With the Student Association pondering whether to separate graduate students from undergraduates, many SA members are optimistic that the split will leave both constituencies stronger.
“It will form a more perfect SA,” said Jesse Strauss, SA executive vice president. “It has been functioning intermittently well for the last 20 years. We’re trying to create a system that is trying to make it more efficient.”
But with the SA referendum going to student voters in a month, most students outside the Marvin Center’s fourth floor are unfamiliar with the complexities of the change, and how it will impact student activism on campus.
With the Senate expected to approve the initiative next week, supporters are likely to begin campaigning for the split. But because a full student body vote is required, they will need to sell fourth floor outsiders on the merits of two student governments.
“I don’t really care,” junior Gregory Vinogradov said. “I don’t think it affects me that much. I don’t see what problems they’re having, so the split to me doesn’t mean anything.”
Freshman Andrew Holland said he sees the split as a waste of time and believes the SA is using the issue to solve a problem that could be resolved in a much simpler manner.
“It sounds like it doesn’t need to be split,” Holland said. “It’s a really big process to go through when what they really need to do is just listen to their constituents more and work together. It’s like Congress – if they’d just listen to what people want them to do, their jobs would be so much easier.”
Other students, however, said they view the split as a positive change.
“It sounds like a good idea,” said freshman Caroline Blake. “They have two different goals and it’s hard to come up with common ground. The SA would probably be more productive if they split.”
Many graduate students feel the split will give them a stronger voice in an organization in which there consistently has been a lack of voices on graduate issues. Graduate Senate seats have been vacant each year and the organization has struggled to find students to serve as vice president for graduate affairs.
“To think graduate students will want to put in the time required to administer a central student government is more hope than reality,” said Scott Mory, Student Bar Association president, who served in the SA as an undergraduate.
He said he feels all students should be represented by one group.
“The University administration is not afraid to pit one student leadership group against another,” Mory said. “The more students can speak with one voice, the stronger that voice can be.”
Mory said he supports a plan similar to a proposal to use some Program Board funds to bring student leaders of each graduate school together.
Undergraduate Sen. Jared Hosid (CSAS), a co-sponsor of the legislation that urges the vote, said he believes students will see many benefits to a divided SA once they understand the difference the split will make.
“Most students aren’t aware of the problems because it’s very much an internal thing,” Hosid said. “The main problem with the SA has been a lack of responsiveness and that is due to a lot of bickering between grads and undergrads. Once all of the dust settles, I think undergrads will notice more responses to their needs.”
Freshman Sen. Beth Lester said she also feels a split will make the Senate more accountable to its constituents.
“The more you break up the system, the easier it is to deal with deeper issues,” Lester said. “Sometimes grad students and undergrad students don’t support each other’s bills because they don’t understand them.”
Hosid said he envisions a more responsive and centralized undergraduate Student Association, but he believes the graduate students will benefit by creating a decentralized student government.
“(The graduate student’s) government will have less influence, which is what they want,” Hosid said.
“The grads want a small, simple government, which works more efficiently,” graduate Sen. Emily Cummins (CSAS) said. “Grad students don’t have the kind of disagreements that the undergrads are having. Undergrads debate for four hours and then come to a decision. We just want to make that decision. This will serve the grads better, and I can’t think of any drawbacks.”