GSA 2022-2023 PLATFORM
Graduate Student Engagement and Representation
Given the isolation that many graduate students have experienced in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to rebuild a sense of community among one another by reintroducing regular GSA events while being mindful of pandemic-related precautions. Although general assembly meetings will be held in person next year, a hybrid option will be offered each week to respect the various levels of precaution that students feel comfortable adhering to. We intend to further engage graduate students by revitalizing the GSA newsletter and our social media presence so students are aware of the ongoings of the organization. Connecting with the graduate student population in these ways will facilitate open channels of communication, allowing the GSA to become more attuned to the specific needs of the diverse body of students that we represent. In addition, we will ensure that our efforts are complementing those of other student organizations by developing working relationships with other student leaders on campus. The GSA will also continue to have a collaborative relationship with university administrators and leadership, including the President’s Office and the Office of the Dean of Students. Having access to these officials is an invaluable opportunity for advocacy that we intend to utilize to the fullest extent possible. We believe that the collective voices of graduate students have the most impact and that it is critical for us to have a seat at every table. Accordingly, we will facilitate increased graduate student representation on university- wide committees, with a focus on highlighting diverse perspectives in order to best represent the interests of all graduate students.
Graduate Student Labor Conditions
Graduate students, especially graduate student employees (AIs, TAs, and GRAs) face a variety of obstacles to successfully completing their degrees. We will focus on three main areas of difficulty in an effort to ameliorate these challenges. First, we plan to advocate for regular cost-of-living increases to graduate student compensation to help offset the rising cost of living in Austin and keep pace with inflation. Wage increases will make UT Austin more competitive with peer institutions and help with graduate student retention and timely degree progress. Insufficient funding is a quality of life issue for graduate students, but it also has broader ramifications for the UT Austin graduate student body. For example, lack of adequate funding affects graduate student diversity, with graduate students with dependents, international students, and other under-represented groups most affected by inadequate funding. Previous administrations and other student groups on campus have organized around this issue, and we plan to continue pressing for stronger financial support for graduate students. We also plan to advocate for affordable housing for graduate students, by, at minimum, developing more centralized and comprehensive University resources to help graduate students find adequate housing. Finally, we plan to review and revise the graduate student grievance policy. In smaller departments, reporting a grievance against a supervisor may result in various interpersonal difficulties if, for example, a supervisor is also a member of the employee’s thesis review committee. We plan to solicit input from graduate students related to their departments’ grievance policies and to develop a uniform set of recommendations for the Graduate School to implement.
Continuity in GSA Advocacy
Previous GSA administrations have begun a variety of important projects which we plan to continue working toward in the 2022-2023 school year. During the 2021-2022 session, the GSA passed some pieces of legislation related to assisting graduate students with dependents. We will continue to work toward greater support for graduate students with dependents by working with campus and departmental groups to develop a list of issues and recommendations to be passed as future legislation. In addition, we are seeking to establish a scholarship for graduate students with dependents to provide financial support for childcare. We also plan to continue the GSA’s previous commitment to increasing diversity and representation in the graduate student body as a whole, as well as within the GSA. This goal ranges from increasing the number of departments represented in the Assembly to advocating for University policies (like increased funding, increased support for international students, etc.) which will allow departments to
recruit students from a wider variety of backgrounds. Finally, as we transition back to mostly in-person operations, we will work toward greater publicity of resources offered by the GSA itself, such as the GSA travel awards and GSA appropriations to fund events planned by other student organizations.