THE 28TH SESSION OF THE REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY OF THE GRADUATE STUDENT GOVERNMENT Assembly Meeting Minutes 12 June 2009 Benjamin Banneker Room, Stamp Student Union Prepared by Jacqueline Orlando (CRWR) I. Approval of Minutes Aaron Tobiason (THPF), who chaired the meeting in place of Anna Bedford (VPLA), called the meeting to order at 1:15PM. Given that we did not have quorum for the May meeting, both the May and April minutes were unanimously approved. II. Executive Reports A. Anupama Kothari, President The Graduate Council has been reviewing the issue of the graduate student services at the writing center, but that issue has been delayed until the upcoming fall. Due to budget cuts, they are delaying graduate marketing programs for a while. We have started planning for this year’s international pick-up program and have secured funding, though we don’t know the exact amount of money contributed. This year, DOTs will not be subsidizing the program so we will have to find out how much these departments are contributing, see if we can contribute from our own funds, and then decide how many pick ups there will be. We have been meeting with officials about temporary housing for incoming graduate students, and we have been told that there are some available for $25/night. Assistantship cuts remain a big problem. In the biology department, graduate assistantships have been cut and undergraduates have been getting them instead. Also, assistantships are being renewed at six-month rates rather than one-year with the idea that they might be cut after those six months. The graduate student grievance policy promised to publicize this policy but they have not been doing that. We are concerned about the cuts and about the publicity that this policy is receiving. The Provost promised us that assistantships would not be cut. Feel free to send me an email if you have an issue and don’t want to discuss it publicly. Thank you for all of your hard work this year, and we hope you will continue to work with us to increase the quality of graduate student life. We have mugs and recyclable grocery bags for assembly members as a thank you. These are the same ones that were given out at GRID and they are Kyle’s design. Roberto will distribute them at the end. Next, we have three awards to present for the Presidential Awards for those outstanding assembly members: The first award went to Stephanie Sherrill (CHEM) for her dedication to GSG elections, and Aaron Tobiason accepted the award on her behalf since she could not attend the meeting. Tomek Kott received the next award to recognize his outstanding service to our website. He overhauled the site and has worked very hard this past year on in. Anupama presented the award to Tomek. The final award went to Kyle Gustafson for four years of outstanding service to the GSA as VPLA, VPSA and VPFA and an outstanding assembly representative. Kyle said it’s been a great four years in GSG and thanked the assembly for the award. Henrike Lehnguth (AMST) asked if Anu had followed up with the Provost about assistantships being cut, but Anu said that he canceled their last meeting because it was not a priority for him at the moment. B. Anna Bedford, Vice President for Legislative Affairs (presented by Aaron Tobiason) Thanks to everyone who has come to the Assembly Meeting today and who RSVPed, as you can see there are some important items on the Agenda for you. Thanks to Aaron Tobiason for acting as chair pro tem for today’s meeting, and my apologies for missing the final Assembly of the year – and my last as VPLA. I’m presenting at a conference and can’t be with you today, but there are just a few things to report. Many of you have expressed an interest in the progress of the Tobacco-Free proposal for campus, and as you know, this Assembly approved a resolution opposing such a ban. The resolution went to the Campus Affairs Committee expressing the will of the graduate student body. A resolution in support of a ban went before the SGA and was defeated. The CAC had their final meeting, and is continuing their deliberations and this is a topic and policy that will be continuing to be deliberated over the summer and into next year within the senate. The CAC also deals with safety issues on campus and some members participated in the Safety Walk and have expressed interest in including the report of the graduate safety walk in their final annual report to the senate. My thanks to the members of WAM who provided feedback for today’s Acts and Resolution, and to the subcommittee that met concerning international student housing. C. Jaganath Sankaran, Vice President for Academic Affairs We had a meeting that was hosted by the Dean for all the GRID prize winners. We also sent out an email to all of the funders for GRID to report on its success and they have all agree to continue funding. Susan Allen (COMM) said the Dean was great and it was nice to hear about all the other research projects that won. The food was great too! My department thought it was a really big deal and I just wish we had more people and I hope more people realize what a great opportunity it can be for your resume and your department. D. Tomek Kott, Vice President for Committee Affairs I will wait until the budget discussion to talk about the elections committee and how we can use our own website. III. Committee Reports A. Elections Committee Tomek reported that the committee is looking into moving the elections