GPSC wants in on pres. search

By Djamila Grossman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 30, 2005

Graduate and Professional Student Council leaders say they are outraged that not one of their council representatives will be appointed to the presidential search committee responsible for replacing President Peter Likins.

GPSC President Elaine Ulrich said the council submitted a letter in May asking for a spot on the committee and wrote several letters to Regent Fred Boice, who was in charge of putting the committee together.

"I felt like we had done a good job of letting him know that it was important for us to be on there," Ulrich said. "We were pretty shocked when we saw the list of the appointees when it came out."

Ulrich said her main concern is not inadequate representation of graduate students, but rather, the statement the refusal sends to the campus and the future president.

"The message we're sending to the new president is that the graduate students on this campus weren't important enough to be included in this process officially," Ulrich said. "It's a confusing message about the priorities of this university, and that's what really concerns me."

The presidential search committee comprises 31 members, two of which are students. Cade Bernsen, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, and Benjamin Graff, a third-year law student and voting student regent, will sit on the committee and speak on behalf of the student body.

Bernsen said he will speak out for graduate students in the committee if they talk to him about their concerns, which he said should be adequate representation for graduate students.

"They're splitting hairs about things. I don't think it sends a bad message," Bernsen said. "I understand that they're disappointed, but every constituency group out there wants to get on the committee."

Ulrich said many faculty, deans and graduate students thought there should be a GPSC representative on the committee. Ulrich said graduate students have a unique perspective on student life because they hold teaching assistant and research assistant positions while being a student, unlike undergraduate students.

Ulrich said she puts part of the blame on ASUA because they claimed to represent all students on this campus, which she said is not true.

"If ASUA would acknowledge that they are an undergraduate student government we probably wouldn't be in the situation right now," Ulrich said. "To me it is clear who graduate students view as their representative body. It's totally inappropriate for Cade Bernsen to act like he has any kind of mandate or any kind of ability. He doesn't have the experience."

Bernsen said ASUA has a constitution that students voted on that states they represent all students of the university.

"I am the student body president, period. The GPSC is a student council, kind of like a club. They bring valuable insight, but they don't understand the structure," Bernsen said. "There is some fundamental misunderstanding as to how this is set up."

Graff said even though he felt some regents did not want more than one student on the committee, he stood up for one other student body representative, which was Bernsen.

Graff said he met with Boice to discuss the possibility of having a GPSC representative on the committee but they "came to the same conclusion" that an ASUA representative would be enough.

But Graff said graduate students should utilize his position to convey their needs to the regents or the committee.

"As a student regent, I represent 115,000 students of the state of Arizona. I definitely represent both undergraduate and graduate students," Graff said.

Regent Boice said he received about 50 e-mails from graduate students complaining about the situation.

"I certainly do appreciate how important they are, but at some point you got to say that's enough," Boice said. "If everybody was in there who wanted to be in there, we would have a hundred."

Boice said he still wants graduate students to speak out on the topic and he will take time to hear their concerns. For that reason, he said he plans to schedule a number of meetings with graduate students in October.

"Hopefully we can get together," Boice said. "Their heart is in the right place and they're a unique group. They want to be heard and they will be heard."