Wearing a white polo shirt and squeezing one of the “stress balls” that were passed around before the meeting, University President Mark Yudof praised the caliber of graduate students on campus Monday before the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly meeting.
“What makes the University of Minnesota an outstanding university is the fact that we have this first-class graduate program and first-class graduate students,” Yudof said.
Yudof also used his time to address graduate students’ concerns in a casual forum before more than 30 student-assembly members.
Ben Solomon, a medical student and GAPSA’s president, said the idea of an annual informal meeting with the president started last year as a forum for graduate students to bring out their issues on a one-on-one basis. With this year’s meeting, Solomon said he hoped such events continue yearly.
“This is an opportunity for us to hear it from the very top,” Solomon said, “and an opportunity for him to hear what is in our minds.”
Yudof addressed issues such as graduate teaching and research assistantship compensations, a topic of high interest to graduate students, said Sabeen Altaf, a first-year graduate student in public policy and GAPSA’s representative on the Student Senate Consultative Committee.
Solomon said the University’s graduate students’ compensation plan is not as good as many graduate students think it should be.
Yudof advised the students to work with Christine Maziar, graduate school dean and vice president for research, to address the needs of graduate students.
“(Maziar) is very sensitive to your needs and has my ear,” Yudof said.
Altaf said she feels privileged that, in a campus geared toward undergraduates, the president is taking graduate matters seriously.
After briefly addressing his views on a few graduate students’ concerns, Yudof answered questions from the audience.
One such question dealt with the mandatory student-fees issue recently resolved in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Supreme Court case. A unanimous decision last month permitted the collection of student fees by universities, as long as the process of funding student groups with those fees did not discriminate based on groups’ viewpoints.
Yudof said he feared a viewpoint-neutral process, as mandated in the court case, might marginalize minority opinions or groups. Yudof did agree the process should not consider one viewpoint better than another.
“It should be a deliberate process, not a political process,” Yudof said.
This week is also Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week. In celebration, GAPSA will be providing free ice cream on Wednesday, scooped by University administrators. Yudof said he will be a part of the ice cream-scooping team.
After Yudof left, the assembly meeting continued with matters from its regular agenda. The assembly reviewed grant applications, held its 2000-01 officer elections and had Matt Clark, the Minnesota Student Association president-elect, present a proposal for the U-Pass, an attempt for the University to partner with Metro Transit to offer cheaper transportation alternatives to students.
Fabiana Torreao covers St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]