Students edit graduate governmental body
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 02:04
Members of the Graduate Student Senate helped expand their group last week by holding elections for positions in a new organization intended to better represent the university’s graduate student population.
Emily Bonistall, Graduate Student Government president, said the changes will benefit graduate students because the number of people involved with decision-making will increase.
“Before, only the senators were technically members,” Bonistall said. “With these revisions, every single graduate student is a member and has a right to voice their opinions and concerns to the Graduate Student Government.”
Members held their first official elections last week, marking another step toward full representation of the graduate student body. They hope to obtain a role with the university’s Board of Trustees, similar to the Student Government Association, which represents undergraduate students.
Bonistall said the government will be split into two sections, the legislative branch and the executive branch. She said the legislative branch will house the senate, who will maintain a similar role, but will be led by a parliamentarian, a member who will lead senate meetings.
She said the executive branch will contain an executive council with two committee boards, one focusing on internal affairs and the other on external issues. While the president will be involved in both sections of the government, Bonistall said she will primarily be running the executive branch.
“We made changes at more of a philosophical and ideal level,” she said. “It was more focused on combining the old constitution and our ideas to make a document that would best serve the student body.”
Graduate student Kevin Ralston, vice president of internal affairs, said he hopes these changes will increase involvement from students among 35 underrepresented graduate programs such as chemistry, mathematics and nursing.
“Although all the programs do not currently have representation, one of our goals for next year is to reach out to students and explain why it’s important for them to be represented in the government,” he said. “Even though graduate students may not have the time to fully dedicate themselves to the committees, it would really help them have more of a voice if they had a representative in the council.”
Chris Richard, who formerly served as the vice president of student affairs and is not seeking reelection, said needs of graduate students are currently not being met, but campus-wide attention will allow the government to accomplish more of their goals.
“We need more awareness for the needs of graduate students. For example, we do not have a member on the Board of Trustees, something that could potentially benefit us,” Richard said. “Hopefully the changes in the government will bring more awareness and therefore more legitimacy to us as an organization.”
Bonistall said she is excited for the first official Graduate Student Government meeting next fall.
“We’re here as advocates for graduate students,” she said. “We will do our best to ensure that [their] unique needs are met as efficiently as possible.”