As I wrap up my second and final year as president of CSUâ€™s Graduate Student Council, GSC, I find myself reflecting a lot. My first reflection is that it wouldnâ€™t surprise me if most grad students who read this column are scratching their heads at this point and asking â€œWe have a Graduate Student Council?â€Â
Itâ€™s true, weâ€™re one of the best-kept secrets at this university. Even though there are more than 4,000 graduate and professional students at CSU, attendance at most GSC meetings this year has hovered at about a dozen.
Thatâ€™s a step forward from the single-digit attendance weâ€™d typically had in previous years but is still unacceptably low for a body that claims to represent and advocate for graduate students.
Poor representation leads to poor advocacy. Several years ago, the GSC supported the creation of a requirement that all new graduate students be required to purchase the universityâ€™s health insurance plan or demonstrate comparable coverage â€“â€“ a policy that has been the bane of hundreds of grad students over the past two years.Â
In hindsight, some of us regret that endorsement. If weâ€™d had a broader range of perspectives â€“â€“ particularly from students not on assistantships, paying their own way through school â€“â€“ we might well have made a different choice and could have directed our advocacy toward saving grad students hours of hassle in dealing with insurance office rules or thousands of dollars in paying for insurance policies they didnâ€™t want.
This year, mostly because of an active group of folks who chose to get involved, we have taken a few steps forward â€“â€“ holding a welcome picnic for graduate students in the fall, actively lobbying for improvements to the student insurance plan, visiting the state legislature to talk about CSUâ€™s financial situation, repairing our relationship with ASCSU and filling all of our graduate student seats on university committees.
We have a lot we need to work on for graduate students â€“â€“ improving student health insurance in light of new federal reforms, fixing rules that penalize grad students who are told to enroll in fewer than six credit hours, having graduate assistants treated more like actual employees, lobbying the legislature on creating a viable fiscal future for higher education or creating opportunities for grad students from different departments to interact and collaborate.
Doing these things requires resources. Most graduate student organizations at our peer universities have a budget of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars with which to market themselves and put on events.
We manage to get the Graduate School or ASCSU to chip in a few hundred bucks here and there, but donâ€™t have an actual budget to speak of â€“â€“ and weâ€™d rather not ask for a fee to create one. Our failure to secure reliable financial support is my greatest regret from my term as GSC chair.
ASCSU has the resources to be truly effective, but, I believe, will never take the lead on issues that are unique to graduate students; not because they donâ€™t care, but because grad students are by definition a minority among the student population and an undergraduate-dominated student government tends not to have grad studentsâ€™ needs on their radar. That is, unless we bring those needs to their attention.
Doing things also requires dedicated people, and so, this is my final plea to grad students and one of my last acts as Graduate Student Council President. Next week, Iâ€™ll hand off the GSC presidency to someone else, and theyâ€™ll need a strong team in order to advocate for graduate students effectively.
Come to the GSCâ€™s spring picnic, this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Park Pavilion #7, enjoy some free food and meet other grad students. Visit the GSC Web site at http://www.colostate.edu/orgs/GSC/Â and consider representing your department on the GSC.
Come to the GSCâ€™s elections meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Spring Creek Room. Go beyond just complaining about policies to your labmates and come be a part of fixing them.Â
Seth Anthony is Ph.D. student in chemistry, president of the Graduate Student Council, ASCSU Liason for Graduate and Professional Affairs and is in the Collegian most Tuesdays. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.