Frustrated by what it sees as a pattern of the UMass administration acting on matters that have significant effects on graduate students without first eliciting graduate student input, the Graduate Student Senate sent a clear message to Vice Chancellor Jean Kim and Executive Director of Residential Life Eddie Hull. By an 11 to 0 count, with two senators abstaining, the GSS voted “no confidence” in the two individuals ultimately responsible for graduate student housing on the UMass campus at its April 19 meeting.
The vote comes in the wake of recent announcements by the office of residential life, directed by Hull and overseen by Kim, that Lincoln apartments be transitioned to undergraduate student housing from its current role as graduate student housing; that families will be transitioned out of Lincoln by the end of the 2012-13 academic year and that those families who stay until that time will face a projected 5 to 9 percent increase in rent; that graduate student families will be prioritized on the waiting list for North Village I for 2012/2013 but that spaces will not be guaranteed; that per unit rental prices for one and two bedroom apartments will increase by a projected 110-120 percent; that per unit rental prices for studio apartments will increase by a projected 38 to 45 percent; and that Cashin will no longer house graduate students, effective at the end of this academic year.
In response to the original announcement of these changes, the GSS sent a list of five recommendations to Chancellor Robert Holub and Kim earlier in April. Those recommendations were:
1) That the proposed residential policy be suspended immediately until a committee with graduate student representatives be formed to review the changes and make recommendations;
2) That graduate students be appointed by GSS to sit on this committee with full voting rights;
3) That the committee research how current housing policies affect graduate students both now and in the future;
4) That the committee investigate the current management of North Village and the new policy concerning the management of Lincoln;
5) That all future grad student-housing decisions involve grad students via GSS appointment.
While Kim agreed to include graduate student participation in the future, she said the administration would not reconsider the current policy that will see grad student housing fees increase as outlined above. The GSS felt that these changes to graduate student housing were made without graduate student input, and that the Wellman document dictates that the UMass administration include student input in all decisions that have a direct effect on students. Because Kim and Hull refused to reconsider their new policy, the GSS elected to vote “no confidence” in them as they are failing to fulfill their duties and responsibilities as outlined in this document.