COGS set to leave GAPSA

The Council of Graduate Students voted Monday to split in July.

The University of Minnesota’s Council of Graduate Students is set to sever formal affiliation with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, effective July 1.

COGS passed a resolution in a landslide vote last Monday to apply for its own student services fees funding beginning with this spring’s cycle. COGS will also stop accepting pass-through funds from GAPSA — funds that GAPSA receives and then distributes to its member councils — and discontinue sending COGS representatives to the assembly next school year, according to the resolution.

GAPSA President Brittany Edwards said the assembly must pass an amendment to remove COGS from its constitution because it’s included as a member council in GAPSA’s constitution.

“It’s like Minnesota seceding from the United States,” she said. “They can’t just leave.”

Edwards said the majority of GAPSA’s executive board wants to amend GAPSA’s constitution to immediately remove COGS from the assembly.

An amendment failed at a meeting last Wednesday.

COGS Executive Vice President Sumitra Ramachandran voted against the amendment because, she said, it would have prevented COGS from receiving pass-through funding for spring semester.

COGS is currently one of 10 different councils that make up GAPSA’s general body, and it receives funding from the assembly. GAPSA’s final 2012-13 fees recommendation was $392,126, one of the largest of all fees-receiving groups.

COGS President Andrew McNally said GAPSA didn’t give COGS its correct funding appropriation last year. If COGS becomes its own fees-requesting unit, he said, uncertainty in funding would decrease.

“By making our request directly to the student services fees committee, we’re reducing the financial uncertainty of our own budget and enhancing graduate student participation in the process,” McNally said.

COGS Graduate Education Council representative Keaton Miller said the council found no rules in GAPSA’s constitution or bylaws that indicate it needs GAPSA approval to become unaffiliated with the organization.

“There’s nothing in the rules that says that needs to happen,” he said.

GAPSA’s constitution states it recognizes “the independence of [member councils] to act and advocate on their own behalf.”

Any student group that meets eligibility requirements — like being nonprofit, nonpartisan and requesting at least $3,000 each year — may apply for student services fees.

Edwards said GAPSA’s constitution doesn’t guarantee that COGS receives any pass-through funding from the assembly.

“Our constitution doesn’t guarantee [COGS] anything,” she said.

Edwards said GAPSA correctly distributed pass-through funds last year to each member council based on the number of students they represent.

McNally said tension between GAPSA and COGS regarding funding has taken away time that could be better spent advocating for student needs.

“It’s been a distraction from the issues that are important to graduate students,” he said. “All those issues would be resolved in part by COGS seeking its own funding.”

GAPSA adviser Jim Turman said he sees the split as a way to broaden the graduate student voice on campus. He said part of being involved in student government is trying new things to see what works.

“[COGS] is trying something different, and that’s fine,” he said. “They’re just going to have to figure out how it works.”

To prevent an increase in fees for graduate students, McNally said, COGS will need to work with GAPSA and its member councils when requesting fees.

He said COGS will have a committee of graduate students prepare necessary changes to COGS’ constitution and bylaws and take steps to define the council as a fee-seeking organization.

Edwards said the separation of COGS from GAPSA would present an opportunity to work with individual graduate councils within GAPSA that COGS currently represents.

“We’re happy to make this change and be more directly representative and give back money very clearly to the graduate councils of each specific program,” she said.

Even though COGS would no longer send formal representation to GAPSA, McNally said, COGS members still want to collaborate with GAPSA on issues of shared interest in meetings and at the University Senate.

“We absolutely will continue to work with GAPSA,” he said. “[The split] isn’t going to have an impact on the services rendered by COGS or by GAPSA so long as GAPSA is willing to collaborate with us.”