GSC frustrated over perceived misuse of expenses survey results

Feb. 7, 2023, 11:51 p.m.

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) raised concerns over the University’s use of the 2022 expenses survey results and revealed an upcoming social event for graduate students during a Tuesday meeting. 

The expenses survey was launched in November 2022 by the University and filled out by both undergraduate and graduate students. According to the Expenses Survey FAQ webpage, The Financial Aid Office and graduate and professional programs used the results of the survey to understand student expenses.

However, the GSC raised concerns that the data from the survey was not being properly used to determine stipends for graduate students. Emily Schell, GSC co-chair and fifth-year developmental and psychological sciences Ph.D. student, said that she and Jason Anderson, GSC co-chair and third-year aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. student, were planning to meet with University administration to talk more about how the expenses survey is being used. However, the lack of communication between the administration with the GSC has left them feeling frustrated that they’re unable to provide feedback and input.

“I’m assuming there’s going to be an explanation for the immense breakdown in communication from the administration on the expenses survey and how they said it was going to be used versus how it actually got used,” Schell said.

The discussion opened up as other GSC councilors echoed the concerns over the usage of the expenses survey. Many of the councilors, including diversity and advocacy chair and third-year education Ph.D. student Kristen Jackson and secretary and third-year chemistry Ph.D. student Elizabeth Park, shared their displeasure with the survey’s lack of transparency. 

Jackson said she was upset that the administration never explicitly said that the data from the survey would be used to help them assess next year’s stipends because the GSC had believed the survey would help benefit current graduate students. She said that she wants an “explicit explanation of why they said they were going to rely on the survey and then didn’t.” 

“They told us this data would be used for stipends while they were making decisions on the stipends without us,” Park said. 

According to Park, the graduate student stipend amount for the next academic year was given to the GSC at the very last moment. The administration announced the stipend award letters for incoming first-year graduate students the day after they sent the GSC the stipend results.

“Outside of just the stipend conversation, they have not reached out for data on any of our other points,” said Councilor Lawrence Berg, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in chemistry, referring to the GSC’s concerns with transportation expenses.

Berg and Park had a previous meeting with Liz Silva, the associate vice provost for graduate education, where they discussed the potential costs of restarting the N and O lines of the Marguerite. Pre-pandemic, the N and O lines would take students to the Cal-Train and would run late at night, allowing them to travel safely.

“It was clear to Liz Park and I yesterday that Liz Silva was mocking up the cost of what the transportation lines would look like on her own, rather than asking the actual manager of the Marguerite to mock it up,” Berg said. Restarting these lines on the Marguerite has been something the GSC has been pushing for since the start of this academic year, but as Berg said, “they haven’t even been doing their own due diligence on our points.” Recently, he said Silva reached out to the manager and admitted that she’s been working on this on her own. 

Prior to the conversation on graduate student expenses and stipends, Leslie Luqueño, GSC co-social chair and third-year sociology of education Ph.D. student, revealed that the GSC Grad Formal, a large social event for graduate students, would take place on May 19 from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Judy N. Liu is a freshman from Fountain Valley, California. She enjoys embroidery, listening to music, and reading as much Agatha Christie and John Steinbeck as she possibly can.

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