Looking ahead to plans, policy changes

Being the incoming President of the Graduate Student Body, I would like to take a few moments to discuss some of the topics and issues that my administration will be setting out to work on. These topics in no way represent an exclusive list, but are meant to convey the greater tasks and ideas.

As those of you who hold GRA/GTA positions know, the Board of Regents requires all GRA/GTA students to maintain a health insurance policy, either your own or the one chosen by the Board of Regents. The past two administrations have made great strides in securing the option for Tech to choose a customized heath insurance plan that best fits the needs of Tech’s students. I can happily say that after years of work, this process is in the endgame. Upon assuming office, I will make the successful completion of this process a top priority, and will begin the process of coordinating with the administration so that the important information of the new policy can be effectively conveyed to the student body and a system is developed through which questions about the new policy can be addressed.

Fees remain a greatly discussed topic among graduate students, especially since the increase of the Academic Excellence Fee by the Board of Regents last year to $550 per semester. In all but name, this fee resembles that of tuition, as the fee money is purely fungible. Through continued dialogue with Tech’s administration, an understanding on the impact of the high level of fees on those receiving GRA/GTA stipends has been conveyed.

However, much work remains in lobbying the BoR. Together with Tech’s administrators, I will continue to advocate to the BoR the importance of merging the Academic Excellence Fee into our tuition where it belongs so as to reduce the burden on Tech’s grad students.

Typically, issues and concerns facing students in the University System of Georgia are conveyed through a combination of the administrations of the respective schools and the Student Advisory Council to the BoR, with the mandate of this advisory council being to provide a form of communication and recommendation between the students of the USG and the BoR (among others). However, the inherent problem with this council is that, with about two exceptions, all 35 sitting members are Undergraduate Student Body Presidents of the respective schools that comprise the USG. As graduate students, we were all undergraduates once, and with our transition into our graduate studies, almost all of us can definitively state that the needs and views of the average graduate student are different than that of the average undergraduate student. With this being said, I will commit to conveying to the BoR and the Chancellor of the USG that the graduate experience is different than that of the undergraduate one, and advocate for the creation of a analogous Advisory Council, but one comprised of exclusively the Graduate Student Body Presidents of the respective schools of the USG.

As it stands, Tech is highly regarded as a top-tier research and educational institute. Everyday, students on campus perform amazing research. Although media such as the Daily Digest inform the campus of this work, the Daily Digest does not promote an open collaborative environment for the exchange of ideas across Tech’s schools and departments. A speaker series would enable students conducting the highest-quality research to share their work with the entire graduate student community, potentially allowing for the creation of new collaborations and projects. Further, an effort will be made to develop this speaker series in partnership with other Atlanta research institutions, such as Emory and Georgia State University, in order to increase the breadth of studies represented.

In the coming months, I look forward to engaging in conversation with my fellow graduate students so as to gather the collective thoughts of Tech’s graduate students. And to present these thoughts as one voice to Tech’s administrators, such that they may better understand our views and needs.