GPSC members discuss future of graduate students, USG allegations

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Marnie Leonard

Members of the Graduate and Professional Student Council on Tuesday held their regularly scheduled meeting to discuss goals and issues facing undergraduate and graduate students.

Outside of event funding proposals, the council covered allegations against their sister government and how graduate students can withstand the current Illinois financial climate and university budget cuts.

Investigation into allegations of misconduct 


Leaders from registered student organizations submitted a petition of 522 student signatures at Tuesday’s meeting, asking GPSC to investigate allegations of misconduct on part of the Undergraduate Student Government’s executive board.

The council had at an earlier meeting voted to form an investigatory committee pending a petition after hearing some of the accusations, which ranged from procedural errors to outright violations of the governing body’s constitution.

GPSC member Clay Awsumb will chair the investigatory committee, which will include one other GPSC representative and possibly undergraduate students at-large, GPSC president Brandon Woudenberg said.

Woudenberg said he hopes to have vice chancellor of student affairs Lori Stettler and USG advisor Tena Bennett sit on the committee so they will have the authority to take any action they see fit following the investigation.

It’s important to ensure that USG is representing undergraduate students well because the two student governments work together on a host of issues, Woudenberg said.

“In acting with them, we’re speaking with the whole voice of the student body,” he said.

Academic prioritization


Other business included an update on the program prioritization committee.

This joint task-force — formed by interim provost Susan Ford and composed of graduate students and members of the Faculty Senate — came up with metrics to evaluate each degree program at the university to aid budget cut decisions.

Johnathan Flowers, GPSC’s vice president for graduate school affairs, said the final decision regarding the metrics will be made at the next graduate council meeting. But the guidelines are problematic, Flowers said, because many graduate students have reported their input was not considered when they were designed.

This means the metrics may not be fully representative of a program or department’s importance to graduate students, Flowers said.

Woudenberg said these metrics are important because the chancellor’s planning and budgetary advisory committee will soon use them to help identify where cuts can be made.

If this budgetary committee doesn’t propose any plans to interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, he will act of his own volition, Woudenberg said. These budget cuts would then include only administrative input, he said.

Flowers said he will compile the complaints he received regarding lack of graduate student input in the metric designs into a report that he will give to Ford to make her aware of the students’ dissatisfaction.

Although the academic prioritization committee’s metrics aren’t ideal, it would be better to use them in budgetary decisions than to only have administrative input, Flowers said.

“It’s bad, but it’s better than nothing,” he said.

Concerns over graduate assistantships

One of the chief concerns voiced by council members was the drop in graduate student enrollment and the loss in assistantships.

The number of graduate students enrolled at SIU has decreased by 431 students from 2015, according to maintained by the university.

The data also shows that assistantships are down by 265 positions from Spring 2016 to Fall 2016.

The chancellor announced his goal to raise graduate enrollment by 10 percent during his State of the University address in September, but Flowers said this is not a feasible goal.

Colwell also said in this address that enrollment can be increased by getting students to pay their tuition for more in-demand programs, but Flowers said this is unlikely to replace assistantships as a recruitment tool.

With graduate school administration anticipating further decreases in enrollment, Flowers said many students have stopped seeing SIU as a viable option for pursuing graduate degrees.

Woudenberg urged members of the council to write letters to administrators about their experiences with assistantships to advocate the importance of these positions.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Student Center.

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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