UT Graduate Student Assembly votes for Student Government to cease representation of graduate students

Kaushiki Roy, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the November 19 flipbook. 

Members of the UT Graduate Student Assembly will ask Student Government to cede authority over graduate students stating they do not feel well represented. 

Once GSA delivers the resolution, which it approved Wednesday, SG leadership could vote to cede its authority over graduate students. GSA vice president Alex Sexton said the Senate of College Councils would still represent GSA. 

If successfully separated, SG would no longer advocate for graduate students, and Sexton said because there are only three graduate student representatives out of 35 in the Student Government Assembly, little action is taken to benefit graduate students.

“This is a non-binding resolution; it doesn’t actually change anything,” Sexton said. “Student Government continuing to represent graduate students is inappropriate because it provides almost no … programming to graduate students.”

Sexton said he spoke with current SG leadership about more equal representation, but did not receive a satisfactory response. SG did not immediately respond to a request for comment before publication.

“There is a stigma attached to being a graduate student going to SG,” Sexton said. “It is very awkward to (ask for help) in a room full of undergraduates.”

Sexton said graduate students have different sets of problems that a majority-undergraduate assembly cannot represent properly, and it feels uncomfortable for them to approach SG with their issues such as difficulties with child care and graduate housing.

Graduate student Maile Marriott said it makes sense to disassociate GSA from SG.

“I think the Student Government and GSA should work together,” Marriott said. “But they serve two very different student groups and I don’t feel like it’s been promoted that Student Government represents graduate student interests well.”

Marriott said she had trouble with the current UT child care policy earlier this semester, and felt SG could not provide the support she needed. 

“I just went through my own issue where I needed help and the thought of going to the Student Government didn’t even cross my mind because I knew they probably couldn’t help me,” Marriott said.

It does not make sense for graduate students to fall under SG when there is a separation between the undergraduate school and graduate school even at the administration level, Marriott said.

GSA’s McCombs representative, Tushmit Hasan, said in an email that this conversation needed to happen among members of GSA, so graduate students could find proper representation at the University.  

“It’s important to get a sense of the level of awareness and interest among graduate students regarding the representation they do have,” said graduate student Hasan. “For example, do we know how many graduate students participate in campuswide elections?”

Sexton said the resolution would not greatly impact graduate students as there was minimum representation to begin with.