COGS reaching out

In the past few months there has been a vigorous debate surrounding graduate assistant unionization. Debate is the bedrock of democracy, but the time has come to unite. The Council of Graduate Students continues to represent all students formerly housed within the graduate school including graduate assistants, fellows and self-paying students. This includes most students who are seeking a degree in a doctorate program, a Master’s program that is associated with a doctorate program or a post baccalaureate certificate program.

Soon you will receive a survey from COGS about your experience as a graduate student. In the past, results from this survey helped us push for the changes listed below. Here are some examples of what our resolutions and lobbying have helped accomplish in the past two years:

We have created a leave of absence policy to help students in emergencies or urgent situations leave their degree program, stop the clock on time to degree, and reenter their program under the same rules and guidelines as when they left.

We’ve added care of a dependent to the to the excused absence policy from classes, extended the graduate assistant employment policy to include health insurance as a required benefit and changed a draft policy on reporting of misconduct to explicitly protect students from retaliation.

We have worked with the graduate school and finance office to provide more transparency in fees as well as called for and received clarification regarding increases in collegiate fees and the international student fee.

We’ve formed and facilitated focus groups to evaluate graduate and professional students’ health care experiences at Boynton Health Service, provided input on several University of Minnesota search committees, including dean of the Graduate School and the new senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost and established the Outstanding Faculty Awards which recognize faculty who have gone above and beyond for graduate education.

Historically COGS has ensured consistent coverage for graduate assistants during the transition from Blue Cross Blue Shield to HealthPartners, reduced the stadium fee from the originally proposed $50 per semester to $12.50 per semester and helped institute a minimum pay rate for graduate assistants across the University.

COGS provides students with a voice at the University. COGS places graduate students with voting power on influential committees such as the University and Student Senate, the Graduate Education Council, the graduate assistant and student health plan advisory committees, the Graduate Education Policy Committee and many college level committees. COGS can also help connect you to resources so that you can be more effective in advocating within your own college in addressing concerns specific to your program.

 

Today, COGS is working to bring greater transparency and student involvement to areas of the fees process that currently lack transparency, to implement the recommendations of our Boynton Health Service focus groups, to draft recommendations regarding acceptable advising standards and numerous other projects. COGS is a strong organization that effectively advocates for all graduate students at the University. COGS is the collective voice of graduate students — join us in effectively raising that voice. Your advocacy and involvement will strengthen our message and help compel policy change.