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Optical grads opt to leave ASUA

By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
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Unofficial vote shows rep division

Optical sciences graduate students held an election last week requesting to be represented solely by the Graduate and Professional Student Council, a move the student body president said didn't change anything.

Elaine Ulrich, an optical sciences graduate student and GPSC president, said the election demonstrated that many graduate students believe the Associated Students of the University of Arizona represents only undergraduate students even though ASUA "falsely claims" to be for all students.

There was one dissenting vote among the 80 graduate students who indicated by paper ballot Nov. 16 through Nov. 18 whether they wanted to be represented "by GPSC and not by the ASUA," Ulrich said.

There are about 200 graduate students in the optical sciences program, said Boris Glebov, an optical sciences graduate student, who helped organize the election.

"One of the reasons I think most graduate students consider ASUA an undergraduate government is that they formally have not worked on graduate issues," Ulrich said.

Ulrich said she is planning to hold elections within other colleges in the spring, including a campuswide vote among graduate students as part of a movement for GPSC to become an official body separate from ASUA, Ulrich said.

Cade Bernsen, ASUA president, said that because ASUA is the only student government on campus with true representative authority, it will continue to speak for all optical sciences students.

"I don't want to insult the graduate students in optical sciences, and I don't want there to be a war," said Bernsen, a political science senior. "But what I'm concerned with is (that) I think they're being misled."

Benjamin Graff, the voting student regent on the Arizona Board of Regents, said GPSC has the right to send a political message, but, in the end, both graduate and undergraduate students need to let go of divisive attitudes to avoid the breakdown of students' credibility altogether.

Graff has begun working with ASUA and GPSC representatives to ensure agreement on this year's student tuition proposal, which he hopes will prevent a repeat of last year when two proposals were sent to the board of regents.

"Having two groups proposing different ideas splits the opinion of the students when they have to be unified in a strong stance and strong voice," said Graff, a third-year law student. "I cannot allow the student voice to be undermined like that again."

Ulrich said she has spoken with Graff to make sure GPSC is included in the tuition proposal process, though she maintains her argument that having separate governments like Arizona State University will increase student representation at the UA.

But Graff said he believes ASU's system is not as effective because there are two independent governments that don't work together on all issues.

"There are graduate issues and there are undergraduate issues, but there are so many other issues in the big picture," Graff said. "I'd much rather see them work together because only then do they have the potential to represent students as strongly as possible."

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