GAPSA leaders clarify COGS funding and attempts to collaborate

This letter is in response to a recent letter and coverage about the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s relationship with the Council of Graduate Students in the Minnesota Daily. There are two primary claims in these documents: GAPSA hasn’t collaborated with COGS, and GAPSA denied money it owed COGS.

Money is given to GAPSA as a student fee to pass on to the councils of the students in the graduate and professional student body. COGS is trying to claim money from students represented by our program-specific councils, especially public health and education. We can’t pay councils twice. The students who meant to benefit from the pass-through dollars already received the funding through School of Public Health Student Senate and through the Graduate Students in Education and Human Development — or through smaller sets in our other councils. COGS has often and inconsistently used membership in public health and education to preclude those students’ qualification for COGS travel grants. These are students COGS claims to represent.

COGS asked GAPSA for money from its reserve, paid by fees from both graduate and professional students, to cover the double payment they expect. The Student Services Fees Committee recommended that GAPSA have a reserve. COGS wasn’t recommended to have a reserve, but it currently holds about the same amount as its annual budget in reserve, and that reserve benefits only a part of GAPSA’s total population.

Our finance vice president and a board member who was previously president of the SPHSS — both graduate students — authored a resolution to potentially give them a portion of our reserve money, and the measure failed in the GAPSA assembly.

In order to help offset some of COGS’ programming funding, GAPSA offered to co-sponsor several initiatives. In their own council, COGS members voted down GAPSA’s co-sponsorship of a graduate student teaching award and international student programming. They failed to advertise a family bowling night to GAPSA’s professional students, who also pay a fee per our agreement. Their sudden penchant for collaboration seems disingenuous and rhetorical.

Naming GAPSA’s president Brittany Edwards specifically in a previous letter suggests that she acts independently from GAPSA leadership’s input and support, which is not the case. GAPSA council presidents asked Edwards to become GAPSA president in 2012. Many of us were inspired to become involved in GAPSA because of Edwards’ ability to lead in a more inclusive and thoughtful way. One of Edwards’ strengths is her gift for collaboration. This was apparent in GAPSA’s recent forum, which included regents; legislators; graduate, professional and undergraduate student leaders; and stakeholders in higher education from across Minnesota and the University of Minnesota.

COGS is now pursuing a separate fees request through general student service fees. This would bill all of our students, plus undergraduates, twice in order to get money from students COGS claims to represent, under the guise of pursuing independence. We don’t find this fiscally responsible, fair or collaborative in a time of budget cuts.

During the past three years, several University program and college councils and students under the graduate school have asked GAPSA to represent them, instead of working through COGS. This recent structural change, which COGS initiated, will allow those students to have a direct voice in University matters, which they don’t get through COGS.

GAPSA is pleased to give funds and more direct representation to those students. GAPSA is also happy to reduce redundancy in administrative costs it provided COGS previously, which it would do by eliminating an assistant position earning $15,000 per year, beyond its pass-through amount, and its officer stipends, which other councils do not receive.

GAPSA Executive Board

Signers:

Brittany Edwards, president

Alfonso Sintjago, vice president

Meghan Mason, chair of student reps to the Board of Regents

Kevin Lang, vice chair of student reps to the Board of Regents, vice president of finance

Zahra Karimian, College of Pharmacy rep, vice president of grants

Kari Nohner, Duluth rep

Michelle Gensinger, GradSEHD rep

David Lindsay, Carlson School of Management rep

Bruce Rwabasonga, SPHSS rep

Ashley Hall, College of Veterinary Medicine rep

Amelia Keesling, School of Nursing rep

Ann Bergstrand, Medicine rep

Nick Bussa, Dentistry rep

Leah Hakkola, at-large rep