News, University News

GSC elects officers, reviews end-of-year report

Council also votes on funding proposal for free fitness classes

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, May 2, 2019

In its last general body meeting of the semester Wednesday, the Graduate Student Council held elections for internal positions, heard presentations from guest speakers and received the executive board’s end-of-year report.

The GSC elected first-year PhD student Melaine Ferdinand-King GS as vice president for advocacy in a race against current Treasurer Kathryn Thompson GS. The position is currently held by D’Ondre Swails GS, who is stepping down, The Herald previously reported. The GSC elected Sophie Don GS as chair of masters’ advocacy in an uncontested race; the current chair, India Rogers-Shepp GS, is graduating this spring.

The GSC also elected three members, including Chair of Social Events Jeremy Lomax GS, as liaisons with Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees and the American Federation of Teachers’ union. SUGSE began negotiations with the University toward a collective bargaining agreement last month, The Herald previously reported.

Associate Provost for Academic Space Leah VanWey gave a presentation about the Gender Inclusive Restroom Initiative, which aims to ensure that all academic, administrative and dining facilities are equipped with gender-inclusive restrooms. VanWey said the University should recognize that this “is a civil rights issue, not an accommodation” issue. VanWey also presented to the Undergraduate Council of Students about the initiative in April, The Herald previously reported.

The GSC also heard and voted on a funding proposal from Adam Spierer GS, a graduate student community fellow for health and wellness, about a recreation class pilot program. The program would grant all graduate students, and potentially all medical students, access to the University’s group fitness classes for free. If the pilot program is successful, the University will extend it to undergraduate students as well, Spierer added.

Currently, the fee for a one-year group fitness pass is $95. The GSC voted to provide funding for the program by using leftover funds from this semester. The Council plans to grant between $2,600 to $5,900 to this project depending on how much funding the pilot program receives from other bodies such as Brown Student Agencies.

The GSC also heard updates from Chair of Student Life Shekinah Fashaw GS on plans for a Distinguished Speaker Series designed for graduate students. She said the Student Activities Office recommended three speakers — journalist Celeste Headlee, radio host Shereen Marisol Meraji and poet Denice Frohman. The GSC budget can accommodate one of the speakers, and members will vote for their choice electronically before 5 p.m. Friday, May 3. Voters can also write in their own choice for speaker.

The executive board presented its end-of-year report to the rest of the Council before the meeting’s conclusion. The report shared attendance and budgeting figures for several events throughout the year and discussed various student life initiatives.

Thompson presented on the GSC’s finances for this year. In the fall, the GSC approved $175 in funding for conference expenses to each of 93 applicants, though not all applicants claimed any or all of their funding. This semester, they granted $225 to 86 different applicants, but the Council does not yet know whether all of that funding was claimed.

Thompson estimated that this year’s budget surplus was around $18,000, though this amount will decrease as they complete some outstanding payments in the coming weeks. This year’s budget surplus was unusually large due to a combination of “really good planning and really good luck,” Thompson said.

GSC President Alastair Tulloch GS closed the report with a discussion of completed, ongoing and new initiatives. Among other projects this year, the GSC has worked to revise the academic grievance process and improve health care for graduate students with dependents. The Council will continue to work on expanding dedicated space on campus for graduate students and increasing representation from graduate program alums in the University Corporation. New initiatives, which the Council has started work on, include revising leave-of-absence policies and instituting the Graduate Student Strategic Initiative.