Your headline for the article in the Nov. 15 issue of the Wildcat, "GPSC fund-allocation proposal a felony," is grossly misleading and not representative of the contents of the story. Further, the article itself covers only a hang-up in the implementation of one portion of the Professional Opportunity Development Fund (POD) with little information provided as to the background, nature, and overall status of the project as a whole. Lisa Slattery Rashotte, the chair of the GPSC Academic Issues Subcommittee and individual in charge of POD, was identified to the Wildcat reporter, but was never contacted in the formation of the article. Please allow us to provide a portion of the information that should have been researched and taken into account while writing your article.
POD is an idea that GPSC has been working on for some time as a means of addressing two needs identified within the graduate student community. First, we wanted to establish a source of funding to allow students to attend professional conferences in their area of study. The Travel Grant Fund, funded by the Graduate College and managed by GPSC, is an excellent program that assists grad students in attending conferences but is lacking in two important areas. First, it is not funded sufficiently to assist every qualified applicant. Second, students must be presenting at the conference in order to receive funding. Attendance at conferences is an integral part of forming a successful, well-rounded graduate education. By attending these functions, students are familiarized with current developments within their area of study and began developing a personal network of professionals, researchers, and potential employers. These particular benefits do not necessitate a presentation by the student.
The second goal of POD is to provide money needed to help bring guest speakers and other academically positive events, such as conferences or symposiums, to the university. As far as we know, there is not a comparable fund already established expressly for this purpose.
Funding for POD would come from the money allocated to ASUA. GPSC hoped to define an application procedure making this money available to either organizations or individual students.
After the GPSC Academic Issues Committee drafted its initial proposal, Ms. Rashotte arranged a meeting with Michael Proctor, a university attorney, to review any potential problems with its implementation. Proctor then informed Rashotte of the Arizona law forbidding use of state funds for individual gain and the possibility of interpretation of the travel fund portion of POD as such a violation. The Academic Issues Subcommittee is now in the process of restructuring the initiative to avoid any potential legal conflicts. The second part of POD, which will fund guest speakers on campus, is not "still in limbo" as stated in the Wildcat article, but has already been funded and will begin accepting applications by the end of this semester.
At no time has there been any action taken by any individual within the GPSC, or by the council as a whole, concerning POD that could be considered a violation of any law. We initiated the legal review of the first POD proposal in order to avoid any potential violations before we began implementation.
Woefully little of this background information was included in the Wildcat article. Instead, the article was given a blatantly inflammatory and misleading headline inexplicably followed by a photo of Melanie Ayers, the GPSC president. The article itself neglected to adequately describe POD and focused on a relatively minor temporary stumbling block that will delay the implementation of only one portion of POD. The significance of this problem is grossly overstated and implies criminal conduct by Ayers and GPSC. Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that Rashotte, the individual most familiar with POD was never contacted in writing the article. Instead, Jim Drnek, ASUA adviser, and Ben Driggs, ASUA president, two individuals only peripherally involved in the implementation of POD and entirely absent from its drafting, are both quoted extensively.
This article, particularly the headline, suggest that a higher emphasis has been placed on sensationalism and maximizing shock value than on conducting responsible, thorough journalism.
Kevin R. Casaus
Lisa Slattery Rashotte
Academic Issues Subcommittee Chair
The Graduate and Professional Student Council
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