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GSC Elects New Officers For Next Academic Year

By Michael J. Ring


The Graduate Student Council elected Dilan A. Seneviratne, a second year PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, as its new president for the 2001-2002 academic year at a meeting on Wednesday.

Seneviratne will be joined by incoming vice-president Manish Jethwa, a third-year PhD student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, newly-elected secretary Ronak J. Bhatt, a third-year PhD student in physics, and treasurer-elect Jimmy Z. Zhang, a first-year MBA student in the Sloan School of Management.

Seneviratne discusses goals

Seneviratne, who served as chair of the GSC Academics, Research, and Careers Committee this year, defeated Sloan student Nicholas C. Smirnoff for the presidency.

The GSC president-elect said he will focus on living expenses, improving graduate students’ quality of life, and upgrading support services for graduate students. “There are quite a number of issues to be addressed this year, and the GSC has to keep the pressure on,” Seneviratne said.

Seneviratne, while pleased with recent increases in graduate stipends, said further increases are necessary and should be a continued priority for the GSC. Additionally, the president-elect said he would like to obtain dental coverage for graduate students and ensure that the new graduate dormitories are affordable for graduate students.

Seneviratne also said he would work for increased interaction between students, faculty, and alumni, and he called for an increase in funding for graduate student activities. “The Institute gave the GSC $56,000 this year, compared to $192,000 for the undergraduates,” he said. “We need to get the Institute to buy into the idea of giving more money to graduate students.”

Finally, Seneviratne said he would focus on improving career services for graduate students and support programs for international students.

Jethwa, the vice-president-elect, was co-chair of the GSC’s Activities Committee this past year. He defeated Zhang for the office. Zhang later successfully ran for treasurer against EECS graduate student Erik R. Deutsch.

Jethwa said that as vice-president he would “encourage more representation from different departments.” Additionally, Jethwa proposed a “graduate research expo” at which graduate students could learn about each other’s research. Jethwa added that he hoped such an event would help match new graduate students with advisers.

Bhatt, the newly-elected secretary, described three functions that he said should be fulfilled by the secretary. Bhatt said the secretary should “act as a liaison with the rest of the MIT community,” including the undergraduates and faculty. He further said the secretary should “act as a liaison between graduate students and the rest of the world,” including the press and government agencies. Finally, Bhatt said that the GSC secretary should “facilitate communication within the GSC.”

Zhang said he would improve links between Sloan MBA students and the rest of the graduate student community. Zhang, who holds a PhD in biomedical sciences, stressed the importance of career skills. “It’s not only important for students to get a good life [at MIT], but also the skills to survive after leaving MIT,” said the treasurer-elect. Zhang said closer ties with Sloan could help provide those links.

Outgoing GSC President Soulaymane Kachani praised the incoming officers. “I think they are bringing in different perspectives,” Kachani said. “The four officers are great.”

Kachani said that Seneviratne has extensive experience interacting with the administration, Jethwa communicates well with students, Bhatt is suited to working with publications, and Zhang brings business experience to the council.

Balloting at the election was open to current GSC officers and committee chairs as well as representatives of each department.