process from Testudo to our GSG website. We pay $2,000/year to Testudo to run those elections, and the though was that paying the OIT to develop a program at a one time fee will save us money. Brian in OIT will be developing this and we’ve been in touch with him to understand all the requirements. We’ve come up with a document that reflects our needs and who would have control over the site. Because of Tomek’s work with the website, he has been involved in this process to make sure the new site looks natural and is successful. The cost will be $5,000, which is apparently low for this kind of work, but because he and his manager feel it’s important for us to have this site they are limiting their costs. It’s an investment and something that will pay us back in the long term. It would be ready for next year’s normal April election. All would be tied into your student login and the voting process would be very similar to the way it is now, but it would be on our GSG website rather than on Testudo. If we need to run midterm elections we can do this without a hitch of involving Testudo. That’s the goal and Stephanie and Aaron set that up through the Elections Committee. An assembly member asked if this would require OIT to provide ID numbers, and Tomek agreed that one of the issues is that Brian has to work with Testudo and the Registrar to get the necessary information since student information is private date. Brian would have more clout with those offices, and it is to be determined if there is a fee associated. Julie Cho Kim asked if we would have to pay Testudo to run midterm elections, and Tomek said that yes, if we do midterm elections some other means will have to be decided upon. Aaron said we could devise a system to hold midterm elections on our own without Testudo. Henrike Lehnguth (AMST) inquired about visibility and wondered if there is a way to advertise the elections through Testudo because it is a big local website. Aaron hadn’t considered that but perhaps we could provide a link to the elections page on our own page. Henrike said that students might go to Testudo anyway. Anu noted that two elections per year would cost nearly $5,000 so after one year we would recoup our losses from implementing this program. Aaron agreed that this was one of the big reasons they pursued this route. Jacqueline Orlando (CRWR) asked if the election site would cost GSG anything for upkeep over the years. Tomek noted that anything that was agreed upon and fails in the future would be OIT’s cost, and anything added would be our cost. The system is intended to be very user- friendly and won’t require much ongoing maintenance. Kautstubn Jain (ENEE) asked if there is anything we can do for advertising since previously we have relied on Testudo, and the committee agreed to keep it in mind for the future. B. Presentation of Laura Moore Award Devon, the former director of operations for GSG, addressed the assembly to explain that GSG conceived this award to honor Laura Moore for the work she did in the two years that she was president. She was not recognized by administrators for the traditional awards that are given to other achievers at her level, so before we present the award we want to present Laura a copy of the original resolution so she has something to hang on her wall. Devon continued: This is our way of appreciating everything you did and all the sacrifices you made to advance the causes of graduate students. Jacqueline Orlando (CRWR) reported that the selection committee for the Laura C. Moore Award for Leadership in Advocacy on Behalf of the Graduate Student Community convened this week to deliberate the nominees for the award. Nominated were Ryan Patterson from the School of Public Policy, Lenisa Joseph from the School of Education and Anupama Kothari, from the School of Business. As the title suggests, the award honors the graduate student government representative who has made outstanding contributions to advocacy on behalf of graduate student issues. After discussing these wonderful nominees, the committee made its selection, and Laura will present the award now to the winner. Laura thanked Devon for slipping this through in the last meeting of the year and said that she’s excited and honored for all this. Devon deserves an award for putting up with me for two years. I’m committed to giving financially to the winner each year, and this is a prize to the winner and this is someone I really enjoyed working with, the award goes to Anupama Kothari. It was kind of hard to let go of it, but once I saw Anu and Roberto and the new execs in office I knew they could handle it. Congratulations to Anu! New Business GSGA28-A3: The FY 2010 GLA Spending and Budgetary Act Before introducing the new business, Kyle took a moment to note that he has had a good four years with GSG both as an assembly member and an executive member. He mentioned Doc Hunter, a former president of GSG, and noted that Doc had an air that gave the GSG weight and legitimacy on campus. With Laura Moore, GSG became a serious assembly on campus and it’s great that we have her award to commemorate this new era with the GSG. While he admitted that he doesn’t have the full perspective of the GSG, it seems that Anu is doing a great job of carrying it on. This is his last meeting as member of the GSG and he hopes to come by to Grad Pub next year. The business at hand is that we have not received any new EFRs in the past two months, and we nearly ran out