Graduate Student Assembly budget questioned by some graduate students

Lizzie Jespersen

Each semester, thousands of dollars are awarded to graduate school organizations and programs through Graduate Student appropriations.  

The assembly is a legislative student organization comprised of representatives from their respective colleges who create legislation, organize workshops and programs and delegate appropriations to within the graduate school. During the 2013-14 fiscal year, $12,000, or 17.4 percent, of the assembly budget is set aside for these appropriations. This is in comparison to the $24,000, or 34.9 percent, reserved for the executive board stipends for the eight directors. 

Dave Player, a law student whose organization — Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law — was denied appropriations by the assembly, cited specific concerns about the percentage of the budget spent on director stipends and student entertainment in comparison to graduate student organization appropriations. In the interest of disclosure, Player is also a member of the Texas Student Media board, which owns and oversees The Daily Texan. 

“My complaint was not with the appropriations process, but with the entire GSA budget,” Player said. “When I looked at their budget and found they were spending thousands of dollars on pizza and a carnival, I was blown away.”

This year’s budget dedicates $8,000 to a Graduate Student Assembly carnival meant to serve as a community-building event for UT students and their families.

The Student Services Budget Committee allocates the assembly’s budget each year. The committee is comprised of University staff and student representatives. 

The money allocated by the committee consists completely of funds collected from student tuition.

While the assembly budget officially sets aside $6,000 a semester for appropriations, financial director Rebecca Thomas explained if appropriations do exceed this amount, the funds are taken from other parts of the budget. This semester, the awarded appropriations exceeded the budget’s specified amount by $2,000.

“I believe [the assembly] places great importance on providing sufficient appropriations for graduate organizations, but while also realizing that [the assembly] stands to provide many other functions as well,” Thomas said.

Assembly President Columbia Mishra said the purpose of the assembly is to protect graduate student interests and to enhance the graduate student experience. 

“These are significant projects and need effort and enthusiasm from the members,” Mishra said. “We are working diligently to increase graduate student involvement and participation so that we can maximize our influence on campus.”

Caroline Stratton, information studies graduate student, agreed that the purpose of a student legislative body such as the Graduate Student Assembly should be to advocate for the general well-being of graduate students. Though, she disagreed that community-building events were the best way to preserve this well-being.

“It seems that by budgeting more money for appropriation to student groups, [The assembly’s] money would be spent more effectively than it would by putting on university-wide events,” Stratton said. “I haven’t attended any of [assembly] community-building events, nor do I know of other students from my organization or school attending these events.”