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Thursday, August 11, 2022
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GSA Threatens Withdrawal From Sub-Board I


At Tuesday's meeting of Sub-Board I's Board of Directors, Janine Santiago, president of the Graduate Student Association, submitted a letter threatening that the student government would withdraw from the corporation unless issues concerning representation on the board and monetary contributions were addressed.

In her letter, Santiago stated that the election of three undergraduate students to executive board positions "in addition to four pre-existing Board member positions" gives the undergraduate constituency "an overwhelming influence on the policies and governance of the corporation."

Currently, the Sub-Board I Board of Directors consists of 14 members-six from SA, three from GSA, and one each from Millard Fillmore College, the Medical Polity, Dental Student Association, Student Bar and Graduate Management Association.

In addition, Santiago stated that "many of the services provided by Sub-Board have little use or appeal to graduate students, including Generation Magazine, WRUB and the Ticket Office" and that "most graduate students are unaware these services are available to them."

After reading her letter, Santiago left the meeting, saying she would discuss her concerns after the board produced a response in writing. The Spectrum was unable to locate Santiago for further comment or clarification.

In response to Santiago's letter, the Board decided to compile a report addressing GSA's concerns, as well as to form a committee to review Sub-Board I's bylaws, which have not been amended in 10 years.

"It would be a travesty to grad students if GSA pulls out," said Christian Oliver, president of the undergraduate Student Association. "Furthermore, as an outgoing officer, it's irresponsible for her to take these action at this point."

According to William Hooley, executive director of Sub-Board, graduate students frequently utilize services provided by Sub-Board. He distributed a report indicating that GSA used Group Legal Services provided by Sub-Board 49 times the previous year. In addition, 130 graduate students visited the counseling center and a total of 306 graduate students utilized the Anti-Rape Task Force walk and van services during the 2001-02 year.

Since GSA pays $80,000 in fees to Sub-Board I, Hooley said GSA has "incredible buying power."

"There is no way you could buy the services we offer that cost us $2.5 million . for $80,000. If they wanted to go off and provide the services on their own it would be almost impossible, because it's a shared expense among all seven student governments," he said.

The Sub-Board fees collected from student governments are based on total student enrollment. For the 2002-03 academic year, SA is paying $16.75 per full-time student plus $1.15 per part-time student, GSA is paying $6.25 per full-time student and the remaining student governments pay $2.50 per full-time graduate student.

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This adds up to $495,000 for SA, $80,000 for GSA, $6,000 for Millard Filmore College, $2,775 for Medical Polity, $1,627 for Dental SA, $3,484 for Student Bar and $3,300 for GMA. Since SA's contribution to the budget is 83.5 percent of the total, compared to GSA's contribution of 13.5 percent, Oliver believes the system favors GSA because SA is given only 42 percent of Sub-Board I representation, while GSA is represented by 21.4 percent.

"(The GSA raises) a very interesting point," said Oliver. "In fact, the current system employed by Sub-Board I bylaws is not equitable. It is clearly favorable to grad students and extremely unfavorable to undergraduates, as far as representation is concerned."

According to Santiago's letter, GSA Vice President Miguel Chacon requested, via e-mail, a "more detailed account regarding services to GSA students" and that Sub-Board I Treasurer Michael Goggin responded "detailed budgetary reports are not done by the corporation."

"The Graduate Student Association contributed $76,212.00 into services, and if Sub-Board is unable to account for these monies to a contributing member, the accounting structure must be changed," she stated in her letter.

Sub-Board I President Erik Lars-Hansen said he received an e-mail from Chacon two days before the July 3 Board of Directors meeting, requesting "transparencies and graphs on every budget line," and forwarded the e-mail to Goggin. The request, said Goggin, "was not feasible in that amount of time" because there are 2,500 lines of expenses in the Sub-Board I budget, most of which is used for "every day operations" such as office supplies, postage and telephone usage.

"To come out with a written justification for every one of 2,500 lines is absurd," said Goggin.

Oliver agreed, saying the budget report is "very comprehensive," consisting of expenses from the previous year, current year and the proposed year," and that it's "very, very obvious by reading the lines what (the money) was used for."

"It's a really cut-and-dry process that anybody with the least bit Sub-Board I knowledge would pick up on," said Oliver.

Regarding representation, Santiago said GSA was "uncomfortable with the process of election of the 2002-2003 Sub-Board I Inc. officers," citing that members were not given notice of the candidates and that one of the candidates elected, Sub-Board I Vice President Laszlo Kerekgyarto, had "not attended a board meeting prior to his election to an officer position."

Oliver said the meeting in which was Kerekgyarto was elected was, indeed, his first meeting. However, Oliver said Kerekgyarto could not have been elected solely by SA representatives on the board, so non-undergraduate students must have felt he was qualified for the position.

"I'm confident that the findings of our responses will not only demonstrate that GSA is getting many times the value for their dollar compared to undergraduate students, but they have many times the representation on the board," said Oliver.

Santiago also addressed problems with governance on the part of Sub-Board, stating there is a "haphazard schedule for board meetings," agendas are not "published and disputed prior the meeting," and minutes for two previous meetings have not been distributed and are of inferior quality.

"My personal advice to you guys, as a board, is let GSA go," said Joshua Korman, former SA vice president and Sub-Board I officer, present at the meeting as a guest. "Figure out a way to keep going, with an invitation that should they have new leadership in the future that wants to come back in.they're certainly welcome to come and be considered."

Goggin disagreed, saying that such an action would be a "huge disservice to all graduate students."

"My big concern is that a rash decision might be made by the e-board of GSA that would adversely affect the thousands of constituents they're supposed to represent," said Goggin.

Hooley said the best course of action would be to "show Janine that her constituency uses the services."

"I don't see the big deal with coming up with a comprehensive review on who uses what," he said.

Oliver, conversely, said that if the graduate students aren't paying for the services, it's not the responsibility of the other student governments to "cover the weight of the grads."

"If (GSA chooses) not to be a part of Sub-Board I, then we have to take every action possible to prevent grad students from using it, because that's using other student governments' mandatory student activity fees," he said.

In addition, if GSA were to pull out of Sub-Board I, the student government would no longer be considered accounting clients to Sub-Board I. Hooley said he heard GSA was planning to obtain accounting services through the Faculty Student Association. Since FSA does not have a system in place to accommodate GSA's accounting needs, however, it would end up costing the organization $26,000 or more to set up the system, Hooley said.

When student governments pay their fees to Sub-Board I, they are paying for seats on the board of directors, usage of services and access to services, whether the services are ever utilized.

"It's like having an insurance policy," said Hooley. "You buy it, you might not use it, but it's important to have.if I'm a graduate student, and I want to go to the pharmacy, by virtue of the fact that my government paid $80,000 means I can go to the pharmacy if I want to."




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