Graduate students talk about options

Tom Lopez

The second graduate student organization in a week discussed its opinions on important policy and administrative decisions that will affect their constituents directly.
The Council of Graduate Students prepared for upcoming University changes in its meeting last night, working out policies on the regent search, tuition remission and graduate assistant working conditions. The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly discussed these issues at a Monday meeting.
The council, which represents graduate students, is a subset of GAPSA, which includes students from both the graduate and professional schools.
The council held an informal vote to decide what role, if any, it should play in the Legislature’s selection of candidates to the Board of Regents. The council decided to collect input from its membership, then give the Executive Committee the authority to make endorsements.
The process will involve council members researching the various candidates, then e-mailing the committee with their opinions.
Tom Foster, the council’s president, said the use of e-mail was necessary because of the urgency of the issue. However, he said there were some concerns with the precedent that this might set.
“An all e-mail meeting would be dangerous,” Foster said. “It wouldn’t be as productive. It’s important to interact with people face-to-face.”
The council’s involvement in this search is a sharp contrast to its input in the presidential search. The council joined GAPSA in abstaining from the interview process. That decision was made to protest the failure of the University to solicit and reflect graduate opinions. “It’s important to maintain the consultative process, not to trivialize it,” Foster said. “It’s an issue of graduate empowerment.”
The council also discussed what Foster called “the issue that is rapidly becoming the theme for the year” — the new tuition remission policy. George Green, the associate dean of the graduate school, addressed the council to hear student concerns.
The school is changing its current pooling system, in which all students pay a portion of their salaries into a collection that is used to cover graduate assistant tuition. Green described the new policy as a first step in changing the current system to a direct-charge system.
In the direct charge system, which will be completely implemented by the fall of 1999, each department pays tuition benefits according to hours worked rather than by salary, and reimburses tuition for only the students in its department.
“It’s not been carved in stone,” Foster said to the assembly. “It’s been carved in Jello, but the Jello has been left on the counter, so it’s going to harden. Now is the time for us to do something about it.”
Such issues as representation and involvement were also the focus of a discussion concerning a new student governing body at the University. Todd Michney, a representative in the history department, addressed the council about the working conditions and collective rights of graduate assistants.
Michney hopes to form an independent student governing body to represent the exclusive concerns of graduate assistants. This organization would have “a working communication with the council.”
“We propose to organize as graduate assistants to improve and defend our interests at the University,” Michney said. “We hope to have a voice in the changes that will eventually take place as we move toward U2000.”