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New Leaders of GSC Look to Increase Involvement

By Jennifer Chung
NEWS EDITOR

The Graduate Student Council elected Luis A. Ortiz G president Wednesday at its April elections meeting.

Ortiz will begin his term May 6. Serving under him will be Vice-president-elect Hettithanthrige S. Wijesinghe G and Treasurer-elect Sumit Gautam G. The position of secretary remains unfilled and nominations will be accepted until a follow-up election at the next GSC’s next monthly meeting.

“I can’t say enough about Luis; he’s great,” said Brian J. Schneider G, outgoing GSC president. “Luis is very well-connected and respected... with the MIT administration,” and he will further the goals of the GSC, Schneider said.

Ortiz attended MIT as an undergraduate. He has had experience serving as a graduate student member on many Institute committees, including the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning. In 1998, he received the William L. Stewart, Jr. award. The award recognizes “outstanding contributions by an individual student or student organization to extracurricular activities and events.”

GSC to develop advocacy agenda

The GSC currently has two tasks ahead of it -- internal housekeeping and determining and implementing an advocacy agenda, Ortiz said.

“What’s missing in the councillors is the chance for reflection and documenting reflections,” he said.

The advocacy agenda would address four specific issues: administrative centralization, benefits (such as reasonably-priced health and dental insurance for graduate students), housing, and activity funding, Ortiz said in his candidate statement.

By administrative centralization, Ortiz refers to better facilitating and centralizing issues including “gender and race sensitive admissions, support structures and/or standards for advising, and career guidance and professional development,” the statement reads.

Ortiz compared the internal housekeeping and external advocacy agenda to the separation between domestic and foreign policy in the federal government. Internally, Ortiz would like to see more student involvement in the GSC. Externally, the GSC needs to discuss and implement ideas for change.

“We need better communication and a more trusting relationship between student leaders and the administration,” Ortiz said. Students and the administration “need the opportunity to agree on things, as opposed to just talking when we disagree.”

VP hopes to increase membership

Wijesinghe echoed the need for more graduate student involvement in the GSC, and he described his own goals to increase the ways to get students involved and create ways to compensate for the naturally-steep learning curve which future generations of officers inevitably encounter.

“The focus will be on membership. When [the GSC sees] the administration, [its] credibility is based on graduate student support,” Wijesinghe said. “When we don’t have” the graduate students, the GSC loses support, he said. “We need more active involvement and participation.”

Wijesinghe wants “to set up a strategic plan,” specifically addressing the issue that “every administration says” that there isn’t enough involvement by students. “Hopefully, we will see a method, report on its success, and improve on it for next year.”

Wijesinghe described the vice-president’s role as one which has historically dealt with membership, including recruitment of council representatives from living groups, labs, and departments, and placement of graduate student representatives to Institute committees.

Ortiz to use existing channels

Along that vein, Ortiz plans to look at existing channels for graduate student representation within the Institute. Ortiz cited that his own department, Materials Science and Engineering, contains a committee which sets educational policy for graduate students, including everything from admissions policy to degree requirements and social activities.

“There has been a growth in the number of representatives [to the GSC] over the past three years,” Ortiz also said. “Now that the GSC [has] the bodies, we need a way to put them to use and find out what they want to be doing.”