It’s election season at the Graduate Student Assembly — for the second time this year.
Unable to fill 51 seats in last spring’s elections for representatives, the assembly is holding another round of elections this week to fill out the 96-member body, which acts as an advocacy group for graduate student issues, both social and academic. The problem of unfilled seats is a perennial one for the assembly, its chairmen said.
“For whatever reason, we are usually only able to fill about half our seats,” assembly chairman Stephen Gosden GRD ’11 said. “Therefore we hold an additional round of elections in the fall specifically for departments that still have vacancies.”
Gosden said he is hopeful that vacant seats will be filled in this fall’s round of elections, which opened on Monday and are set to close Oct. 5.
“There’s already been a good deal of interest from first-year students who didn’t have an opportunity to run in our spring elections,” he said.
Assembly representatives meet with Graduate School Dean Jon Butler GRD ’85 every other week to discuss academic and student life issues, such as funding for student travel to conferences and graduate student housing. Butler said he has found the organization’s work helpful in the past, citing GSA’s work on extending University stipends to humanities and social sciences graduate students to 12 months. Those students, prior to 2008, received stipends for only nine months out of the year.
“Without the presence of the GSA in both meetings with me and with the president and provost,” Butler said, “I’m not sure if that could have been accomplished.”
Every academic program within the graduate school is allotted one seat on the assembly for every 40 graduate students enrolled. But only 45 seats were filled in the organization’s spring elections — less than half its total membership.
Graduate Student Assembly vice chairman Paul Pearlman GRD ’12 said he is not sure why there seems to be a lack of interest in the organization, though he said it is far less typical for graduate students to involve themselves in extracurricular activities than undergraduates.
Correction: October 5, 2009
A previous version of this article misrepresented the view of Graduate Student Assembly vice chairman Paul Pearlman GRD ’12. Pearlman said it is far less typical for graduate students to involve themselves in extracurricular activities than undergraduates, not that graduate students tend to be ambivalent toward all extracurricular activities.