New COGS president has energy, enthusiasm

by Kelly Hildebrandt

For the past few months, third-year graduate student Mike Pawson has juggled a busy schedule while trying to plan his upcoming wedding and a campaign on behalf of Graduate Students Against Unionization.
Now he’s thrown another ball into his act: Last week Pawson was elected president of the Council of Graduate Students.
Next year his schedule will be stretched even further as he takes over Martin O’Hely’s position. Barbara Van Drasek will keep her position as executive vice president.
“I think Mike seems to have a lot more energy than I did,” O’Hely said, adding that Pawson is far enough away from graduation that he’ll have the time and energy to put into COGS.
The chemical engineering graduate student isn’t new to student government. Pawson served two years as a COGS representative for the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. In addition, he was a two-year member of the department’s Policy and Review Council, which changes and reviews policies within the college.
Pawson viewed the recent graduate assistant union election as a chance to get more involved in graduate student government.
He hopes the unsuccessful election, in which nearly three-fourths of the eligible 4,000 graduate assistants voted, will help jump-start student participation in COGS.
“It would be a shame to see that level of motivation go to waste,” Pawson said.
While the Graduate Student Organizing Congress would have only represented graduate assistants, COGS represents all 8,000 graduate students at the University.
To increase student participation in COGS, Pawson hopes to have a representative from every department. Currently, Pawson said about one-fourth of the departments don’t have a COGS representative.
In the coming year he plans to continue with many of the issues COGS has tackled in the past, including graduate assistant compensation and the current parking shortage.
Pawson, who has already contacted Graduate School Dean Christine Maziar, said the administration seems willing to work with COGS to make these improvements.
Maziar increased the minimum graduate assistant stipend earlier this year by about $1 an hour, which will go into effect in July.
To continue these improvements, Pawson said COGS will collect data about graduate assistant compensation at the University to help inform the administration about what changes need to be made.
“I think it’s easier for them to go to bat with us,” Pawson said.
More flexible weekend and nighttime parking are two areas Pawson said would make things easier for graduate students.
Graduate students working at night and on weekends are often confronted with event rates, which Pawson would like to see changed.
Graduate student parking is one issue COGS has been working on in the past year. Representatives met with George Green, associate dean of the Graduate School, and Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services, to discuss improvements on both campuses.
“They’ve contributed actively in discussion at all levels,” Green said of COGS’s agenda this past year.