Graduate association votes

by Kelly Hildebrandt

Cheryl Jorgensen is coming into her new job as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly at a time of uncertainty for graduate assistants.
The Graduate Students Organizing Congress, which is a separate entity, is trying to drive for a union election for graduate assistants. Although GAPSA has no stance on the issue, in case of a union election, Jorgensen would like GAPSA to be an information resource about unionization, she said. Higher visibility will also be a goal.
Jorgensen succeeded J.P. Maier as president of GAPSA. Maier, whose term officially ended last spring, stayed on as president due to a lack of interest in the position when the elections were first held last spring, Jorgensen said.
With so much to do, Jorgensen is still excited to take on the responsibility as president. Her first act as president will be to create an agenda with the organization’s new vice president, Ben Solomon.
“We want to be an information resource for graduate students on the issue of unionization,” Jorgensen said. They will use their World Wide Web site, distribute literature and possibly hold a forum to address questions graduate assistants might have about unionization.
Although GAPSA has remained neutral in regard to unionization, they support any effort to improve conditions for students or employees at the University, Maier said.
GAPSA is the official representative of graduate and professional students at the University and is represented in many departments, like the Board of Regents and the Minnesota Student Association.
“I’m still trying to get used to having some free time,” Maier said about his recent title change. Maier served as president for about two years and will continue to be involved in GAPSA.
Jorgensen, a third-year law student and second-year GAPSA member, was formerly the legislative liaison for the organization. Solomon was a GAPSA representative on the Board of Regents.
Jorgensen cited the recent improvements in graduate assistant health care as an example of how GAPSA has worked with other organizations and administration to improve student life.
In addition, since graduate assistant unionization has been a hot topic all over the country, the National Graduate and Professional Students conference will give an informational presentation on graduate assistant unions, Maier said. The presentation will include information on already-established unions and the pros and cons of unionization.
In recent years, GAPSA has kept a low profile. Jorgensen attributes this to a number of things, including the graduate student workload. A lot of graduate and professional students go to school full time, teach part time and have a family, Jorgensen said.
“I don’t think he (Maier) made it a priority to get the word out,” Jorgensen said, adding that every president has their own way of doing things.
GAPSA meetings need to be more proactive, Solomon said, adding that there needs to be “more doing, less talking.”
To create a more proactive organization, Solomon and Jorgensen said they would like to discuss with MSA what issues they could work on together.
At the national conference, which starts today and is being held in Braintree, Mass., five representatives from GAPSA and the Council of Graduate Students are giving a presentation on student government development.
Other universities are still struggling with developing a student government and issues like how to get students to attend meetings. Maier said these are questions that the association answered long ago.
“I’m really looking forward to snagging some more good ideas,” Maier said about the other presentations that will be given at the conference.