COGS awaits decision on status as student government

by Brian Edwards

Administrative limbo has many graduate students worried about future representation among leaders at the University of Minnesota.
An Office for Student Affairs review of what exactly constitutes a student government has created a roadblock as the Council of Graduate Students works to become an official student government. 
In April, the Graduate and Professional Student Association split into two separate groups — COGS and the Professional Student Government. Now, it’s unclear whether COGS is, in fact, a student government.
Sara Carvell, OSA associate director, said the office has been examining student government’s role at the University to make sure COGS will fulfill it.
The office is talking with students, University regents and COGS members to discover which privileges and needs are integral to a student government, she said.
“The goal is to make sure there is a good end product for students,” she said. Incoming president of COGS, Nicholas Goldsmith, said the issue arose when the
organization applied for an office in Coffman Union. The request was denied, because COGS isn’t officially sanctioned as a student government.
Other than the office setback, COGS has yet to run into any issues, Goldsmith said, but he and many other graduate students are worried about the possible ramifications of a delayed approval.
Assessing what the University considers to be a student government hasn’t been done in many years, Carvell said, because a new government hasn’t been created 
Goldsmith said there has been concern about COGS’ parliamentary-style presidential election, which means its own members elect the group’s leader. He said
University administration may misunderstand the election system and feel the executive branch is too strong.
Last year, COGS proposed an amendment to switch to a school-wide election process like the Minnesota Student Association has, but the amendment didn’t gather enough votes, Goldsmith said.
Outgoing COGS President Andrew McNally said almost all COGS representatives voted against the amendment. They believed the parliamentary elections were the best system to ensure the president would address graduate students’ issues, he said.
“A lot of graduate students were interested in keeping a system where their direct representative can ask the president hard questions each month,” McNally said.
He said he is worried changes to COGS’ election process would affect the organization’s ability to speak out against policies that have an adverse effect on students.
GAPSA changed to the Professional Student Government after the vote to split the group. The new government allows COGS to give input despite its unclear status.
“Right now we are at the mercy of PSG including us,” he said, “but [the president] has been great about including us in everything.”
Carvell said the administration is discussing whether changes would need to be made to COGS for it to obtain its status as an official government, but no decision has been reached yet. She said she couldn’t comment on what changes might be made or when.
“We’ve been asking for a long time, ‘What’s the next step?’” Goldsmith said. “Right now it is a lot of waiting on the administration.”