Graduate student groups say SAO does not meet their needs

Complaints include re-registration frustrations, the alcohol policy and staff inexperience.

Jens Krogstad

Officials from the Student Activities Office and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly agreed Tuesday to hold regular monthly meetings following complaints from some graduate students.

A handful of graduate student groups said the activities office has been unresponsive and that its alcohol policy is too strict, but the office’s director said he was unaware of the complaints until a Tuesday meeting.

“I am willing to reassess the needs of graduate students,” Student Activities Office director Tony Diggs said.

GAPSA executive director Megan Thomas said the monthly meetings are an important step in addressing graduate students’ needs.

“I think we have our foot in the door in terms of improving things and addressing the problems with the Student Activities Office,” she said.

Neither GAPSA nor the University Law Council filed student group applications before this fall’s deadline. Members of both groups then complained that the process to re-register was onerous.

Law Council President Bobak HaEri said the group was shocked when the activities office told them their constitution had to be changed – a process that would require referendums and about one semester to accomplish.

“We went in to re-register and they acted like they had never seen us before,” HaEri said. “They told us, ‘You have an unconstitutional constitution.’ “

He said he believes the problems stem from the activities office being geared toward undergraduate students.

“They have to treat GAPSA the same way they treat the pizza club,” Thomas said. “That doesn’t result in efficient services.”

Thomas said the office might also suffer from inexperience; it

has had a 100 percent turnover in the last two years, which Diggs confirmed.

HaEri said his group, which he said is the Law School’s equivalent to the Minnesota Student Association, is no longer a registered student group because it did not pay a $15 registration fee.

Linda Shimmin, who works in the Law School dean’s office, said she has had trouble with alcohol permits.

“In my experience, the (Student Activities Office) has not been very helpful or responsive in dealing with the law students,” she said.

GAPSA said it finds the application process for an alcohol permit more trouble than it is worth, so it has decided to circumvent the process by holding its monthly meetings in the Campus Club at Coffman Union or Dinkytown’s Loring Pasta Bar, where alcohol permits are not required.

Diggs said his office follows the alcohol policy the Board of Regents mandated.

Shimmin said the Minnesota Law Review, a student-run academic journal that publishes articles from the top 20 law schools in the country, could not obtain an alcohol permit for a reception it was holding because it was not a registered student group.

HaEri said his frustration boiled over when he heard that a nationally recognized organization such as the law review had been denied an alcohol permit.

“It was probably the first time the law review ever came to us for help,” he said.