Council questions health care

Feb. 25, 2010, 1:00 a.m.

A wide range of issues were brought up at Wednesday’s GSC meeting, including international student health insurance, special fees, the confirmation of the ASSU’s new financial manager, cabinet member salaries and parking.

The issue of upcoming mandatory Cardinal Care participation for international students struck a particularly strong chord with attendees, since much of the graduate student population is international — about one third, according to the Bechtel International Center Web site.

Justin Brown, a fourth-year graduate student in geophysics, announced that he received notice of a possible group to be formed by faculty and students alike to negotiate the change. The group, currently called the Health Insurance Working Group, is expected to convene next week.

“Does this mean that [Vaden] is still open to changing this [policy] for next year?” asked Addy Satija, a third-year graduate student in energy resources engineering.

“I think they’re very receptive to it,” Brown answered.

Some GSC members questioned the validity of insurance plans other than Cardinal Care.

“Vaden should make the criteria about what makes adequate health insurance available,” said co-chair Nanna Notthoff, a second-year graduate student in psychology. “Maybe some plans from certain countries would be okay based on this new set criteria.”

Others brought up the University’s motives behind instating mandatory Cardinal Care for international students.

“Let’s keep in mind that the University did this because of their own financial liability in this case,” said Ryan Peacock, a fourth-year graduate student in chemical engineering. “This was the example that was given last week.”

The council decided to send Satija and Peacock to join the initiative, contribute their ideas and report back.

Issues about the special fees process was also brought up at the meeting. There has been some ambiguity in terms of what the rules, said Brown.

The Senate met over the weekend to interview financial officers for groups hoping to get on the special fees ballot; GSC members said they did not hear about the interviews until Saturday night. The first meeting was Sunday morning at 9 a.m.

“There’s no efficient communication,” Satija said.

GSC members said they would propose a joint bylaw amendment to guarantee representation from both the GSC and Senate at special fees hearings.

The meeting also saw the unanimous confirmation of Raj Bhandari, a first-year graduate student in management science and engineering, as CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) and financial manager of the ASSU. He awaits confirmation by the Undergraduate Senate next week.

Bhandari will be replacing Matt McLaughlin ‘08, who oversaw 50 employees and $13.5 million dollars in SSE assets.

A bylaw overlooked last week was passed unanimously. The bill, which was discussed in previous weeks, revises joint bylaws to change the time period from which students can request special fees from three weeks to two weeks.

Council members brought up concerns about salaries for executive cabinet members, a hotly debated issue in Tuesday’s Senate meeting.

“There is a certain amount of trust that the student body puts into an exec when they elect them,” Satija said. “So it’s up to them how they decide to run the cabinet.”

Others disagreed.

“To be honest, I think we can reduce the amount of cabinet posts,” said Robert Hennessy, a doctoral student in electrical engineering. “It seems to have grown to too many numbers. We can make more focused cabinet posts. We can reduce the number of these positions.”

Currently, cabinet members’ salaries cost the ASSU $20,800.

In defense of the accusations, Gobaud explained that cabinet members do important work and often contribute more time than the salaries compensate.

“Look how much you’re paying the elections commissioners, $1,500 for four days,” Gobaud said. “My chairs are getting a lot less.”

GSC members agreed to disagree about the effectiveness of the current cabinet situation, and plan to discuss the issue more next week.

Notthoff announced a change in parking situation for areas around the graduate community center. In an effort to increase student use of the center, off-campus commuter students may park in nearby, originally residential-only areas from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. as long as they have an A or C permit. The pilot program will run for the next 30 days.

Plans to increase voter turnout were discussed as elections commissioner Quinn Slack ’11 proposed the possibility of providing incentives for grad students to vote. The council ultimately deferred a final decision to Slack.

Jon McNaughtan, a first-year graduate student in education, was sworn in as the School of Education representative.

The GSC passed funding bills for the Romanian Students Association, the Belgian Student Association, Vegetarian Students for Conscious Living and Asha for Education.

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