Amidst the general upheaval created by the economy, a significant environmental initiative on campus and Reimagining Cornell, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly held their first meeting of the semester last night in the Straight with approximately 35 in attendance. In addition to the internal campus initiatives, the GPSA also began to discuss the Ivy Summit, an annual summit for all graduate-level assembly members on Ivy League campuses, which Cornell is hosting this year.
Brian Forster, vice president of operations of the GPSA, emphasized some of the assembly’s main objectives for the upcoming year, such as implementing last year’s Graduate Community Initiative and making sure to address the concerns expressed at previous GPSA meetings. Above all, however, Forster emphasized the need to establish a more appropriate student activity fee for graduate students. Currently graduate students pay $35 in activity fees, which the GPSA then uses to fund appropriate student groups.
This year, in order to assess the GPSA’s spending more affectively, the GPSA will bring various groups to present their cause to the field representatives and the advisory committee. The GPSA will then be able to vote on how much money is sufficient to give to that student group and ultimately calculate a more precise student activity fee for the graduate community.
In an effort to spark more conversation and hear more feedback from the various field representatives within the graduate community, GPSA meetings will now include an opportunity for discussion where members can meet in smaller groups.
Last night’s six discussion groups all came to similar conclusions about the goals of this year’s GPSA.
Strengthening and supporting Cornell’s Climate Action Plan, an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions down to zero, became a central theme in the discussion. Mike Walsh grad, first raised the issue that various field representatives and voting council members all echoed. Many assembly members were also interested in raising the issue at the Ivy Summit in order to hear what other campuses were doing.
Students also mentioned working with Cornell to establish some type of 401K plan for older graduate students, while others were concerned by the lack of student involvement in the Reimagining Cornell initiatives. Additionally, the general problems of graduate housing and cockroach-infested offices were voiced.
“GPSA has become increasingly important to the University,” Kent Hubbell ’67, dean of students, said. He explained that one third of students in Cornell are graduate students and therefore, the GPSA has “an important constituency to represent.”
Although much of the discussion and concerns expressed were exclusively related to graduate life on campus, Nighthawk Evensen grad, president of GPSA, plans to reach out to the Student Assembly in order to work more closely with the undergraduate community.
“In light of the economic cuts, presenting a stronger, more united front to the administration should be helpful,” Evenson said.
Evenson went on to say that in the past the GPSA has had a somewhat strained relationship with the S.A. because of annual tension regarding Slope Day funds. Evenson, however, thinks there is much more upon which the two groups can agree and is enthusiastic about his upcoming meeting with Rammy Salem ’10 and Asa Craig ’11.