Representatives on the Graduate Student Council (GSC) voiced their disappointment in Stanford’s delayed decision to hire a third-party mail vendor to deal with postal concerns within Escondido Village Graduate Residences (EVGR) during Wednesday’s meeting.
The councilors’ negative sentiments come after a series of complaints about issues with EVGR mailing addresses. During the 2020 general election, many EVGR residents were unable to register to vote with their EVGR address. In the absence of a functioning address, residents said they have repeatedly found mail and packages stacked by the side and front doors of buildings or abandoned in the building lobby. Nearly five months have passed since more than 500 graduate residents in EVGR collectively petitioned Stanford Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) to freeze rent increases until residents received a fully functioning mailing address. The petition was ultimately unsuccessful in generating a rent freeze.
During the meeting, R&DE representatives informed councilors that they are nearing an agreement with a third-party vendor who would be in charge of taking student mail into designated mail rooms. The change, which is scheduled to take place in late August, would theoretically mean that residents could use a functional mailbox to receive mail and packages. But to some councilors, the change may be too little too late.
“Currently, I use a post office box because I do not trust the situation,” said Jason Anderson, a GSC councilor and second-year aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. student. “So, I now have to pay $80 more for something that’s guaranteed to me by the Constitution of the United States. But, you know, they have their band-aid solution that they pulled together and I guess it’s working for them.”
R&DE representatives said that they are excited about the solution and are preparing for a seamless transition between the current system and the third party. While Anderson said he would be pleased if the University were able to properly execute the solution, he added that each additional day that the mail situation remains unresolved acutely impacts the graduate student community. Graduate students often establish their permanent residences on Stanford’s campus and rely on a fully functioning address to receive paychecks, establish credit and handle items like driver’s licenses, Anderson added.
“From an accountability standpoint, essentially we have nothing,” Anderson said. “And this is a recurring problem with Stanford administration. We don’t have anything because they decided to vend it out to a third party.”
Councilors also struggled to find consensus on which incremental changes the GSC should prioritize in the coming months.
Anderson presented a list of “small fixes to improve graduate student life” for the council to prioritize in the coming months. Some of the objectives have been previously discussed within the GSC, including allowing graduate student workers to access increased retirement benefits through a 403B plan. Others are new to the docket: addressing the University’s unclear billing system and eliminating the charge for electric vehicle charging in Stanford parking lots.
However, some councilors said that the action items on the list should not necessarily be placed at the top of the council’s priorities.
“I’m curious why, rather than focusing specifically on the electric vehicle situation and paying for a parking permit plus paying to charge, which sounds a little bit like what we do for paying for gas, we wouldn’t want to focus the priorities on the students who don’t have vehicles on campus and having more available transportation for them,” said GSC councilor and fourth-year modern thought and literature Ph.D. student Jamie Fine. “I’m thinking about the major issues that are related to students needing to get off campus for mental health care or doctor’s appointments.”
Fine also urged advocacy for free period products in Stanford’s restrooms — an issue that Stanford students have recently pressured the University on. Anderson responded that the different priorities do not have to be mutually exclusive and that he would love for the list to be expanded.
While the GSC will continue to actively pursue progress on longer-term, more substantial objectives, smaller incremental changes are more immediately achievable and can make a quick positive impact on the graduate student life, according to GSC co-chair and fourth-year Ph.D. student in communication Sanna Ali.
“One of our biggest priorities as grad students is that the rent is too high — I think everyone in the Graduate Student Council would agree with that,” Ali said. “But, try as we might, and we’ve continuously brought this up in our meetings with many different administrators, this hasn’t changed. So I think these are kind of like, well, what can we actually accomplish while keeping those bigger priorities in the conversation.”
This article has been corrected to more accurately reflect the GSC’s sentiments toward the current and proposed postal systems. The Daily regrets this error.