GAPSA likely splitting in two

All professional and graduate students will vote on a plan to form two government groups.

Charlie Bartlett

The plan to divide graduate and professional student bodies under two separate government groups is pushing forward.

Since last semester, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly has been considering the creation of a new group — unofficially named the Professional Student Assembly — that would be equivalent to the Council of Graduate Students. With a referendum now drafted, all graduate and professional students will have the opportunity to vote on the proposal mid-April.

GAPSA members have been debating the separation since the idea’s introduction in November, with some worrying it would disrupt how the group’s 10 councils are represented.

Originally, GAPSA leaders hoped to have a decision made on the split before applications for student services fees for the 2015-16 school year were due in January.

Instead, the group went forward with its funding request under GAPSA’s name, though the funding will go toward the new professional group if it’s established.

But even if the referendum fails, graduate and professional students will still be financially separated next year, GAPSA president Alfonso Sintjago said.

GAPSA and COGS fees requests state that professional students will pay the GAPSA fee and graduate students will pay the COGS fee, he said. Currently, some students pay fees for both groups.

Student Services Fees Committee advisor Sara Carvell said because GAPSA has been transparent about its intention to split, a change in the group’s name would not affect its funding allocation.

The main changes to come from the proposed separation would be at the organizational level, she said.

Some of GAPSA’s councils comprise both graduate and professional students, like the Graduate Students in Education and Human Development council and the Public Affairs Students Association. A working draft of the referendum states that professional schools with graduate programs will continue to be represented within COGS.

Sintjago said the group will further discuss the issue of who will represent the councils if the referendum passes.

Still, he said the separation is a step in the right direction to solve some of GAPSA’s problems, which include discrepancies between graduate and professional students’ issues.

COGS president Andrew McNally said University leaders are looking to more clearly define post-undergraduate students, which could include a reclassification of some graduate students as professional students. And the possible reclassification would be a good time for student governments to also redefine their missions for the two student bodies, he said.

“I think that [the proposed separation] gives student governance organizations a better focus in terms of the issues they can concentrate on,” McNally said.

Even if they split, the groups would still occasionally meet to discuss issues relevant to both organizations and would likely have a combined executive board, Sintjago said.

At a GAPSA meeting last month, vice president Ashley Hall stressed the importance of continuing collaboration between the two groups, even if they separate, to ensure neither misses important information that impacts all post-undergraduate students.

“I think [the potential split will] be a learning process,” she said at last month’s meeting.

Despite some uncertainties, Sintjago said the plan to separate is the best option for the group right now.

“In the future [could] there be something else? Maybe.” he said. “But I think for the meantime, this solution is better than what we have.”