Letter to the Editor: GPSC to lead a 'summer of sunlight'

Dear graduate and professional students,

Here are some things to know about the Graduate and Professional Student Council for 2016-2017. First, GPSC is made up of your peers and we have been representing graduate and professional students for 25 years.

Second, you should know that GPSC will have $150,000 fewer travel grant funds and $30,000 fewer research grant funds to offer graduate and professional students. We will likely be able to get half of that money back from rollover funds in our general account, but whatever our final budget will be we will have less money than we had last year. That means that our travel and research grant applications will be more competitive than before.

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Why am I sharing this? Because it is important that the people in an organization that represents you is transparent about its budget.

The Summer of Sunlight is the phrase we are using to describe GPSC’s goals for the summer. We are conducting an internal audit of our budget, and once finished, we will share our budget with you. While everyone says they want transparency, it’s actually a tricky thing to do. Do you want us to share notes from every meeting? Or do you want to get an answer to your question when you ask it? Whatever your definition of transparency is, GPSC representatives will let you know where we stand with our budget and where we stand with GPSC’s goals. If we aren’t transparent enough, ask for more and hold us accountable for providing you answers.

Speaking of goals, GPSC has always advocated on behalf of the graduate and professional students in terms of fees, tuition, childcare, health care and standard of living issues such as compensation rates and workload.
This year, GPSC representatives will extend our advocacy in order to help with the goals of marginalized students. Our goal is to bring more people to the table and to make sure that there is a place to sit and a time to speak for everyone. If you’re invited to the table and not given a chance to speak and eat, it’s not much of an invitation, is it?

This year, GPSC will work with campus partners to address the serious issue of mental health for graduate and professional students. There is ample evidence that graduate studies can worsen mental health. Last year, GPSC found that graduate and professional students sleep less, exercise less and adopt poorer eating habits while pursuing graduate or professional degrees.

Stress and graduate school have likely co-occurred for decades, but version 2.0.1.6 of graduate school means that graduate school equals massive debt that previous generations just didn’t face. At the federal level, graduate students pay a higher interest rate than undergraduate borrowers, even though graduate borrowers are three times less likely to default on their loans. At the state level, graduate and professional students often are afterthoughts to tuition increases.

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This is not a plea for attention. This is a peak into real apprehension. This is a dimension of truth for modern-day graduate and professional students. We hope the leaders of our great institution act on these realities.

Once we have completed our Summer of Sunlight, we will then ask the same of other groups on campus. Why can’t graduate students receive more than $16,000 annually in compensation when the cost to attend the UA is closer to $21,000? Why is it that professional students such as law students and medical students average loan debt is $90,000 and $150,000 respectively? Why can the UA afford an athletics fee, but not afford to support those who contribute resources directly to the institution in the form of loans, teaching, research, administrative and clinical work? We love our sports and competition, and we should support the competition of trying to get the best and the brightest to come to Tucson.

We expect much from ourselves as leaders of GPSC. We expect as much from ourselves as students. We expect as much from campus, state and national leaders. After all, we are in this together, so we need to share in the challenges of being a part of a 21st-century, world-ranked university.


Follow Zachary Brooks on Twitter.



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