Infrequent meetings and course updates have left some students worried about the completion of their thesis projects

C/O Janko Ferlic

Some fourth-year undergraduate students in the McMaster University Department of Psychology, Behavior and Neuroscience feel that their thesis courses are currently lacking adequate communication from the program staff and faculty.

Whereas their first semester of thesis in fall 2020 consisted of frequent course-wide meetings and communications from the department, students like Rya Buckley, a fourth-year in biology and PNB and the Silhouette’s Arts & Culture Editor, have found this to significantly decrease this past semester.

“The original meetings were really helpful . . . But then we did stop having those meetings, because there wasn’t really anything [to do] and that was fine at first. [However,] I think we definitely got fewer and fewer meetings and I feel like the meetings became less timely,” said Buckley.

The lack of communication began to grow after reading week and then into March. Buckley explained how stressful this became, especially around times when deadlines were approaching and students had many questions.

“Communication definitely fell off slowly . . . and on top of it, we weren’t getting the information [in] another form. We weren’t getting regular emails. We have an Avenue page for [the] thesis course, but we don’t get regular Avenue announcements or anything like that,” explained Buckley.

On top of the lack of communication, the students’ poster session was also cancelled in February. 

“Given the organizational demands of this virtual conference, as well as student stress levels in the busy end-of-term period, it was decided not to hold a program-specific virtual event for thesis presentations this year.  Rather, students have been encouraged to present their thesis research at the Annual Ontario Psychology Undergraduate Thesis Conference,” explained Bruce Milliken, chair of the PNB department in an email statement to the Sil

The department of PNB is hosting their 51st annual Ontario Psychology Undergraduate Thesis Conference this year on June 4, 2021. All thesis students will have access to free registration and an opportunity to present their thesis research projects.

“Personally, I think it was . . . a little easier for the department [to cancel]. I think they were probably having difficulty planning or having the time to plan it. I don’t really think students and potentially even supervisors or maybe some internal supervisors were consulted [on the decision],” explained Buckley.

Buckley also addressed the other reason for cancelling the poster session, which was to reduce the stress on students.

“[It] makes sense and [it] doesn’t because this was an expected part of our course,” said Buckley.

Communication has not just been lacking with students, but in Buckley’s eyes with supervisors as well. The student explained how many do not receive updates and information about upcoming deadlines for their administrative tasks.

“When we have deadlines coming up, [my supervisor] doesn’t necessarily get an email . . . There’s been a couple of [times] where she’s had to submit by a certain date, but hasn’t received an email about that [in] a proper manner . . . Especially with supervisors who are super busy people, it can be difficult when they get this delayed [information],” said Buckley.

Buckley acknowledged the difficulty of facilitating a course in a pandemic and other internal department issues that may have made it harder.

“I feel like there’s something there . . . I’m not sure if it’s a PNB problem or a campus problem. . . I think it’s so difficult in COVID to figure out what’s normal because you have no good base,” said Buckley.

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