Adrian Kulesza

The Graduate Student Assembly convened for the first time since the summer on Wednesday to establish the coming year’s agenda and usher in new leadership.

More than 50 representative members met in the Watson Center to hear presentations from the chairs of the different GSA Committees — Academics and Professional Development, Facilities and Healthcare, Transit and Security, Service and Publicity — concerning their respective goals and projects for the year ahead.

Newly-elected GSA chair Stephen Gaughran GRD ’21 spearheaded the first formal meeting of the academic year, oversaw elections for a variety of positions within the GSA and facilitated a representative’s overview of the GSA’s rules and operations.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to make progress from things that we were working on last year,” Gaughran said. “There have been a number of things that have been on the GSA agenda for a few years that we haven’t quite brought to the finish line. This year I’m hoping to bring some of those to completion and then take on a number of new things.”

One such change includes the implementation of the new Service Committee. In their presentation, the committee chairs spoke to issues high on the minds of many graduate students — diversity and inclusivity. Patrice Collins GRD ’22, co-chair of the committee, directly mentioned the nationally-covered incident at the end of the last academic year, when a white graduate student called the police after encountering a black graduate student sleeping in a common room in the Hall of Graduate Studies. The committee chairs cited the occurrence and the resulting national criticism as one of the reasons the GSA formed the committee this year.

“Unfortunately there’s no transparent protocol for dealing with racial discrimination here at Yale,” Collins said. “At least when you come to GSA events, we can provide that safe space.”

The new committee is designed to engage students in public service and social justice with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

One event the new committee will spearhead is “Relax and Chill,” periodic gatherings in which students will be able to interact with one another to build a sense of community. Other functions coordinated by the committee include Yale Votes, which the committee operates alongside Yale College to enable voters to reach booths and receive absentee ballots.

“As I briefly shared before, GSA is a space where black students can come and not be policed by their peers,” Collins said.

Returning committees also presented their upcoming agendas. This year, the Facilities and Healthcare Committee aims to clarify points of the existing health care plans provided to graduate students, as well as to further efforts for a more comprehensive dental plan. The GSA will continue to work in conjunction with the Graduate and Professional Student Senate to advocate for better dental benefits.

Fabian Schrey GRD ’19 of the Transit and Security Committee recapped past efforts by the committee, which include work toward the creation of the all-day orange shuttle line, the yellow shuttle line and Yale Safe Ride — a University-run door-to-door shuttle service. Schrey also presented his interest in increased transparency about precisely who has access to which buildings. With regard to transportation initiatives, the committee’s agenda includes advocating for increased biking access around campus and the city at large.

“Biking in New Haven and Yale needs a huge amount of improvement and that will be one thing we will be working on this year,” Schrey said.

The Academics and Professional Development Committee encompasses a variety of topics, including graduate student career paths inside and outside academia, workplace culture and access to teaching resources.

The committee’s project ideas include working with various directors of graduate studies to conduct workshops on topics outside of academia. In addition, the committee plans to provide resources for teaching fellows designed to assist them should a Yale College student present them with an issue not related to the course at hand, such as concerns over personal problems or mental health.

Following individual committee presentations, Gaughran opened the meeting to on-the-spot elections for advisory student committees, the disciplinary committee and the position of GSA secretary, among other roles.

The GSA meets on alternating Wednesdays in the Watson Center.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu