For years, a secure and reliable job for postgraduates at the University of Canterbury was being a notetaker for the Disability Resource Service (DRS). The concept was simple enough: students would sit courses and take notes for a student who was otherwise unable to take notes due to a disability. It helped facilitate learning and ensured high-quality notes.
But as in other areas around the university, cost-cutting has taken its toll. The program was radically altered in 2016, forcing the DRS to discontinue jobs for postgraduate students and instead attempt to buy notes from undergraduate students already taking the courses for $8 per lecture. While this may seem like a good idea for 300-level and Honours courses, the prospect of relying on a 100- or 200-level student to take adequate notes for themselves, much less another student, seems mind-numbing. One of the main reasons postgraduate students were hired to take notes was because they already knew the system and could prove that they could consistently and reliably take high-quality notes.
It seems unlikely that DRS’s quality-control mechanisms will be able to function properly without having trained staff. It must now rely on undergraduate students, and how many 100- and 200-level students can really provide high-quality notes for every single session of a course without interruption? And when a student is unable to make the session, who is to take their place? When notetakers were hired, another notetaker would sit the session, but that system no longer works.
Postgraduate students across the University of Canterbury lost one of the university’s last flexible student job opportunities this year. Fiscal conservatism is fine but postgraduate students need flexible jobs to help finance their education, and they often cannot work the standard 9-5 jobs on offer at the university and elsewhere. Cutting this service just to be following a supposed worldwide trend is both irresponsible and unfair to the students, both postgraduate students and students with disabilities. The university should find another place to save money, not on the backs of vulnerable populations.