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GSC General Council Meeting Minutes

These are the official minutes of the Graduate Student Council General Council meeting held on Oct. 2, 2002.

GSC President Sanith Wijesinghe called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2 2002, in Room 50-220, GSC Office, Walker Memorial Building. Vice President John Lock invited the new as well as continuing representatives of the Council.

Roles of representatives

The role of a representative was explained to the Council. Representatives liaise between the Council and their respective living group or department and bring issues faced by graduate students in their constituencies to the attention of the MIT administration. As a GSC representative, one has the unique opportunity to meet and interact with key MIT decision makers, attend all-expense paid conferences and retreats and have direct access to GSC funds to organize events and socials.

The minimum obligation in being a representative is to attend General Council Meetings, which are held on the first Wednesday of every month. In case the person cannot make it to the meeting, he/she can send a proxy by informing the Vice President through e-mail at . Representatives who miss two meetings in a row and who fail to inform the Vice President about their inability to attend the meeting or sending a proxy will be deemed inactive and their positions will open up for replacement.

A representative retreat is being planned for Nov. 22 to 24. E-mail announcements of the retreat containing further details will be sent in the coming weeks.

As clearly indicated in the Roadmap for representatives, the new representatives are urged to meet with the graduate administrators of their respective departments to know the current needs and concerns of their departments. The representatives should address these issues in the discussions on enhancing graduate education experiences, which will take place during the Representative Retreat.

At-large positions designated

In addition to departmental and living group representatives, the five at-large positions are open for representation on the Council. The positions were open for discussion and debate by the Council. Thirty-two members were present at the meeting, satisfying the quorum requirement, so the positions were voted on by the members present. After a 2/3 majority vote, the following five at-large positions were identified by the Council: minority student groups, women, graduate student Families and parents, the Warehouse, and Sidney-Pacific Residence Hall.

A Research Expo, first ever of its kind, is being planned for the early spring by the Vice President. The Research Expo aims to address a vision that has been shared by the School of Engineering, Sloan, and student leaders for a number of years a conference-style venue for exhibiting the research that happens behind closed laboratory doors at MIT every day. The first meeting to discuss the expo will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the GSC Office, 50-220 on Oct. 9, 2002. For details on the expo, please e-mail .

Cost of living survey

Wijesinghe provided an update on advocacy efforts on various fronts. The GSC, in collaboration with the Provost’s office, is working on a survey to gauge cost of living pressures for graduate students. The goals of the survey are: catalog distribution of student costs, restructure on-campus rents, determine cost/service requirements of a dental plan, and examine issues related to graduate students with families. The survey is scheduled to run from mid-October through November. The GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee has framed the questions for the survey. The survey can be accessed at the spotlight on the GSC Web page, .

The Council voted on whether GSC should support the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students in lobbying for exemption of tax on stipends. Prior to 1986, both graduate student tuition and stipends were tax-free. Currently only tuition is tax-free. Exemption on taxes on stipend corresponds to a saving of $1,000 per year. Wijesinghe said that students from across the nation are planning to lobby congress on Oct. 9 to 12 to reverse the current tax code to pre-1986 wording.

The floor opened to debate on whether GSC should support the lobbying efforts, and if so, whether it should send a representative to Washington D.C. to participate in the efforts. By a majority of 2 votes (15-13, with everyone else abstaining), the Council voted against lobbying for the tax exemption.

Options for dental plan

The GSC is working on other advocacy agendas, like a viable Dental Plan for graduate students. Dean Ike Colbert and the GSC Executive Committee have approached MIT Medical for possible solutions. The plan proposed by MIT Medical costs $240 and includes two cleanings per year, x-rays, drillings, and fillings, and will most likely be mandatory. This cost could be reduced to the $100-$150 range with Institute subsidies.

Residents of Cambridge also know of a possible solution in a dental plan offered at Boston University, which costs around $120 and provides greater coverage. The GSC is trying to explore all possible options and determine the break-even point between costs and coverage. MIT Medical still has not returned with a cheaper alternative.

The MIT Capital Campaign has reached its target of $1.5 billion. Totals have not been reached, however for student life initiatives and graduate fellowships. The GSC has spoken to the Alumni Fund Board to start on an initiative to generate creative ideas for fundraising that will attract more graduate student alumni participation. Money raised from these efforts can help complement the student life and fellowship fund categories.

The concept of a graduate class gift has also been raised and requires further discussion. Furthermore, the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee is working to revise rents for on-campus residences to ensure a more equitable rent structure that accounts for amenities and also matches the supply and demand.

Committee Updates were presented at the end of the meeting.

The schedule of upcoming GSC committee meetings is now available online on the GSC calendar, posted at .

The next GSC General Council Meeting will be held on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2002. GSC General Council Meetings and GSC committee meetings are open to all graduate students.

To be informed about Institute wide issues pertaining to graduate students subscribe to our general e-mail list, gsc-anno. Twice a week and only twice a week, events, meetings, and activities are announced on this list. Instructions on how to subscribe to the list are available at <http://web.mit.edu/gsc/www/Contact/email.html> or can be requested through e-mail to . Posting to gsc-anno is open only to GSC officers and committee chairs. Any requests for postings on this list should be addressed to .

These minutes were compiled by Vijay Shilpiekandula.