SGA awards GSC almost $8,000 in contentious meeting

SGA awards GSC almost $8,000 in contentious meeting

November 19
23:22 2014

Joshua Knopp / News Editor

Student Government Association allotted $7,786 to the Graduate Student Council tonight to support Graduate Student Appreciation week and UNT Days, both in early April.

Over the summer, GSC requested to split from SGA and form its own representative body because SGA did not do an adequate job of representing graduate students, taking with it a significant portion of SGA’s budget, SGA president Troy Elliott said. Elliott said he and GSC officials agreed to not do this and instead let SGA continue to represent graduate students in its current model with the understanding that it would make a concentrated effort to do so.

However, Elliott said GSC continued to pursue support for splitting over the course of the semester. The groups met again last weekend, and Elliott said the next day the two graduate students in SGA, Jacquie Cheun and Anna Pechenina, had authored two bills requesting $8,000 as well as a bill to add the word “graduate” to graduate student IDs.

Elliott said graduate students make up about 20 percent of the student body, but only have two seats in SGA. Elliott said splitting would require a referendum to the student body, which he said GSC is nervous about because they are so outnumbered by undergraduate students.

“They feel as though SGA has a culture that discourages graduate students to join,” Elliott said. “They have two options: they can either try to change the culture, or they can go forward with the referendum. I will assist them with either.”

Cheun, who also serves as vice president of programming and outreach for GSC, said graduate students make up 18 percent of the national student population, but hold 40 percent of the national student debt.

“There’s a dire need for graduate education in this country,” she said. “There’s no advocacy right now.”

One had its dollar value reduced, but both funding bills passed. The ID change did not pass. Elliott said he has not decided whether or not to veto either funding bill.

All three bills were hotly debated. The first allocated $3,000 to support events for National Graduate Student Appreciation Week, though this was knocked down to $2,786. It was knocked down further to $1,001 at one point, but Elliott encouraged the senate not to pass the amendment, saying if the body was going to support it, they should support it with a more significant amount.

“If it’s going to be that little, just kill it and I’ll give it to them,” he said.

Cheun said SGA would be the only body that has pledged funding at this point, as University Program Council, the Alumni Association and the career center all declined, and the Non-Traditional Student Center dropped its funding a week before last year’s event.

Cheun said the GSC also needs the money partially because it is hosting UNT Days, which will train students to advocate to legislators in preparation for a trip to Austin, which the event also includes. The second funding bill, which passed at a $5,000 value, was meant to fund this event.

Senator Robert Ashford was concerned about sending a unified front to Austin, as SGA also regularly goes to Austin to advocate for universities.

“Sending down two student bodies, graduate and undergraduate, makes us seem silo-ed,” he said.

In between was discussion over whether or not graduate students should be designated as such on their IDs. Cheun said this would help designate graduate students as separate, though she did not provide specific examples of when they need to be separated that aren’t already solved by swiping student IDs. This discussion became particularly heated.

Elliott said the candidates for the student House of Representatives, totaling 64, are in. The House will be split into 10 segments of four representatives each, with each segment corresponding with a division of student groups on campus, such as Greek Life or religious student groups. Four of the segments will be fully represented, while two of them currently have no candidates. The election process will begin over the next two weeks.

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