Graduate Student Council talks looming funding crisis

March 2, 2016, 11:35 p.m.

In a meeting Wednesday night, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) began discussion about asking graduate students to raise their annual activities fee by $12 to $15 a year as compared with the current $72 baseline. The GSC also approved funding requests and engaged in a discussion about retroactive funding.

GSC member Sam Bydlon Ph.D. ’17 told the GSC that the organization is faced with an unsustainable funding situation, as it is currently paying for some of its spending by drawing down its reserves. Bydlon requested an increase of the graduate student fee to fill the gap in future years. Bydlon said that if no action is taken the GSC would in future be unable to fund anything besides student organizations.

The deficit was originally created as part of an effort to reduce the size of the GSC reserve. In previous years, some students were concerned that student fees were going into reserves that would not benefit the students who paid into them. Therefore the current system was designed.

The proposal to ask the graduate student body to raise their annual fees was not voted on this week; it is expected to be an agenda item in next Wednesday’s meeting.

Elections Commissioner Eric Wilson ’16 explained that it will be difficult to secure approval for the proposal if it were to go to the ballot. A majority of voting graduate students would be required to vote ‘yes’ on the proposal, and the sum total of ‘yes’ votes would need to be at least 15 percent of all graduate students.

The fee would raise a sum total of about $120,000 or $130,000, according to Wilson’s estimates. This sum would be sufficient to close the budget deficit in future years.

The GSC members argued over how to take into account the wishes of students who do not use the GSC events. Some members supported the idea of raising the fee while others expressed concern that some graduate students do not patronize events funded by the fee.

GSC member Gabriela Badica pointed out that even if graduate students “wanted to live in a hole,” graduate students still had access to legal aid services.

In other business, the GSC considered amending its bylaws to grant the financial manager more authority over budget modifications of funding granted through the ballot process. The bill would apply to student organizations that receive funding from both the undergraduate and graduate student body. The GSC resolved to consider the proposed amendment to the bylaws in next week’s meeting.

The GSC considered funding requests for the Black Business Students Association and another group for an event they were staging together. The GSC approved funding for event services and alcohol for the event. The GSC also considered a funding request for the Graduate First Generation Low Income Partnership to hold a mixer. The funding request was approved without opposition. The Russian Student Association also requested funding for an event celebrating International Women’s Day. The request was for food, alcohol and event services. The request was approved. The Persian Students Association requested funding for an event that was expected to have 180 graduate students. The funding request was approved unanimously. The Stanford Alpine Project requested funding for their Pi Day celebration, which will involve a pie baking contest. The celebration is set for the March 11 instead of March 14 to make sure it falls on a Friday. The proposal to fund the celebration passed.

The GSC considered retroactively funding an event of the Indian Students Association on the conditions that the group pass down in future years a document explaining the responsibility of a financial officer, provide help this year in publicizing the graduate student elections, and hear out alternatives related to funding.

GSC member Isamar Rosa Ph.D. ’18 raised the concern that this would lead to a slippery slope. Bydlon suggested that other groups seeking similar deals on retroactive funding should reach out to him. The discussion was not an action item and was more of a consideration of a possible deal. One member of the GSC complained that SAL should have done a better job informing the student group of the funding process.

Rosa raised concerns that the group had not raised the request for funding before despite having opportunities to do so.

Eric Wilson ’16, the ASSU Elections Commissioner, said that one of the factors that led to undergraduate funding reform was due to when one of their senates ran out of money in part due to retroactive funding.

Badica said that she supported Bydon’s position.

“We want people to come to us, we don’t want to turn people away,” Badica said.

David Hsu Ph.D. ’17, another GSC member, disagreed.

“If we start doing this, every student group will have an excuse,” Hsu said.

Bydlon disagreed with Hsu.

“I don’t agree that we will have a flood of groups seeking funding,” Bydlon said.

The chair urged the GSC members to end the discussion at the meeting so that representatives of the Indian Student Association could be on hand during the final discussion.

The GSC also took action to combine the budgets of two clinics into Cardinal Free Clinics. The change was already approved by the Undergraduate Senate and was approved unanimously by the GSC.

The GSC also considered the Stanford Concert Network’s quest for funding, which was pitched by its supporter as a way to combat isolation in the graduate community.

“Music is a great way to combat isolation, and we need so much more live music than Frost,” Badica said.

There was a hubbub over the visibility of the Frost festival on the graduate student calendar. It was clarified that this was to ensure graduate students will buy out the discounted tickets the GSC is subsidizing.

The 2016 GSC Frost Bill was passed without opposition.

The GSC also discussed filling the position of deputy funding chair for next year.

The GSC held a straw poll to gauge how many members planned on running for reelection, as there was concern on the part of some members about the impact of turnover on the GSC. At least five members planned to run for reelection.

There was also a discussion of how candidates could appropriately reach out to the community over email about the upcoming elections.

Corrections: A previous version of this article misspelled Gabriella Badica’s name as “Baddica” in two places. Isamar Rosa’s class year was incorrectly stated as ’20 instead of ’18. The Daily regrets these errors.

Contact Caleb Smith at caleb17 ‘at’

Caleb Smith '17 is a Desk Editor from Oakland, California and is majoring in public policy. Outside the Daily, Caleb is Director of news at KZSU Stanford, the campus radio station. Have a tip or suggestion? Please contact him at caleb17 ‘at’

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