Graduate students look to band together


Graduate students at the University of Missouri during a 2015 protest where students supported the unionization route. (Photo courtesy of The Maneater)

Graduate students are taking the first steps in forming a student association that would hear grievances, complaints and demands from the graduate student body and take them up with the university.

The group would be similar to how the Student Government Association (SGA) represents the student body and lobbies the university about their concerns. While SGA does represent graduate students too, this new organization would be specific to their needs and concerns.

Right now, there are individual graduate student associations for individual programs, but some colleges don’t have one. The goal organizers have to create a universal group that reaches across departmental lines.

Bilgesu Sisman, a philosophy Ph.D. candidate, expressed her concern that the university is not going to be welcoming of the idea of graduate students banding together.

Among their most pressing concerns is how the university does not provide health insurance to Ph.D. students, who teach as many as 160 students per quarter. They are submitting a petition to the university with 500 signatures in support of university-funded healthcare for Ph.D. students on Monday, Jan. 29.

“They’re not going to like it, and they shouldn’t,” Sisman said. “We don’t get fair treatment as workers. The Pope said that health care should be a human right, so what’s happening here?

The group of students are working to draft bylaws and a constitution to have submitted to the university for approval.

Lorena Griffin, a human-computer interaction student, said one of her concerns is access to Loop buildings on weekends. Between graduate classes and work, some of the only time she can get work done is on the weekends, and DePaul buildings in the Loop sometimes don’t open until 12 p.m.

“Going to Lincoln Park just to use the library when you’re a CDM student is very inconvenient,” Griffin said. “It’s gross, you can’t work in the Loop on weekends.”

Sup Suh, another human-computer interaction student, took issue with the lax grading policies for graduate programs in general. Suh argues that there needs to be a standardization for group project grading.

“Grading is just too easy,” Suh said. “Everyone gets an A.”

Another concern for Suh was how the university doesn’t offer enough major courses for graduate students in the summer session. Summer sessions provide critical catch-up time for graduate students because of their busy schedules with school and work during the regular school year.

The group has proposed going farther than just raising complaints to the university. Suh brought up the suggestion that they could start initiatives to help with job placement and hold networking events.

Suh and Griffin are both students in the same program and entered at similar times, yet had never met each other prior to the GSA’s first meeting. This prompted discussion of whether or not there are sufficient intradepartmental communication channels for these highly-specialized students to connect with one another.