are deeply concerned for his safety, and efforts have begun in Canada and the UK to secure his release. The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development has stated that they are “aware of reports that a citizen from Tajikistan, studying in Canada has been arrested” and the University of Toronto issued a statement indicating “deep concern” about Alex’s health and safety in which the University called upon the government of Tajikistan to treat him in line with international standards. As the University of Toronto notes, the “detention of an academic researcher cuts to the core of the mission of the university: to produce and disseminate scholarly knowledge in an atmosphere of open expression and intellectual freedom,” and that it is “vital that scholars have the ability to conduct research on civil society in all areas of the world.”

The Graduate Association of Students of Political Science (GASPS) is currently coordinating efforts closely with Alex’s supervisor, Ed Schatz, and the University of Toronto, The Graduate Student Unions, and other organization and institutions in Canada and abroad to secure Alex’s release. Any members of GASPS or the greater academic community who are able lend support to our ongoing efforts in any way possible are invited to contact GASPS co-chairs Alesha Porisky (alesha.porisky@utoronto.ca ) and Matt Gordner (matt.gordner@mail.utoronto.ca).

 

With Thanks,

GASPS Co-Chairs,

Matt Gordner and Alesha Porisky

The Graduate Association of Students in Political Science (GASPS) is venturing out into new territory this year with a new initiative  designed to encourage the development of student-driven academic events.  Approved by the GASPS membership in September 2013, GASPS is running a pilot project to disburse $1,000 in funding in support of workshops, graduate seminars and other networking opportunities designed to build focused dialogue in different sub-fields. To date, the fund has approved funding for two projects: a graduate “tea” connected to the FIRST! Seminar series and support for an Academic Exchange program in development by the Comparative Politics Student Group.  The GASPS extended executive is currently evaluating proposals submitted for the second funding round. Please feel welcome to contact GASPS Co-Chairs Abe Singer (abe.singer@utoronto.ca) or Heather Millar (h.millar@utoronto.ca) for more information.

Hi,

The question has been raised in the GSU council meeting about the possibility of removing non-compulsory automatic levies on student fees that go to several organizations:

1. Bikechain (http://bikechain.utoronto.ca/):  1$.

2. Downtown Legal Service (http://dls.sa.utoronto.ca/): 3$.

3. Women Centre (http://womenscentre.sa.utoronto.ca/): 1$.

4. Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) : 5$

http://opirgtoronto.org/

Here is the appropriate place to voice your opinion:

http://gasps.chass.utoronto.ca/forum/topic/14

We urge members to remain civil in their postings.

May 25, 2011

Dear Provost Misak and Dean Corman,

We are writing to strongly protest the decision to eliminate the
Doctoral Completion Grant (DCG) in favour of the Doctoral Completion
Award (DCA).  As graduate students in Political Science, we are
concerned about the lack of transparency behind the decision-making
process, the injurious ramifications these changes pose to all
graduate students, and the dangerous precedent this sets for the
future of graduate studies at the University of Toronto.
First, we contend that the change towards the DCA was conducted with
neither proper notice given to graduate students, nor real
consultation of the relevant stakeholders. We request that the
decision to implement the DCA be reversed until a proper wide-scale
consultation of all graduate students, professors and department
administrators is undertaken.  We believe that a decision to make the
completion award competitive made on the basis of an advisory panel
whose participants were not aware that their deliberations would lead
to such a lasting change is dishonest.  Limiting consultations to a
handful of individuals, in turn, shows a complete disregard for a
clear, transparent and accountable process.

Second, we are opposed to the DCA because this new system places a
damaging financial burden on the majority of upper-year graduate
students.  Under the old model, the award was given universally.
Under the new model, two-thirds of eligible graduate students will be
left in financial straits. The DCA removes the funding base leaving
students outside of the funded cohort with few alternatives. This is
exacerbated by diminishing Teaching Assistantship opportunities and
the lack of guarantees that the existing TA-ships will be offered to
senior graduate students. This precarious situation is further
magnified for students with international visas, who pay much higher
tuition rates and face substantive barriers in seeking employment
outside the University of Toronto.

