Graduate students will now have a graduate student body president to represent their interests within the Student Senate chambers, following the approval of the full Senate body on Wednesday, April 3.
The graduate student body vice president will take over the role previously held by the Student Senate graduate affairs director. This change in title mainly serves to clarify the responsibilities of this position, according to the bill.
“We will have that person, basically, at an equal of the student body president, and we’re able to then bring up issue and concerns of graduate students directly to the source,” said Brittney Oleniacz, a graduate student senator who co-authored the bill to create the position.
Many other colleges similar to the University have a comparable position or a separate graduate student government, so the change in title makes it easier to collaborate with other student governments on national issues relevant to graduate students, Oleniacz said.
“It’s basically to let other universities know where we stand, that we also support graduate students, and that our voice is being heard within the University,” said Jessy Ayestas, a graduate student senator who co-authored the bill.
The graduate student body vice president will be appointed by the Graduate Student Advisory Board — unlike the graduate affairs director, who was hired by the student body president. The vice president chosen by GSAB will be subject to approval from the student body president and Student Senate, similar to the process of hiring with other positions.
“The student body president may not know what graduate students need from our champion, from our representative, and having GSAB essentially vote and nominate the person to then be appointed by the president is huge,” Oleniacz said.
Oleniacz said the appointment process by GSAB is temporary. The goal is to move toward a general election among graduate students, but the ongoing changes happening within the Office of Graduate Studies and the University make it easier to appoint a candidate for the time being.
“We’re undergoing a lot of change,” Oleniacz said. “Until the dust settles, the board will be nominating this person.”
Oleniacz and Student Body President Noah Ries both said this change will help bring in better candidates, since GSAB is more familiar with applicants than the undergraduate student body president.
“[GSAB has] really overhauled it this year in a way they’ve never seen before, in a way that’s going to provide continuity and representation across the board,” Ries said. “Really, when I look at this bill, the only change I see is that graduate students are electing their champion.”
Oleniacz said these bills codify the improvements made this year within Senate to better represent graduate students.
“Sometimes, things are mixed up in translation, and graduate students have commonly been forgotten about,” Oleniacz said. “This position ensures that graduate students are still at the forefront of people’s minds.”