While the debate over graduate student unionization continues to rage on, the Graduate Student Assembly, the graduate school’s student government organization, is hoping that all students will be able to agree on at least one point — a revision of its current charter.
The GSA is currently conducting a student referendum to approve the proposed charter revisions. Although many of the revisions are clarifications of ambiguous clauses, there are a number of substantive changes that would allocate more power to graduate students if approved.
If graduate students approve the revisions, the GSA must then receive approval from graduate student faculty as well as Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield.
GSA President Tyler Radniecki GRD ’05 said he expects the reforms to pass because most of the proposals are changes that would benefit all graduate students.
“I really don’t see any reason why it should not pass,” Radniecki said. “Everyone has the same goal and everyone’s trying to make life for graduate students better. These changes will allow the GSA to do its job more effectively and with more authority.”
One of the most significant changes in the charter is the allowance of complete budgetary autonomy so the GSA will have sole discretion over its spending activities, assuming they comply with University guidelines.
Jennifer Smith GRD ’04, a member of the 12-person charter review committee, said such small changes are significant because they give the 5-year-old GSA firmer footing.
“The GSA has been a useful body, and making these sorts of incremental changes and institutionalizing the GSA and increasing its autonomy over time will be good for graduate students,” Smith said.
The new charter also calls for more student representation on graduate school sub-committees as well as more equal representation across the three basic academic fields — humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Currently, more GSA seats are occupied by natural science students, Radniecki said.
Charter review committee member Marissa Greif GRD ’05 said the changes have more of a direct impact on the GSA than the graduate student population, but added that she hopes students will support the reforms.
“The average graduate student who doesn’t get involved in school politics may not really think about [the changes] too much,” Greif said. “But this charter allows quite a significant voice on graduate school sub-committees, so I think any policy alterations will affect most graduate students.”
Although the GSA solicited student opinion through e-mails encouraging students to send in suggestions, the final revisions were made by the charter review committee, composed of six graduate students and six faculty members.
Hockfield, who meets with the GSA on a bi-weekly basis, said she supports the proposed revisions and hopes the new charter will pass.
“After the last review, the charter was stronger,” Hockfield said. “This one is even better because it’s more direct and less ambiguous.”