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Agenda March 8, 1999

Graduate & Professional Student Assembly Council of Representatives
March 8th, 1999
Big Red Barn Graduate & Professional Student Center Greenhouse
5:00 P.M.

I. Call to Order

The meeting was called to order by Stefan Hames, GPSA Vice President, at 5:03 p.m..

II. Open Forum

Heinrich Hock, City & Regional Planning, informed members that a proposal has been made by CIT, which is considering closing the Tjaden computer lab. H.Hock read the following statement to the assembled members:

Our student organization, the Organization of Cornell Planners recently heard from our department chair (Prof. John Forester) that, at the behest of the Art Department, Cornell Information Technologies (CIT) has proposed to consolidate the Tjaden Hall CIT computer lab with the Uris Hall facility. We strongly oppose this decision. As graduate students in City and Regional Planning, we truly value the Tjaden Hall lab as an important academic resource, but this is not the sole basis of our objection.

Tjaden Computer Lab is the only open-access Lab serving the north end of the Arts and Sciences Quad. It is an important resource not only for the 750 students in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, but is also used by students from other departments located on this and other nearby areas of campus.

Given the increasing reliance on computers in all classes at Cornell University, we believe it is important that the university and CIT continue to provide computer labs that are easily accessible, and that provide a working environment that facilitates productivity.

CIT would like to maintain a presence at the North end of the Arts Quad; as noted above, it is the Department of Art that initiated this proposal. The rationale behind this request is that the Art Department is feeling pinched for classroom space. We feel that, although this is a legitimate concern, every department on campus is constrained in the same way. We are concerned with what the effects of this self-interested behavior will be on the student community at large. We are also concerned with the precedent that this might set. If Tjaden is allowed to be closed, this might be used as a basis for other departments on campus, feeling a space crunch, to reclaim space in their respective buildings.

Consolidating the labs that are conveniently located throughout campus into fewer, larger facilities would result in lost time for students as they must travel greater distances to these labs. Additionally, large facilities utilized simultaneously by a greater number of students would result in a noisier, more hectic working environment, which would hinder the productivity of the lab users.

It is vital that all areas of the Cornell campus have sufficient access to computing facilities. Allowing computer labs such as that in Tjaden Hall to be closed represents a deterioration in the quality of academic services necessary to the Cornell community.

These conglomerations of services would also serve to reinforce the disparity in resources between departments. Those departments with their own resources could retain supplemental computing facilities for their students, but would not be obligated to dedicate space to public computer labs. But, students undertaking study in fields that are not as well endowed will have no recourse but to utilize these large, and likely inconvenient, computing clearinghouses.

Our student organization felt it essential that our department have a large student voice behind it when negotiating with CIT. So, we have drafted a statement detailing these issues and objections, which is being signed by students in City and Regional Planning, and by those affiliated with our program.

However, it is unclear what our department can accomplish alone, with respect to these large-scale computing policies. Therefore, we ask the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly to take the matter under consideration. We would like GPSA to support our resolution against the closing of Tjaden Lab. We would also like to establish whether there is currently any graduate presence in the university computer policy decision making process.

John Schwarz, GPSA President, responded that he is very concerned with the possibility that Tjaden might close its computer lab, since it serves that section of campus. He asked how close the lab is to being closed.

H.Hock stated that currently this is only a proposal, but it is seriously being considered by CIT.

Bonnie Bailey, Office of the Assemblies, stated that the Student Assembly has a Committee on Information Technologies (SA-CIT) that has been fairly active this year. However, she was not sure if the GPSA has specific representation seated on this committee.

S.Hames asked about the timeline for this proposal.

H.Hock reiterated that the closing of Tjaden lab is still only a proposal. He noted that for a short term goal, he would like for the GPSA to pass a resolution against the proposal. However, for the long term, he would like the GPSA to find a way to have a voice in this sort of decision.

S.Hames requested that the statement be posted to gpsa-l so it is possible to discuss this issue at the 03/29/99 GPSA meeting.

Deidra Dees, GPSA Secretary, remarked that, based on the information provided, the GPSA will probably be in support of a resolution. She added that she has argued that the computer labs are already inconvenient because of their limited hours.

J.Schwarz requested that H.Hock keep the GPSA updated on this topic by posting any new information to gpsa-l.

Lynette Millett, Computer Science, expressed that she has a couple of general questions. The first is regarding policies at the University libraries. She stated there are quarterly collections of periodicals located in the libraries. However, one can only check out these collections for twenty-four hours, regardless of how old they may be. L.Millett asked who the appropriate person to contact about this issue would be.

