GSC outlines priorities for healthcare advocacy, criticizes lack of grad student representation in University committees

Nov. 18, 2021, 12:48 a.m.

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) introduced specific priorities to guide advocacy for University healthcare reform and raised concerns about the lack of graduate student representation on University-wide committees during its Wednesday meeting. 

Several councilors said the council’s top priority regarding healthcare reform should be ensuring that every department that funds Ph.D. students also provides them fully subsidized healthcare. Not all departments provide a 100 percent subsidy on healthcare, according to GSC co-chair and fifth-year Ph.D. communication student Sanna Ali. Some departments have even downsized the size of their cohorts to fully cover healthcare for their students.

GSC councilor and fifth-year modern thought and literature Ph.D. student Jamie Fine expressed concerns about creating a list of priorities that would apply to all graduate students. Rather than focus on a 100% subsidy, which is an issue only for Ph.D. students in specific departments, Fine said the GSC should prioritize requesting greater choice regarding graduate students’ healthcare plans. 

“I think the biggest question is, what can they do with our Cardinal Care?” Fine said. “How can they tweak that option to give us more choice?”

Fine called attention to the wide range of graduate student concerns regarding healthcare, which include questions of whether specific types of healthcare providers are available to students and what specifically is being covered by student healthcare plans. Giving students the flexibility to make their own choices, Fine said, would be the best way of addressing these concerns.

Several councilors also pointed out that while most of those on Cardinal Care are fully funded Ph.D. students, the majority of the graduate student population are not Ph.D. students, and that these other students should also be kept in mind as the Council formulates its advocacy plan. Decreasing premium prices was mentioned as one possible way of helping Ph.D. and non-Ph.D. students alike, with multiple councilors noting that high premiums lead to low healthcare participation, which in turn leads to higher premiums.

Ali emphasized the importance of graduate student committees as a way to directly gauge different healthcare needs. Yet Ali and other councilors also pointed out that the lack of graduate student representation on University-wide committees is a serious issue, particularly in the wake of the University’s release of its DEI survey results.

Councilors learned at their meeting that the University’s IDEAL DEI survey committee included just one graduate student, a coterminal student whom councilors felt did not adequately represent the graduate student community. They said that there was a significant difference between the experiences of coterminal and graduate students and that this reflected a bias towards students who had been at Stanford for longer. 

Fine said that the issue of representation in the IDEAL DEI survey committee is indicative of a larger trend at Stanford where graduate students have been generally unwilling to take on committee positions due to time and money constraints.

“These voices are not being heard because they quite frankly do not have the time,” Fine said. “And they don’t have that time because they need to focus on making money and taking care of themselves.”

Haleigh Quinn ’22, a commissioner for the Nominations Commission (NomCom), said the commission labeled coterminal students as graduate students for the purposes of nomination to University committees. Quinn also thanked the GSC for its feedback regarding graduate student representation and added that NomCom had not previously considered the question of whether coterminal students could properly represent the graduate student community.

“The Nominations Commission is not in any way conspiring to keep graduate students off these committees,” Quinn said. “We’re very committed to ensuring that all students are represented.”

Brandon Kim '25 is a Managing Editor for The Grind and a staff writer for News. He is majoring in Philosophy with a minor in Creative Writing. Ask him about baseball, hiking very tall mountains and old-school Korean pop.

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