Student council faces financial crisis

Tom Lopez

Two hours after learning of a recommended 24 percent decrease in funding for the Council of Graduate Students, council president Tom Foster discussed the group’s future in its Tuesday general assembly meeting.
The Student Services Fees subcommittee that reviewed the council’s fees request suggested the decrease in its initial recommendations around noon Tuesday. Warning COGS members that the council’s future is in jeopardy, Foster pledged to do whatever is necessary to convince the fees committee to maintain the group’s budget.
“If we don’t change (the recommendation), it could be the end of COGS,” he said.
Foster added that the recommended cuts, which are the most drastic of any organization, were unexpected. “I was caught by surprise by this decision,” he said.
The group did not request an increase over its current funding of $1.61.
Final recommendations will be made on March 1 after public hearings and deliberations by the full committee, which will pass them on to the administration for approval.
Foster said he plans to appeal the recommendation Saturday at the committee’s first deliberations. “It’s become my number-one priority to make the graduate students’ voices heard,” he said. “We’ll do whatever we have to do.”
As the graduate student government, he said the council has polled its constituency, and that students are willing the pay the same fee for representation. “The fees committee is usurping the authority of the graduate student body,” he said.
Susan Giovengo, the council’s executive vice president, said she also resents the fact that the fees committee, which is comprised primarily of undergraduates, is making decision for graduate students.
Matt Curry, the chairman of the subcommittee that reviewed the group’s request, said the subcommittee is concerned with the welfare of the University as a whole. “We try to look at the big picture, while some organization only look at their individual budgets.”
Another hotly contested issue is the workload of the council’s administrative director, Lyn Egolf. Foster said last year the council implemented committee suggestions that it cut back her workload.
However, Curry said the group could do more. “We came to the conclusion that COGS could continue with her on a half-time basis,” he said. “They could meet their goals with a part-time administrator.”
But Foster said Egolf’s position is vital to the organization, and that she is already swamped. He added that if the proposed cuts are adopted that council would have to eliminate the position.
Curry said another reason for the proposed cuts is some perceived duplication between the council and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. GAPSA is a collection of college boards that represents all graduate students, as well as students in the professional schools such as the law, medical and veterinary schools. COGS is the board that represents graduate students in GAPSA.
However, Foster said that because the graduate student body is so diverse and widespread, it is necessary to have a separate body to make sure their interests are represented.
Curry said the fees committee is open to input from all students, and that he would strongly encourage the council to make their voice known. “If they make a good case and show support from the student body, then anything is possible.”