Grad students need independence

For the past several months, there has been a lot of discussion about the relationship between the Graduate and Professional Student Council and the rest of ASUA. Most students have not heard more than the occasional story in the Wildcat. It's time to clear the air and talk about how the council feels about independence.

GPSC joined Associated Students of the University of Arizona two years ago in an attempt to improve representation of graduate and professional students on campus. GPSC wanted to increase the graduate student voice in student government and the administration, and to gain increased funding for graduate-oriented programs and services.

During the last two years, it has become apparent that too much of the Council's efforts is spent dealing with internal ASUA matters rather than serving its constituents. It is with this experience that GPSC seeks independence.

The GPSC believes that the current student government structure does not serve graduate students well. While there are some benefits of a unified student government, GPSC feels it would be a disservice to its constituents to remain part of ASUA.

At this point in time, GPSC feels that undergraduate activities can no longer be subsidized by the graduate and professional students. While graduate and professional students comprise approximately 23 percent of the student body, GPSC receives direct control of less than 6 percent of the total funding for ASUA student government. Although some graduate students do participate in some of the programs and services in ASUA, all graduate students, through student fees and purchases at the ASUA Bookstore, are subsidizing these services.

Four of the biggest problems GPSC faces under current joint structure:

When GPSC merged with ASUA, the majority of the programs were (and still are) focused on undergraduate issues. For GPSC to fund programs it believes in, it must do so out of its own council budget or force a reallocation of funds within ASUA and get the approval of the Undergraduate Senate. Any new programs GPSC deems important, at a time of constant budget dollars, are viewed as competing with current programs. This creates conflict and becomes a source of contention.

GPSC is required to vote on all ASUA expenditures, appointments and legislation. This results in a lot of time and effort to evaluate, discuss and vote on issues that are not of direct interest to the constituents that the Graduate and Professional Student Council represents.

ASUA does not adequately represent graduate and professional issues at the state and federal level. ASUA's lobbying efforts, despite GPSC requests to the contrary, are focused almost exclusively on undergraduate issues. Furthermore, issues such as child care, family housing and teaching assistant benefits rarely even appear on ASUA's radar scope, but are closely monitored by graduate students.

GPSC elections are unnecessarily cumbersome for graduate students to participate in. GPSC would favor a more convenient election process such as voting by campus mail or e-mail.

We in GPSC desire to reform student government by making it more accountable, and we're willing to start by making ourselves more responsive to our constituents. We are willing to work with the executive branch and the Undergraduate Senate to make this process as productive and painless as possible. We hope the result will be a student government more focused on the students who elected us and whose money we spend.

Melanie Ayers is a mathematics graduate student and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council.

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