In order to assess the degree of financial precariousness faced by our
colleagues, we conducted an online survey among Political Science
graduate students, receiving a representative sample of 80 responses.
62% of all respondents and 82% of those in year 5 and above, report
that their expenses exceed their income.  At the same time, these
expenses are heightened by research needs: 71% of respondents, and 67%
of those in year 5 and above, have research-related expenses such as
those incurred by fieldwork.

Since only 13% of those in year 5 and above have received a financial
award above $2,000, the pressure increases for these students to find
alternative sources of funding.  Half of all graduate students in
Political Science, and 64% of international students have had to, or
will take out a loan for school-related expenses.  In fact, financial
precariousness increases the longer graduate students stay in the
program: 25% of those in year 5 and above, report having to rely on a
non-academic job.

It is unsurprising, then, that there is widespread support for the
universal DCG and opposition to the DCA.  Of those who received the
DCG in the past, 67% indicated that receiving it was ‘very important’
in helping to make progress on their dissertation.  No one indicated
that the DCG was unhelpful.  Most importantly 85% of all surveyed
political science graduate students ‘oppose’ or ‘strongly oppose’ the
DCA.

Needless to say, those of us who do not get the DCA will face longer
completion times, or will be forced to leave the program.  This is
hardly an outcome that University intended and ought to condone.

Third, we are deeply concerned about the dangerous precedent that a
competitive completion award sets.  The University of Toronto prides
itself on being a place where academic freedom is encouraged.  By
reverting to a competitive model, the University is effectively
picking which research projects merit completion.  The benefits of the
old model is that there is universal access for all graduate students
regardless of the nature of the projects we are pursuing.  Now, the
university is picking and choosing which projects are worth finishing.

 This places the university in an extremely tenuous position because
it would have to justify why certain departments were given more slots
for the DCA than others and which types of research projects were
prioritized.  It is highly unlikely that any objective criteria could
be used to make these decisions that would not be seen by some as
arbitrary.  By agreeing to fund certain projects over others, the
university is stymieing creativity and innovation.

In light of these concerns, we demand that the DCA be abolished and
that we revert back to the old model where completion grants were
universally given. Dean Corman insisted that the “gains outweigh the
disadvantages” under the new model. In our opinion, the reverse is
true: the elimination of universal access harms all stakeholders and
also sets a dangerous precedent for the future of the University of
Toronto.

Yours Sincerely,

Graduate Association for Students in Political Science acting on
behalf of concerned political science graduate students

GASPS is committed to your mental welfare after the comps.

For Thursday, the plan is to go to the GSU starting at 1:00 pm.

For Friday, the plan is to hold the party in Red Room starting at 1:00 pm.

All are welcome to join [including the upper years who want to support
their peers and those writing on Thursday who want to continue
partying and those who are writing on Friday who want to get some
pre-partying done].

Cheers,
Party Planning Department

On March 1, 2011 the GASPS executive, on behalf of all GASPS members, submitted to the Department of Political Science the following letter.

We, the members of GASPS, are writing to voice our concern that increased tutorial sizes and less frequent tutorial meetings are jeopardizing the quality of undergraduate education in Political Science at the University of Toronto.

According to the U of T website, our university is “home to one of the world’s strongest faculties, and produces more research than almost any other university in North America; it is ranked one of the world’s best universities by academic peers; it is ranked third in the world in published academic research; and it is among the most highly-cited academic institution in the world.” As graduate students in Political Science we are privileged to be part of this vibrant academic community. As front-line educators conducting most tutorials in our department, however, we are mindful that quality of undergraduate education is not on this list.

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The GASPS executive and any willing volunteers will be cleaning out Room 3050 (the “fishbowl”) on Friday, August 20 at noon. If you’re interested in helping make the Fishbowl a cleaner, more effective space, please come join the cleanup crew — we will be ordering pizza and, naturally, drinks at the GSU will follow.

If you don’t plan on helping out, please make sure any items belonging to you are removed from the Fishbowl by the cleanup date. We’ll be throwing out/recycling anything that doesn’t belong to GASPS. If you’re out of the province/country and have left, say, your favourite bike helmet or roller blades in the Fishbowl, please contact us and we’ll work something out a later pickup date.