Program Board leaders agreed this week to give a portion of the group’s funding to graduate students for separate programming.
The deal calls for the majority of the money graduate students contribute to the PB to be put into a Graduate Student Programming Fund. The plan needs approval from PB’s executive board, which is expected to take up the issue at a Nov. 30 meeting.
A new organization of graduate student leaders would oversee the fund, providing programming opportunities for the graduate student community and the individual schools.
“It’s obvious something needs to be done to provide more programming for graduate students,” said Brian Nathanson, PB executive chair. “Part of that is giving them more money.”
He said PB members discussed the issue at Wednesday’s executive board meeting.
“We have concerns about making sure that the money goes toward quality programs,” Nathanson said. “It has to still serve the purpose of providing quality programming for the entire University.”
Under the plan, PB would give $15,000 to graduate students this year. In three years, the fund will encompass all graduate student contributions to the PB minus 15 percent for expenses. Currently, graduate student contributions make up 40 percent of all money received by PB, said Student Bar Association President Scott Mory.
“Basically, there are more than 10,000 graduate students at the University,” Mory said. “All grad leaders felt we weren’t getting our money’s worth through PB.”
Each GW student pays $34.50 per credit hour in University fees, of which 1.6 percent goes to PB, forming its $211,200 budget.
“We have to recognize that graduate students are paying a proportion that gets allocated to the Student Association and PB,” said Mike Gargano, assistant vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. “I think in this case, there’s been a number of years of animosity and anxiety with PB and it came to a head this fall.”
“I think they have legitimate concerns because it has been historical that graduate students have not gotten what they’ve put into PB,” Nathanson said.
Two years ago, graduate student leaders met with PB to argue that the chartered student organization was not providing enough graduate programming. An informal agreement was reached, in which PB said it would focus on creating more programs for graduate students.
“The agreement two years ago was in good faith,” said Emily Cummins, a member of the Columbian School Graduate Coalition, who helped initiate the agreement in January 1997. “The ideas were good, but they weren’t implemented.”
She said the issue came back to life when graduate student organizations raised similar complaints this year at a Student Advisory Council meeting and wanted a formal resolution. She said PB events were not being geared to them and were not being advertised in areas on campus where graduate students gather.
“The money that was informally set aside was never applied toward grad students,” Cummins said. “That was not out of bad spirit, (PB) honestly did not know how to go about it.”
SA President Carrie Potter said graduate student leaders came to her several weeks ago and initiated a conversation about graduate programming.
“We put everything on the table,” Potter said. “We put the numbers on the board. PB obviously wasn’t meeting (graduate students) needs.”
Cummins said the new organization is not separate from PB.
“This is not breaking off,” she said. “We’re keeping the money within PB, but establishing a fund within PB. This way we make sure a minimum of grad events are planned.”
Mory said in a letter to student leaders that the new fund will be run by the Graduate Student Leaders Council, which will have representation from each of the graduate schools as well as the PB, SA and Student Activities Center. The council will work to divide the fund among the schools and provide programming for the graduate population.
“Over time, we will build up our programming,” Mory said. “It gives us a chance to start something, and every year, get a little more support.
“It’s very tailored toward what we want to do,” he said.
He said graduate students are more interested in educational programming, as opposed to the more entertainment-oriented programming PB plans.
“We have to recognize that graduate students want to be with other graduate students, and to assign programming for graduate students would make sense,” Gargano said.
Nathanson said graduate attendance at PB events and meetings has not been good.
“I believe part of it has to do with difference between graduate student life and undergraduate life,” he said. “Grad students don’t necessarily have time to go into an organization that is University-centered.”
Nathanson said he believes giving funds to graduate student leaders will not detract from PB programs.
“I think it might have some impact, but PB is reaching the critical mass to be able to put a large investment into a large act,” Nathanson said. He said he believes a large amount of the loss will be absorbed by future increases to PB’s budget.
“We’ve always been able to work with the SA and PB and participate,” said Mory, who served in the SA as an undergraduate. “Different interests in the University can sit down together and make this work.”
Nathanson said although he was upset that initial conversations with graduate student leaders had a “us versus them” feeling, he is happy with the results.
“I think the situation has worked out as well as one can expect with an issue that has been shoved under the rug for a while,” he said. “I am very sympathetic to graduate students’ concerns.