Students from the College of Medicine threatened to split from the Graduate and Professional Student Council during a forum yesterday, citing a lack of medical student representation in GPSC.
Doug Hartz, former ASUA president and member of the Medical Student Government, said the priorities of GPSC are not in tune with students in the College of Medicine and said a proposed separation from GPSC would better serve the needs of medical students.
"I don't believe they advocate issues that are relevant to us," Hartz said during an open forum with representatives from GPSC and the College of Medicine last night.
GPSC is the representative body for graduate, law and medical students. The organization offers travel grants and club funding, holds events such as the Student Showcase, and lobbies on issues regarding graduate student housing, campus health care and childcare.
Hartz claimed medical students do not get proper representation in the council and said the College of Medicine representative has never been elected, but has either volunteered for the position uncontested or been appointed by GPSC.
"We have not had an elected representative since the inception of the organization," Hartz said.
However, Jani Radebaugh, GPSC College of Science representative and former president of the council, said if a candidate runs for a representative position uncontested, as was the case with the College of Medicine last year, the election is still legitimate.
Radebaugh also said sufficient notice was given to medical students about the vacant position, including notifying the Medical Student Government president and sending out a 3D Memo.
"We want everyone who is interested to apply to GPSC," Radebaugh said.
At the forum, representatives from GPSC and the College of Medicine debated whether or not the college departing from GPSC would be a beneficial change.
Chandan Kundavaram, president of Medical Student Government, said medical students are exploring three options: staying with GPSC but demanding changes, splitting from GPSC and becoming a free-standing entity, or leaving GPSC to join the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.
Proponents of the separation said joining ASUA would be beneficial since ASUA has a voice in significant governing bodies, like the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee and Faculty Senate, as well as students who lobby the Legislature.
Hartz said splitting from GPSC and becoming an independent entity would diminish the College of Medicine's representation on campus and said it would be wiser to join ASUA.
But Radebaugh argued GPSC also has representatives serving on major university committees and can serve medical interests better than ASUA members who are concerned with undergraduate issues.
"We believe our members are more mature, diverse and reflective of your needs," Radebaugh said. "ASUA can't represent your needs."
In the past, GPSC had lobbied for graduate and medical students' concerns by partnering with the American Medical Student Association to support reauthorization of the Higher Education Affordability and Equity Act.
But Hartz said ASUA members also lobby issues relevant to medical students, such as tort reform, childcare and tuition remission.
Kundavaram said he was contacted by ASUA president Alistair Chapman asking for any feedback because there will be discussions at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting this week concerning the medical school in Phoenix.
"They (ASUA) are already representative of us," Kundavaram said.
Kundavaram said he also supports joining ASUA because it would provide more club funding, as the ASUA club budget is approximately $85,000, while GPSC's is $2,500.
Club funding is an important issue for medical students, said Kundavaram, since virtually every medical student belongs to a club.
But Radebaugh argued GPSC has more money to offer each club since there are fewer graduate-level clubs.
According to a GPSC budget distributed by the Medical Student Government at the forum, the College of Medicine, based on its size, deserved $8,750 from GPSC last year but was given only $1,656.
By joining ASUA, Hartz said the College of Medicine would have access to more club funding as well as the opportunity to participate in ASUA's Spring Fling, which would increase club revenue.
Budget allocation was also debated during the forum, with both sides claiming the other allocated too much to officer stipends and salaries.
The GPSC president and vice presidents receive stipends of $8,000 and $6,000 a year, respectively, while the secretary-treasure receives $4,000. The ASUA president and vice presidents receive $6,702 and $4,898, respectively, while ASUA senators receive $1,000.
Amanda Brobbel, president of GPSC, said GPSC has $20,000 in travel grants for students, which students would not have access to under ASUA.
However, Hartz said ASUA's Appropriations Board could also fund travel expenses for clubs.
Ryan Patterson, a student lobbyist in ASUA, said although encompassing the College of Medicine in ASUA is feasible, it would require internal restructuring and administrators would have to be consulted.
Club funding in ASUA is available for clubs with an undergraduate majority, but Patterson said that factor could change by amending the bylaws, which only requires an ASUA Senate vote as opposed to a student body vote.
Patterson said there has already been informal discussion in ASUA about the possibility of including the College of Medicine.
But Radebaugh said if representation is the issue, GPSC would listen to the needs of medical students in the future.
"GPSC is the best place for you," Radebaugh said. "Leaving would be a mistake."
Further discussions will take place tonight at the closed Medical Student Government meeting. Hartz said the Medical Student Government will likely ask medical students to vote on the issue.