of money this year. We have attracted three or four new groups who have come to us for money and really drained the EFR budget, which is exactly what we want to happen. Kyle also spent some time with Ryan Richards, the incoming VPFA, and we’re going to team up to get the budget into the new fiscal year. Ryan is in Africa right now working with rabid cheetahs (he thinks), but the assembly meet him next year. Bylaws command the VPFA to write up a new budget and present that to the assembly and the assembly has the ability to make suggestions and edits to the budget so that’s what we’re doing today. One edit will be the title, to change it from “2008-2009” to “2009-2010”. I was conservative with the activities fee, and it could go down but we should be okay with revenue. There was some rollover from this past year. Graduate Assistantships have changed only slightly – Anu has reached the top of her stipend and Roberto’s step will change. Up for debate is that the chief of staff/webmaster has been given a dollar per hour raise and increased a few more weeks. In this revised budget, there is a separation now between chief of staff and webmaster. Tomek has been our webmaster for the past year and he’s been very good at it, but there is an opportunity for someone to come in and just focus on the website. GSG should consider hiring a dedicated webmaster. So that area of the budget has gone up slightly. The Assemblies category covers refreshments, payment of the minute taker and miscellaneous supplies like photocopies for assembly meetings. Last year the Computer and Technology budget was much more because we bought new computers, so that freed up a lot of money in the budget to fund the extra office salaries. Moving to Programming, this includes Grad Pub, social events, GRID, and a new suggestion from Aaron for a travel grant. Maybe $1,000 isn’t enough to go very far, but if we go to the administration and say the GSG has offered this money for someone to travel, maybe it will have a positive snowball effect. We didn’t spend all the Grad Pub money this past year because we got so much sponsorship, but we still need to be conservative for next year. The Advertising budget is still small as usual. For Financial Services, we have to pay the university to keep their hands on the money not us, and we have to pay this fee of 5,000. The Elections budget might have to be sorted out more in the future for elections if the program does not work out. Contingency Fund can be tapped into during the year as essentially a surplus. The resolution is on the table to accept this budget for next year. Kyle asked if the assembly had any questions. Michelle Zimmerman (Physics) inquired if there is a budgetary difference between the fall and spring semesters. Is spending tied to one semester or another? There seems to be some differences and she wondered if that matters in terms of spending. Tomek explained that webhosting, a yearly fee, is paid only once in the Fall semester so that explains the difference in that budget. In general, the budget is even for each semester and there is no barrier to spend money across semesters. Anne Jorstad (AMSC) noted that she had the impression that there would be fewer grad students in the upcoming year due to the economic crisis. There were 7500 grad students paying fees in the last fiscal year and that’s assuming no inflation. Roberto Munster assured the assembly that if anything were to happen to affect the budget, like low enrollment, money would be taken out of the contingency fund. The motion to approve the GSG budget was seconded. Tomek Kott proposed a change to remove the webmaster cost from the budget. He proposed an amendment to move the $2,240 for the webmaster to either EFRs or Programming. Kyle said maybe we should give weeks back to the chief of staff instead. Kyle asked Tina if 34 weeks a year is enough for the chief of staff to work and she said it would be okay unless we got any EFRs in August. Tomek’s resolution was seconded, but Roberto suggested we keep some of the money in Office Salaries just in case we need a webmaster in the future. Anu and Aaron agreed that while they would like to see more money go to the travel grant, Tomek has worked very hard on the website and having that money set aside for that extra work is probably a good thing since it goes above and beyond the normal work of a VPCA. Kyle imagined it as someone that Tomke hires and then bosses around, not to take away responsibility from Tomek but to take some of the load off. Tomek can then train this person while he is still here. With no further debate, the motion to move the money was denied so we return to the original motion to approve this budget as presented. The motion passed. GSGA28-A3 The FY 2010 GLA Spending and Budgetary Act Report by Susan Macek of Graduate Legal Aid The request would allow the office to remain open to serve graduate students in similar capacity as during he school year. June is always a busy month, and July is a wildcard. The office of graduate legal aid is very busy right now, and this request would allow them to move money from the operating expenses to the salaries categories. Anne Jorstad (AMSC) asked how the office of graduate legal aid got to this point. Susan said that she works 30 hours a week and Carla works 2/5 time, and they cannot predict exactly the salaries needed when the budget is planned. Anu reminded the assembly that legal services cost a lot of money and this is a valuable