B.Bailey stated that the individual libraries determine their own circulation policy with regards to special collections. Therefore, it would be best to directly contact the library in question.

L.Millett stated that her second question is regarding parking permits. She asked why it was not possible to pay for the permits in installments, when it is possible to do so for health insurance.

S.Hames replied that this issue has come up before. It was explained to him that the computers at the Department of Transportation cannot access the ones at Payroll in order to make the necessary deductions. Therefore, Transportation does not have the technology available in order to allow for installment payments. He noted that Project 2000 may correct this problem.

Patrick Carr, Geological Sciences, announced that the preliminary results for the Student-elected Trustee election are in. The preliminary winner is David Mahon.

S.Hames stated that both candidates of the graduate and professional student community did rather well. However, it is hard for a graduate or professional student to actually win the election because undergraduates vastly outnumber graduate students.

III. Announcements and Reports

A) TCAT Service Concerns

S.Hames reported he had received several e-mails about the problems with the transportation services provided by TCAT. For example, bus routes going to the mall have been noted for leaving students waiting at the bus stops due to overcrowding on the bus. He noted that TCAT is currently in the process of improving its services in August of 1999. He stated that TCAT appears to be paying attention to the concerns the GPSA has brought to them.

B) Student Health Insurance

J.Schwarz stated that Walter Cohen, Dean of the Graduate School, had proposed using part of the annual stipend increase to pay for health insurance. This proposal would only affect graduate students with assistantships. He stated that other schools offering health insurance in their assistantship packages are being examined. J.Schwarz noted that this is a very complicated issue, and it is only at the beginning stage in a long process.

S.Hames noted that while Dean Cohen is on sabbitic, Christine Ranney, Acting Dean of the Graduate School, is moving ahead with the issue.

C) General Committee of the Graduate School

S.Hames announced this topic will not be covered because the GPSA representatives appointed to the General Committee are not present at the COR meeting.

D) Communication with Cornell University Administration

J.Schwarz stated the GPSA has been trying to establish a more formal procedure for the GPSA to be the voice for graduate and professional students. He noted the GPSA has been bypassed by administration on issues that affect many graduate students. Therefore, the GPSA would like to formally state that items affecting graduate students be brought to the attention of the GPSA. He noted that the issue of how far the GPSA’s reach should extend still needs to be addressed.

S.Hames added that there is a general perception amongst the leadership of the University Assemblies that the administration does not inform them of important decisions soon enough. Therefore, the Assemblies do not have enough time to react and to consult their constituents on such issues. This is the reason why a GPSA Charter amendment has been proposed.

J.Schwarz stated that the GPSA has generally had good communication with the Graduate School. He noted that the SA, however, has had problems with central administration. For example, SA members attempting to attend a meeting regarding Slope Day were reportedly barred from the meeting. J.Schwarz stated if this is true, he believes such behavior to be offensive.

Tanya Sokolsky, Genetics, remarked that she does not believe proper consultation was done of graduate students in regards to the decision made about the Division of Biological Sciences.

Amy Carroll, Microbiology, stated that her field was informed about this decision. She stated that she believes only fields that would be drastically affected were consulted.

S.Hames disagreed, noting that his field, Ecology, was reformed into a separate department that is one of the largest on campus. He said that members of his field are very concerned with the issue of teacher assistantships. S.Hames agreed with T.Sokolsky, that consultation on this topic was done poorly, and the GPSA needs to be informed early about these issues.

J.Schwarz agreed that the consultation in regards to the Division of Biological Sciences should have reached more students in a more timely manner.

S.Hames stated that the Faculty Senate has changed their charter to state that if a committee deals with faculty issues, then the Faculty Senate has the right to appoint at least half of the faculty members of that committee.

J.Schwarz stated that the GPSA also wants to be able to control who is appointed to committees. In addition, he would like the administration to give the Assemblies a briefing on important issues so they can decide whether it concerns them, instead of the administration deciding whether an issue should concern a constituent Assembly.

S.Hames stated there will be a meeting with administration at which a letter addressing these concerns will be presented. He stated Charter changes regarding improving communication will be voted on will be brought to the 03/29/99 GPSA meeting for a vote.

L.Millett stated that the GPSA should ensure that communication goes down to student organizations and individual students, as well as up to the administration.

S.Hames agreed, noting that was why he asked whether every field had its own listserv at the COR meeting at the beginning of the year. Because these listservs exist, it is enables members to pass information out to their constituents.

L.Millett added that the GPSA should also limit its scope. For example, issues that only affect engineering students do not need to involve the GPSA and may be more appropriately handled by the engineering student organization.

