The Graduate Student Council (GSC) passed a bill urging Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) to take further action to address a persistent rat infestation, discussed approving funding for The Stanford Daily and held a moment of silence to recognize the recent death of a graduate student on campus. In a closed-door portion of the meeting, the Council performed a review of its finances.
Five graduate student residents of Escondido Village Building 70 and their families have been affected by a rat and rat mite infestation that resulted in bites, rashes and hospital visits. Despite multiple visits from pest control, the infestation has persisted for more than six months.
The Council suspended normal procedure to pass a bill urging R&DE to take further action, without considering it on prior notice. The bill was co-authored by Councillor and Latin American history Ph.D. candidate Mateo Carrillo, who lives in Building 70.
“The pest infestation and bites have persisted for months to the detriment of student-workers, their families, and their wellbeing,” the bill reads.
The bill also urges R&DE “to address the pest issue in Building 70 swiftly and comprehensively” through use of air quality tests and regular pest inspections and to be “more transparent and collective in their communications with graduate students when health and safety is at risk.”
According to Carrillo and fifth-year music and neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Irán Román, another Building 70 resident, R&DE displayed a detrimental lack of transparency in acknowledging the problem. Carrillo described the conditions as “slum-like.”
“People were affected, grad families were affected, children were affected,” Carrillo said. “And it didn’t have to happen if they were just told what was going on next door to them for months.”
“It went on far too long,” he added. “There was no real excuse.”
In an earlier communication, an R&DE spokesperson told The Daily that “Student Housing is committed to quickly resolving this problem and to mitigating, as much as possible, the inconvenience to residents.”
The bill was passed by the GSC after co-chair Amy Tarangelo moved to suspend rules requiring bills to be on prior notice before a vote.
During open session, the GSC discussed The Daily’s request to receive annual grant funding from the Council despite missing the deadline for portions of the application. The Daily’s financial officer, Kaitlyn Albertoli ’19, did not submit necessary documentation for the funding request, nor did she attend the required office hours.
Biophysics Ph.D. candidate and GSC funding committee co-chair Melanie Malinas and ASSU Special Projects and Governance Manager Luka Fatuesi ’17 discussed the situation with The Daily’s executive editor, Anna-Sofia Lesiv ’20.
On Tuesday night, the Undergraduate Senate voted 6-5 to reconsider the funding status of the Daily, MINT Magazine and the Arab Students Association, which also did not complete the application in time. Shortly before the vote, ASSU Financial Officer LoMo Phillips ’18 said that “to preserve the financial integrity” of the ASSU, recommendations made by the appropriations committee to allocate funds for these organizations would be reduced by 50 percent.
At Wednesday’s GSC meeting, Fatuesi elaborated on Phillips’ position, saying that she believes that granting any kind of exemption would be “fundamentally unfair” to student groups who submitted all pieces of their application on time. In Phillips’ view, he added, The Daily does not require additional financial assistance.
“She strongly recommends that the Graduate Student Council would not grant this exception,” he said.
Malinas also expressed hesitancy.
“[The Daily] missed the deadline; they didn’t submit what they needed to submit,” Malinas said. “I briefly looked at the funding documents, and they’re just a bunch of invoices; it’s not very organized.”
“I personally, I’m kind of reluctant to grant them the exception, especially given that Luka said they don’t really need the money,” she added.
In response, Lesiv told councillors that she and Editor in Chief Claire Wang ’20 “decided that it was appropriate to go to ASSU and ask for an exception given that we believe that these were somewhat extenuating circumstances under which this occurred.”
If The Daily does not receive the $100,000 it has requested from ASSU, Lesiv said, the organization will not be able to continue printing newspapers. Annual grant money is used solely to pay the costs of The Daily’s five broadsheet newspapers per week and twice-quarterly magazine.
Discussion was cut short by the scheduled end of the Council’s session. Tarangelo said 30 minutes would be put aside for discussion of this issue at the Council’s next meeting.
Graduate student death
The council observed a moment of silence for the death of a male engineering graduate student and researcher, who was found in the Paul G. Allen building on Monday. The death is believed to be a suicide, according to multiple people who work in the building and are familiar with Monday’s events.
In an emotional address to the Council, Ana Tarano B.S. ’13 M.S. ’15, Diversity & Advocacy Committee (DAC) co-chair and aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. candidate, expressed her grief and encouraged councilmembers to support each other and take advantage of mental health resources.
“This is a good time to lean into each other and ask for help,” Tarano told councillors. “Be there for yourself and for other people.”
Tarano said she had reached out to the Engineering School’s Office of Student Affairs to learn about its efforts to support students, and that she would send an email to graduate students about resources available to support them.
Gabby Badica, GSC social chair and a Ph.D candidate in the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, encouraged students to take advantage of mental health resources.
Graduate students can access 24/7 support from the Graduate Life Office by dialing (650) 723-8222 and entering 25085. All students can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Stanford’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (650) 498-2336.
Other Council proceedings
In chair updates, Tarangelo discussed an upcoming meeting between her, Ding and R&DE in hopes of finding a “potential solution to the high-performance dining issue.” She also announced that working groups on mental health and affordability had been formed.
She and Ding had also written a letter to R&DE Executive Director Eric Montell to “express [their] disappointment” that graduate students were excluded from R&DE’s Chinese New Year celebration.
In social updates, Badica discussed the Stanford Chinese New Year Gala, an event held on Feb. 3 that she hailed as “friggin’ awesome.” She also discussed plans for upcoming events including a Valentine’s Day party, an informational session on how to find off-campus housing and the Grad Formal.
The Council approved funding requests from the Colombian Student Association, Scandinavians at Stanford, the Hindu Students Association, GradQ, the Black Engineering Graduate Student Association, the Stanford Black Bioscience Organization and Cardinal West Coast Swing.
The Council also approved the listing of annual grant funding requests passed by the Undergraduate Senate on the ASSU General Election ballot.
This article has been updated to clarify the timing of R&DE’s statement to The Daily.
Contact Charlie Curnin at ccurnin ‘at’ stanford.edu.