service for graduate students to keep aware of our rights and the rights of our constituents. Aaron suggested this be a motion to approve this transfer of funds. The motion passed. Carla addressed the assembly, noting that the graduate legal aid office has been working for over 20 years and she has been here from the beginning. Two years ago we were cut off from the graduate school and now we’re under student affairs and semi-independent. We see 350 to 400 students a year for legal cases. Our report demonstrates the areas of law; we are a general council office but we don’t litigate. The office handles many cases having to do with securitiy deposits and other landlord-tenant disputes like lack of heat or lack of repair cases, unlawful evictions, anything you can think of in that field. We try to think about this in market value, but it’s graduate students who are over-incomed for outside attorneys and the average hourly rate is $250, so in terms of market rate we provide 400,000 market rate services. We also cover disputes with insurance companies and personal injuries. There ware also arrangements with outside attorneys for consultations when needed. We have tried to turn this office into an office where you see an lawyer and get real legal advice when you need a lawyer. Carla there for times when you need a lawyer, but there is also very strong peer advocacy information, and that is where Susan would come in, and we can serve a lot more clients and students. We also help students who are the victims of crime if the police are not doing what they should to help the student. Health insurance is my personal passion for appeals and the statistics show that in Maryland if you appeal you will get some kind of consideration in 50% of cases. Tell your constituents to consult our office if they need assistance. We help students save money if they have to see outside lawyers, and some of us would do the legal research for free although the outside attorney would go to court with you. We try to be open 4 days a week and we’re consistently busy. If something is happening and we don’t know why we’re not getting clients, we’ll cut back on our hours so we’re not wasting money just sitting in our office and vice versa. We consistently come up with excellent evaluations in terms of our client satisfaction. There are small changes this year, small fluctuations in the population and also word of mouth recommendations from friends. From time to time we consider expanding specialties, but across the board legal services is legal services depending on the economy. The needs are still always the same. An assembly member asked if there are new ways to advertise the legal services office. The GLA said that if they notice a slip in clients, they contact the GSG to remind assembly members of the services offered. The evaluation always asks how students found out about the office, and now 75% is from the website, and many student groups use word of mouth. It’s dicey though because with a limited budget, too much publicity would increase clients perhaps too much. Carla suggested that workshops are less populated because students only attend when they have a problem. Anu has been to a few departments and has given an overview of everything the GSG and the GLA offers. She noted that if any assembly members want a presentation, just let them know. Anne Jorstad (AMSC) said that during orientation we get so many fliers that are easily overlooked, but suggested maybe in November the GLA could send out an email saying “Did you know we have this service?” rather than right at orientation when students are too overwhelmed with information. Susan agreed that the graduate school might be interested in sending out something that would say, “here are the services we offer.” The motion to consider approving the budget was seconded, but Aaron mentioned a discrepancy over the number of projected students in this budget. Susan said that Salary would be where any discrepancies would be funded from, so the office would just close for a few more hours if need be. The question on the motion to approve was agreed to, and the request passed with the assembly. GSGA28-R19 A Resolution Calling for Temporary, On-Campus Accommodation for New International Graduate Students. Roberto Munster reported on the task force that gathered to discuss this resolution that was discussed at an earlier assembly meeting. Anne Jorstad (AMSC) said that she just learned of some more temporary housing that is available, but Anu said that the only place was the dorms that have limited availability. Roberto explained that this resolution would allow more rooms to be available. Anne asked if the administration would just say that they already established this housing. Susan Allen (COMM) inquired if the task force asked the administration specifically about the availability of rooms? Would there be housing in the whole month of August available? Roberto said no, just for a certain part of the month of August, because the dorms are used for Orientation during some weeks and some students have to arrive early. Susan said that the deans are also trying to establish this sort of program for new faculty members who are coming and she wondered if there was a proposal that would combine the two efforts. Anu said that faculty is coming with salaries but students are coming in with very little money and it would be very detrimental to combine proposals with students and faculty. The resolution