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Graduate Student Council does represent students' opinions (1)

Carolyn D. Ruppel G badly misrepresents the positions and activities of the Graduate Student Council ["GSC not representative," Nov. 2]. However, her claims that the GSC is a vehicle for the political agendas of a few people are patently untrue. The GSC represents MIT's large and diverse graduate student population.

The GSC Council consists of representatives from 20 departments and programs, and five living groups. New members bring a petition signed by members of their constituency -- elections occur if there are more people than spaces allocated. The council elects the officers of the GSC from the graduate student community in the spring.

The GSC also has five standing committees and many subcommittees that deal with issues relevant to graduate students. They meet regularly and are generally responsible for the GSC-sponsored proposals and resolutions. We do not aim simply for majority support in these meetings, but rather a consensus where everyone gains some benefit. The structure of these committees is open -- any graduate student can participate. The GSC posters on our bulletin board, and sends paper and e-mail to people encouraging them to attend meetings.

The GSC continues to address important, recurring issues. In my meeting earlier this year with President Charles M. Vest, we spoke about the issues of housing, the high cost of living, tuition policy, health insurance, medical services, underfunding of graduate student activities, and the GSC need for more funding and support staff.

Committees have fought for more graduate student housing, studied the issues of sexual and religious harassment, and organized trips to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Governance per se is not a burning issue for graduates, but it is one that must be addressed because the structure of the Institute makes problem-solving difficult. Our Academic Projects and Policy Committee is now looking at the governance of the Institute as well as the nationwide unionization movement of research associates and teaching associates for better salaries, benefits, and working conditions.

And the GSC has taken on new issues not by changing its focus, but by broadening it. We have done more in the first two months of this semester than in any past semester.

Full council meetings never provide enough time for extensive discussion and rewriting of proposals formulated in committee. Thus, resolutions have been passed often unanimously, including ones opposing the increased cost of health insurance and protesting the post-facto changing of grades of some Course 3 graduate students.

Any member of the council may propose a resolution, and this is what happened with the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcohol Rehabilitation (CASPAR) homeless shelter issue. Ruppel is probably correct when she writes that CASPAR was apparently not an issue of burning interest, but when it was proposed, it seemed straightforward to the membership to support it.

The resolution on the nominations process is something on which we had been working for two years. In the past two years the council has passed resolutions protesting incidents involving the Ad Hoc Committee on Military Impact on Campus Research and the Independent Activities Period Policy Committee, and has struggled to enforce requirements that student members of committees report to the council. The hasty request for representatives for the demonstrations committee forced the GSC to address the nominations process.

In a preliminary action there was broad support for four common-sense points: The GSC must have the ability to replace negligent representatives to insure proper communication with the council; we must be able to select representatives whom we believe will properly perform their duties; all committees must write reports jointly and include dissenting views when they exist; and the administration must communicate with the Undergraduate Association and the GSC during the process of committee formation.

The GSC and the UA support these positions solidly; the administration has expressed support for the last two points; and there are certainly faculty members and administrators who support the first two. The reason our efforts have in Ruppel's words "borne fruit" is because we have made simple, sensible requests that have broad support.

I am encouraged by my meetings with Vest and Provost Mark S. Wrighton. I also do not see all disagreements as "confrontations." One should also remember that it is not the faculty or the administration who grants us the privilege of our positions. It is the graduate students. The GSC is committed to improving the position of and environment for the graduate students at MIT as well as making the institute a better place. This is sometimes a difficult and political issue.

Michael Grossberg G->


Graduate Student Council->