S.Hames concurred.

E) West Campus Planning

P.Carr reported that when the decision was made by President Rawlings to move all freshmen to North Campus, an issue regarding what should be done with West Campus arose because its facilities are not attractive to upperclassmen. P.Carr has been serving on the West Campus Planning Committee. One decision made is that West Campus should move to a residential college system. It is planned to house approximately 2,000 students. There would be a faculty head for each residential college, and there will be about six colleges. The committee is currently considering using graduate students as RA’s for this project. P.Carr stated that compensation will probably be similar to that of undergraduate RA’s, who receive free room and board, along with a stipend.

A.Carroll commented that this would be more attractive to graduate students if they receive their own facilities, such as a separate kitchen.

S.Hames asked why the committee targeted graduate students to be the RA’s?

P.Carr responded that the philosophy behind this decision is that the committee would like to have the RA’s be a social and intellectual role model for the students in the residential colleges. Consequently, it was suggested that graduate students fill this position.

Members noted that it may be useful for this committee to look at the Graduate Community Assistants (GCA) model currently in use on campus.

A.Carroll stated there were graduate students working in her dormitory as “Assistants to the Director of the Dorm”. She commented that this title sounds better than that of RA and the committee might think about naming this position differently.

P.Carr stated that the title has yet to be decided, but agreed with the suggestion.

J.Schwarz asked if graduate students would have a junior role in advising at these residential colleges.

P.Carr stated that this topic is complex because not all of the colleges at the University use the same advising system.

Members inquired if it would be possible to hold this position of RA, and also be a TA at the same time.

S.Hames stated that it is possible now to hold more than one position, but special permission is needed. He noted this new position will probably follow the same rules.

IV. Business of the Day

A) GPSA News

J.Schwarz stated there were various items that the GPSA will be dealing with that he would like COR members to know about. At the end of the month, new COR members must be selected. He stated he would like to hold an open forum for new COR members soon, and he will send information about specific details of this meeting by e-mail. He felt this should be useful for anyone who will be serving on the COR next year. J.Schwarz added that in May there will be a faculty retreat that will discuss graduate education. He noted it would not discuss the professional schools. The GPSA has been invited to help plan this event. J.Schwarz asked that members inform him if they are interested in this event.

J.Schwarz noted than in addition to these two items, there are two administrative positions that need to be filled. The first is the position of Placement Director for Graduate Students. This position was created last year and recently the director left the University. Therefore, the administration in currently in the process of hiring a replacement. The other position to be filled is for a new manager of the Big Red Barn because Victoria Blodgett is leaving Cornell. J.Schwarz noted that he and S.Hames were invited to take part in the selection process. He requested that members inform him if they are interested in taking part in this process.

B) Resolution Thanking Dean Hilary Ford

S.Hames declared that he would like to formally thank Hilary Ford, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, for all the aid she has given to the GPSA. He noted that unfortunately, there were not enough GPSA members present at the meeting to vote on this resolution.2

B.Bailey offered to send out an e-mail vote to each of the GPSA members.

Her offer was accepted.

C) Proposed Changes to the GPSA Charter

S.Hames stated that these proposed Charter changes are suggested in order to address the problem of communication with the administration. In addition, language has been proposed to incorporate into the Charter the changes regarding the process of setting the Student Activity Fee that the Board of Trustees has suggested. S.Hames announced the proposed language would be posted to the GPSA website by the end of the week. GPSA members should be prepared to vote on this issue at the 03/29/99 GPSA meeting.

D) GPSA Representative for Agriculture and Life Sciences

S.Hames stated this position is currently open because Linda Yannone is currently on leave. He noted that an e-mail vote was sent to the COR members of Agriculture and Life Sciences(Biological Sciences) asking them to caucus to select a GPSA member.

B.Bailey stated that she had received replies to this e-mail with one member saying he would be interested in becoming the GPSA member and positive e-mails in support of this.

S.Hames stated that Christophe Darnault, ABEN, would complete the rest of the term as the GPSA member to Agriculture and Life Sciences. He added that the UA seat that was held by L.Yannone also needs to be filled.

J.Schwarz explained that there are three representatives appointed to the UA by the GPSA. He stated that any graduate or professional student can fill this position, but it would be better for a COR or GPSA member to fill the seat.

S.Hames noted there are only three UA meetings left this year.

T.Sokolsky, Genetics, volunteered for this position.

Members voted by acclamation to have T.Sokolsky serve on the UA for the rest of this term.

V. Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned by S.Hames at 5:59 PM.