Yale Daily News

Last week, Yale’s Graduate Student Assembly held its annual leadership elections, with Maria del Mar Galindo GRD ’22 and Da’Von Boyd GRD ’23 winning next year’s chair and vice-chair positions, respectively.

While the GSA usually holds its elections in a single in-person meeting, due to the constraints of remote communication, the assembly decided to carry out its process virtually this year. In addition to Galindo and Boyd, new GSA leaders include Karina López GRD ’23 as secretary, Jo Machesky GRD ’24 as treasurer and Thomas Munro GRD ’25 as parliamentarian — the role primarily responsible for upholding respectful and inclusive discussion conditions in meetings.

“I decided to run for Chair because, despite the exhausting nature of the last 13 months, I feel a sense of possibility around the next year,” said Galindo, who has previously served in the GSA as secretary and vice-chair among other roles. “[This year], more graduate students served on decision-making bodies around the University than ever before. As a leadership team, we think we can build on this momentum to keep inserting graduate student voices in the University’s governance mechanisms.”

Galindo added that for her, a particular priority that she would like to address as chair is the “hidden curriculum” of graduate school. She noted there are many norms and expectations that, although they hold importance at institutions such as Yale, are not transparent to students. For example, students in many of the sciences give “research in progress” talks to their departments. According to Galindo, while some departments do provide guidance to their students on how to organize such talks, many do not, and first-time presenters often do not know the norms of content, tone and presentation that are expected of them.

Galindo hopes that during her time as chair, she will be able to illuminate this “hidden curriculum” — a project that she says will increase equity and help graduate students who have less prior familiarity with academia.

According to Galindo, the new leadership team hopes to help make Yale, as well as graduate school generally, a more welcoming place for students in historically underrepresented groups.

“The pandemic has further underscored a number of ways that Yale can become a more equitable community for all of its members,” Galindo said.

She and the rest of the new leadership team plan to further this process of growing equity through expanding access to mental health and counseling services, as well as providing vision and dental insurance for all enrolled graduate students, among other projects.

In addition to these projects, Boyd — who has previously served as GSA secretary and whose year as vice-chair will mark his fourth year in the GSA — mentioned his goal to “demystify” certain misconceptions that he believes some have about the assembly.

Boyd described these misconceptions about the GSA as commonly centering on its perceived reformist nature.

“There’s this idea that if we are reformist, then we’re not transformative, and therefore we’re not aligning with the type of transformative political work that is being done by wonderful advocacy networks throughout the University,” he said.

While Boyd acknowledged that the GSA does work closely with the University in many ways, he also commented that he wished to “push back” on the idea that reformist work is not also transformative.

For Boyd, the work that he hopes to do with the GSA also intersects with his research as a student in both the Political Science and African American Studies Departments. He noted that he is hoping to apply the same theoretical frameworks of democratic organizing that he studies in his academic work to the structure of the GSA.

“I am so deeply interested and transfixed by the type of democratic mobilization that’s really come to bear the last few years among graduate students,” said Boyd. “I really want to see the GSA be a part of the continuity of that type of democratic mobilization and struggle.”

According to Galindo, the first steps towards greater democratization in the GSA have already begun, aided by the new format of GSA elections that came about as a result of the pandemic.

According to Meaghan McGeary GRD ’22, the current chair of the GSA, last year’s election took place over Zoom, resulting in a single, five-hour-long meeting.

“It was pretty brutal for everybody,” she said.

Hoping to avoid a similar situation this year, the GSA decided to host voting on an online platform and expand the voting period to an entire week. Candidates were allowed to share their platforms online, as well as during a shorter synchronous meeting.

There was also a change in the usual timing of the election. Elections for GSA members and officers are held separately. In previous years, the two processes occurred in quick succession, preventing newly-elected representatives from participating in leadership elections. This year, by contrast, the processes were spread out so that newly-elected members were given the opportunity to participate in leadership elections.

Galindo applauded the changes and the increased inclusivity that came with them. She added that even after COVID-19 has ended, the GSA plans to keep any election mechanisms that allow the process to be more accessible and democratic.

The GSA meets every other week on Mondays.

Isabelle Qian | isabelle.qian@yale.edu

Isabelle Qian covers graduate student affairs. She is a first year in Pierson College and comes from Seattle, WA.