January 22, 2008

GPSA, Admins Discuss Grad Student Life Issues

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The dilapidation of the Big Red Barn has spawned continuous support for not only the building itself, but also for what many claim it represents — the state of the graduate and professional student body at Cornell.
President Skorton acknowledged the lack of visibility of Cornell’s graduate student population in comparison to the undergraduate community at the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Council of Representatives meeting yesterday, which he attended with Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic affairs. Skorton and Murphy discussed the Big Red Barn’s progress as well as larger issues such as the Graduate Community Initiative and Master Plan, which includes developing a potential graduate student center. Several other concerns pertaining to the graduate community were also addressed.
The BRB should open “by April first at the latest but hopefully by the conclusion of Spring Break,” according to Murphy. “The construction will buy us at least three to five years,” Murphy reported, but it is no permanent solution. The task force assigned to examine the Master Plan continues to work on a long-term solution for a graduate student center. Yu Yu grad, president of the GPSA, said the decisions could proceed in several directions, including expanding or replacing the BRB as the center of graduate activities.
In the meantime, “BRB at Trillium” will open on the mezzanine level of Trillium. TGIF will continue to be held every Friday at Trillium, according to Brenda Wickes, assistant dean of graduate student life, although there is no alcohol permit at the replacement eatery. Internet access via RedRover is available, in addition to numerous tables and chairs. Besides serving as an interim location for graduate activities, “BRB at Trillium” provides a productive use of free space.
“Trillium is a hot spot for lunch but hasn’t really been fully utilized at other times … There’s learning to be done on both sides … but we don’t have to have this as just one event,” said Murphy.
According to Skorton, a group that he claimed is “making a lot of progress” has convened to look over the GCI document. If the task force, which meets today, approves it, Skorton will then also look over the GCI. [img_assist|nid=26730|title=Constructive criticism|desc=President Skorton and Vice President Susan Murphy speak with grad students at the GPSA meeting yesterday in Willard Straight Hall.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
While all these steps advance forward, many feel the prospect of a graduate student center still lags behind on the University’s agenda. Yu brought up student suggestions for an additional activity fee or financial support by alumni as potential solutions to catalyzing the process, but Skorton was hesitant, remarking that he did not want to “promise something [he] could not give.” He emphasized that they first consider what the scope of the project would be and encouraged the graduate students to write directly to him regarding any concerns or suggestions.
In response to the suggestion for alumni support, Skorton alluded to his recent article, “Focusing on Graduate and Professional Education,” in the Cornell Alumni Magazine, which he believed would help bring graduate student concerns to the forefront, particularly in the eyes of Cornell alumni.
In addition to the BRB, Skorton discussed other campus issues at the GPSA meeting such as the Campus Code of Conduct, which he reported is within weeks of finishing the review process.
In response to concern and discussion over lack of graduate student mental health support, Wickes emphasized Gannett’s efforts to target the graduate community as well as the inherent difficulty in catering to such a diverse and distant population.
For additional coverage of the GPSA, and Big Red Barn Closure click here.