Letter to the Editor
Recently The Daily Wildcat reported on a proposal brought before the Associated Students of the University of Arizona by the Graduate and Professional Student Council, in which the GPSC requested that ASUA accept what 99 percent of graduate and professional students believe: that GPSC is the most qualified campus organization to advocate on behalf of graduate and professional students. This proposal does not seek to diminish the role of ASUA on campus. In fact, the proposal seeks to strengthen both organizations to advocate on behalf of and provide services for the entire UA student population.
Recent letters to the editor, columns and comments treat GPSC’s proposal as an attack and have thus caused negative reactions. Unfortunately, these immediate gut reactions get in the way of seeking an understanding of the root source of graduate and professional students’ desire to be recognized as the group that represents graduate and professional students.
Simple recognition of the differences between undergraduate and graduate and professional students helps to clarify why a graduate or professional student may not feel represented by ASUA, which has been comprised solely of undergraduate students for the last 22 years.
The average undergraduate student is 21 years old, whereas the average graduate student is 31 and the average professional student is 26. Many (although certainly not all) undergraduate students remain dependent upon their parents/guardians for financial support and health care; graduate and professional students usually support themselves and foot the bill for their own health care costs, often with partners and dependents to support as well.
Professional students often pay for their education through large loans adding to their undergraduate loans. Professional students, like graduate students, no longer qualify for subsidized loans so that the same loan now costs more.
Graduate and professional students not only complete upper-division coursework within their programs, but also conduct and publish research that benefits the university and advances the body of knowledge in their respective fields, teach undergraduate student courses, serve as administrators in the admissions and student affairs offices and work as clinicians while on rotations.
As lecturers, instructors, and staff members, graduate and professional students are part of the working architecture of the university that supports undergraduates and graduate and professional students alike.
In outlining important distinctions, it is also crucial to consider the differences between the two student government bodies themselves. ASUA consists of ten senators (all undergraduates), an elected (undergraduate) president, and two (undergraduate) vice presidents. GPSC consists of more than 30 (graduate and professional) representatives, an elected (graduate) president and an elected (graduate) vice president. It would seem completely natural to acknowledge that GPSC, comprised completely of graduate and professional students, best represents a constituency of graduate and professional students just as it would seem completely natural to acknowledge that ASUA, comprised completely of undergraduate students, best represents a constituency of undergraduate students.
What is perplexing is that ASUA has remained silent and hasn’t yet acknowledged that 8,800 graduate and professional students benefit daily from GPSC advocacy. By remaining silent about the concerns of 22 percent of the UA’s student body that are not undergraduates, ASUA is not taking the opportunity to partner with the group who represents graduate and professional students. You know, partner with teachers, lab leaders, and mentors. ASUA should consider GPSC’s request to acknowledge a distinction between these two important governing bodies, so that ASUA and GPSC may work together in a true partnership to support the needs of all University of Arizona students.
– Iman Daryaei, Kristen Coan and Alan Thomas Kohler contributed to this article. Daryaei is the vice president for GPSC. Coan is a GPSC representative from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Kohler is the Marketing and Communications Director for GPSC.