is making the administration aware of the huge numbers who are coming in. We advocate for students, but there are other avenues for faculty. Henrike Lehnguth added that most faculty have already been trained in the US and we are advocating here for international students who are unfamiliar with the ways of this country. Michelle Zimmerman (PHYS) had a similar experience and found that there was a system to pay $25/night to stay in a dorm room, and it’s unclear how this resolution differs from that existing program. If we are asking for temporary housing for 600 people, the resolution does not specify such a number. Anu asked if there were any students who are familiar with the pick-up process in the past. Santander said that it was maddening to accommodate 70 people in three days. Varnika Roy (MCBIOL) agreed that every year the student council of India goes through a big hassle but at the same time its difficult for the orientation committee to find people to provide housing and the number keeps increasing. It’s a tradition but it keeps increasing. Julie Choe Kim said that Residence life does provide those $25/night rooms and when there are so many residence halls being renovated this summer the rooms are even more limited. There needs to be a more comprehensive solution to this issue that fits the scale of requirements. Susan Allen clarified that Dean Harris says that there has been proposals made to buy and rent buildings to this purpose but the university shoots down these propositions. It’s a kind of long- term problem that we could make a few more creative suggestions on how this could be done over a longer period of time. Roberto said that we are talking about two very different things, but Faculty members aren’t going to be in dorm rooms, they are going to be in apartments. Susan responded that Dean Harris’s suggestion would be to have a hotel style facility for this purpose, and it has to be part of the long term university planning. Clara noted that from a legal aid standpoint there are a fair number of students who rent apartments over the internet and they’re just disasters. Apartments don’t exist or they are unlicensed basement apartments so if you want to use that information in this resolution, that may be valuable. Anu said that this resolution is also about creating an awareness of the problem for international students and creating a community. There is a distance between the university and the problem so they can ignore it, but if we can make this change then Resident Life will be aware of the problem. Michelle Zimmerman (PHYS) said that some of the objections could be amended by changing line 25 to: “increase the provision of on campus temporary housing.” Aaron followed by suggesting that it could be changed to: “provide sufficient.” The motion was approved to consider R-19 as written, and Aaron asked if Michelle wants to make that amendment. Anne Jorstad suggested: “Whereas the current situation obligates international student communities to host new students in large numbers on available floor space” to be entered on line 21. Henrike noted that she is worried that this makes it seem like this situation isn’t all that bad because organizations have it covered. Karin French suggested changing “obligate” to “places a burden on,” and Jacqueline Orlando made a motion to change “available floor space” to “overcrowded private residences.” Anu suggested we say: “attempt to host” so that the language indicates that the problem still isn’t solved. Kyle suggested we use an actual number but Anu said the administration would quibble over this. The changes are as follows: Line 21: Whereas the current situation places an undue burden on international student communities to provide temporary housing for new students. The ayes have it for that wording, and with no further amendments the assembly voted and approved to add this line. The assembly suggested to add to line 24: “Whereas students without such on-campus international student communities are at a greater disadvantage in finding temporary housing.” This was edit also approved by the assembly. Susan Allen (COMM) feels that such an important resolution needs stronger wording. She is willing to vote on it as is but she feels we need more specific language including how to advertise for international students. Karin answered that asking them to do something specific might not work. Susan asked for numbers, but Julie said that nuts and bolts can happen in conversation but this resolution shows the problem to the administration. Jacqueline pointed out that this is our last meeting for the summer so this resolution must be completed now to submit something for this upcoming August. Julie said that a resolution from the GSG that articulates the issue without numbers would still help get the administration to listen. Aaron Tobiason said that this resolution is meant to address a small issue of the larger housing issue at hand. Without further amendments, the motion to approve the resolution was voted upon. The ayes have it. GSGA28-R19 is approved as amended. IV. Representative’s Forum No comments were made during the representative’s forum. V. Announcements Roberto Munster announced to all outgoing assembly members that they may take their nametag but not the plastic sleeve. Aaron thanked the assembly for their attendance and noted a motion to adjourn the assembly. The meeting was adjourned at 3:13PM.
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