The Graduate Student Senate voted unanimously to express its concern over the high cost of mandatory fees during its meeting on Tuesday morning. Graduate Student Body President Anthony Baldridge authored the resolution, which will be submitted to the Institute’s administration and the Board of Regents.
The resolution states that the fees cost graduate students over two months of their typical research stipends and that Tech ranks sixth among its peer institutions for the total cost of mandatory fees. The Senators identified the Academic Excellence Fee as a point of contention, saying that “concern is explicitly raised over the Academic Excellence Fee due to a lack of transparent purpose and student input and the inability to discuss its imposition upon the graduate student body.”
The Senate said that the high cost of fees has an adverse effect on the recruitment and retention of graduate students. While Senators recognized that fees are necessary for the operation of certain campus services, they asked the administration to review the way fees are determined and charged to students.
Senate Secretary James Black submitted the resolution and an accompanying letter from Graduate SGA’s executive board to Tech’s administration and the Board of Regents. The letter, signed by each executive officer including Baldridge, laid out some specific suggestions for improvement and further developed the points raised in the resolution.
“Fees, as a single topic, represent one of the most significant issues that affect the entire graduate population,” the letter said. Addressing the Academic Excellence Fee specifically, the executive board asks that Tech’s administration and the Board of Regents to “address the possibility of the inclusion of the Academic Excellence Fee into tuition.”
“[Fees represent] a true financial burden to graduate students, as well as undergraduates, for that matter. Many graduates are self-reliant and rely solely on their stipends as their only source of income, which raises my concern that these high fees are putting a heavy financial burden upon the entire graduate student body that might be a different situation compared to undergraduate students,” Baldridge said in an email.
Undergraduate SGA, however, does not wish to join in this effort to revise the fee structure.
“The Graduate Student Senate certainly has the right to express themselves and what they feel is the best interest of their constituents,” said Undergraduate Student Body President Corey Boone. “I have always said to the Board of Regents that the mandatory Student Excellence Fee is cumbersome on everyone, and it should be repealed immediately. But I don’t think joining in with the graduates would achieve anything in the sense that the role of the undergraduate is different than that of the graduate.”
Saying that graduates and undergraduates are distinct because graduates are paid for their research and undergraduates pay to learn at Tech, Boone said that the undergraduates have been raising concerns about fees to the administration and the BoR in a different manner.
In response to the resolution and letter, Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson sympathized with the graduates’ efforts and said he was committed to working on the issue.
“Our guiding principles are to ensure transparency and accountability for the spending of these student fees, including the Academic Excellence Fee; and to ensure that the fringe benefits for graduate students, which currently include $100 in the fall and spring semesters, are appropriately administered,” Peterson said in an email statement referring to health and similar benefits.
The Board of Regents will discuss fees during its April meeting. “The Board of Regents appreciates the input of the Georgia Tech Graduate SGA on this important issue,” said John Millsaps, Associate Vice Chancellor of Media & Publications for the Board of Regents in an email statement.
“The [Academic Excellence Fee] is currently scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2012.”
The Undergraduate House of Representatives waived Joint Finance Committee Policy and voted 47-1-0 to allocate $1072 to Women’s Awareness Month. The organization originally requested $5453, but JFC recommended cutting 85 percent of that amount. JFC Chair Brad Bauerkemper defended the cuts during debate by saying that too much money in the original bill would go towards decorations. JFC recommended allocating only $50 towards that purpose. After amending the bill according to JFC’s recommendations, representatives noticed that $231 in funds for candles used for the Take Back the Night event had been cut because JFC ruled that they were decorations. Take Back the Night is a candlelit vigil which raises awareness of sexual assault against women. Representatives voted to waive policy and to resinstate funding.