News, University News

GSC elects leadership for 2020

Kathryn Thompson GS to lead GSC, deans provide leave of absence policy updates

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 7, 2019

Deans Vanessa Ryan and Maria Suarez spoke to students about the University working group’s progress in updating its leave of absence policies.

After serving two years as President of the Graduate Student Council, Alastair Tulloch GS did not run for reelection. He will be replaced by Kathryn Thompson GS, who is currently GSC treasurer and ran uncontested for the position.

Prior to the members’ voting, Thompson gave a brief statement to the council in support of her candidacy. “I want to continue advocating for housing initiatives … and making sure we’re still on the agenda for graduate student space,” she said. “I want to make sure that grad students stay a priority.”

Wednesday night’s GSC meeting featured elections for all GSC executive board positions. The winners of these elections will take on their new role Jan. 1.

The races varied in competitiveness. Beenish Pervaiz GS and Sophie Don GS won the two contested races for chair of international advocacy and chair of master’s advocacy, respectively. Don ran as the incumbent for the position.

Vice President of Advocacy Melaine Ferdinand-King GS and Chair of Technology Alex Parker-Guerrero GS ran for reelection uncontested.

The election saw several other candidates fill uncontested positions. Joe Colleyshaw GS was elected Treasurer; Tariq Brown GS was elected chair of social events; Shingai Kagunda GS was elected chair of student life; and Lise Miltner GS was elected chair of communications.

The current Chair of Nominations Kaitlin Wilcoxen GS did not run for reelection, but no one else nominated themselves for the position. As such, the position will be filled via election at the next GSC meeting on December 4.

In addition to holding their elections, GSC also heard updates from executive board members and from Deans Vanessa Ryan and Maria Suarez about changes to the Graduate School’s leave of absence policy.

Tulloch also reflected on the graduate student body’s engagement with last month’s GSC event. The Council invited Marie Solange Lopes to talk about financial literacy, as The Herald previously reported. Tulloch noted that the talk is now  available on the Council’s website.

Chair of Social Events Jeremy Lomax GS also announced the upcoming Winter Formal for the graduate student body. He highlighted GSC’s plans for a preamble to the formal with family-friendly activities in an effort to attract graduate students with family obligations. Furthermore, current Treasurer and President-Elect Thompson discussed the potential addition of a club funding item to the GSC’s budget line. This program, aimed at supporting student groups that cater to graduate students, would “institutionalize funding for those groups in our budget,” Thompson said.

Ryan and Suarez also updated students on the progress of the University’s working group to improve its leave of absence policies. The implemented changes include allowing graduate students access to recreational facilities while on leave and removing the readmission fee when returning from leave. The two deans also shared some of the group’s objectives that are currently under review — a medical leave financial hardship grant, which would lower the financial strain of leave-taking, and the creation of guidance materials for students considering a leave of absence.

They also stressed the importance of increasing awareness of leave of absence policies. “There’s not a good understanding of our leave of absence policy, and that’s something that’s really concerning … It’s creating a barrier of access and it may be creating a perception of a stigma,” Ryan said.

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