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GSS approves new constitution, increases senate tax

The Graduate Student Senate approved a new constitution and an increase in the fee that supports the GSS at its Oct. 18 meeting. Both measures will be passed on to the university’s Board of Trustees, whose approval is necessary. The new constitution would take effect if and when the board approves it; the tax increase would take effect next school year.

To see the preliminary minutes from this meeting, click here.

GSS leadership—President Hongmei Sun, Vice President Garth Schwellenbach and Treasurer Robin Anderson—worked over the summer and earlier this fall with the help of the UMass legal services office to develop a revised constitution that will hopefully receive Board of Trustees approval.

Major changes include limiting senator representation to only academic departments (previously some housing units were eligible for senate representation), allowing for an additional senator for departments of more than 100 students (previously it was 50) and a provision stating that all degree-seeking graduate students will pay the senate tax, with those on curriculum fee paying the whole tax and those on program fee paying only 50 percent of the tax.

The new constitution was approved by a vote of 25 for, 3 against and 2 abstaining.

An increase to the senate tax was also approved by a vote of 17 for, 2 against and 1 abstaining.

Much of the discussion on both items revolved around the need for more revenue and making sure the money is being spent appropriately. The senators from sociology and English both questioned the necessity of printing a paper edition of the Voice newspaper, which costs approximately $3,000 per year. Sun said that a survey done last year indicated that about half the respondents preferred having a hard copy of the Voice in addition to its web presence. (As the editor of the Voice, I feel it would be helpful to have a paper edition for at least this year to help publicize the presence of the web edition and direct people to look there for news about grad student life here at UMass. I agree that once the Voice website is better known, a paper issue will be somewhat redundant.)

Questions were also raised about the need for food at senate meetings. Anderson answered that food was both an enticement and a thank you to folks for taking the time to be involved in the senate.

Another question was exactly what the two paid summer positions at GSS were needed for and if there was some redundancy with GEO summer employment. Sun and Anderson noted that important things often happen that have an effect on grad students over the summer, citing the recent health care changes as an example) and it was also helpful to have that time to prepare for the upcoming school year. This past summer, for example, Sun and Anderson worked on revising the constitution as well as preparing for fall orientations.

In other business, the senate approved an ad hoc funding request from the UMass Free Culture group of $250 for its upcoming conference.

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