Grads to draft bill of rights

Tim McDonnell

The graduate student government began efforts to construct a graduate student bill of rights at its meeting Wednesday night at the urgent behest of the group’s president.

Graduate and Professional Student Council president David Talenfeld, a second-year law student, said that the need for a bill of rights is pressing and should become a primary focus for the group in coming weeks.

“”I think we need to get this done immediately,”” he said.

A bill of rights for graduate students would not be an entirely new concept, said GPSC Representative Jim Collins, a non-degree-seeking graduate student. Former sessions of GPSC have put such bills into place in the past. The matter at hand now, Collins said, is to revive the old document and rework it to meet the current needs of graduate students.

President Robert Shelton has offered an “”unprecedented”” level of support for such a bill, and it is up to GPSC to “”hold his feet to the fire”” on the issue, Talenfeld said.

The council approved a movement to delegate the responsibility of forming a draft to its policy sub-committee, which will have two weeks to do so before presenting the draft to Shelton at a meeting scheduled for Oct. 13.

While it remains unclear what the exact content of the new bill would be, Representative Lucy Blaney, a Spanish and Portuguese doctoral student, said she was uncertain whether Shelton and GPSC were on the same page about the purpose of the bill.

Comments from the president have led some GPSC representatives to believe that his perception of the bill-writing committee is that it will serve more as an information-gathering body rather than a policy-drafting committee.

Collins seconded this suspicion, saying that GPSC’s former draft was informally rejected by university administrators due to legal complications but never returned with comments, leaving the council unable to properly amend the document.

“”Apparently they aren’t willing to have that discussion,”” he said.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senator James Brooks, a pre-business sophomore, attended the GPSC meeting to show support for the “”bridgification”” movement between the two student government organizations. Officials say the bridgification has made slow but steady progress since its inception earlier this semester.

Brooks will attend all future GPSC meetings and said he hopes to address some issues that affect both undergraduate and graduate students.

“”We’re all students,”” he said.

Talenfeld also laid out broader goals for the council this semester, including protecting teaching assistant positions and minimizing further budget cuts. The council addressed the need to establish workload caps for graduate students and agreed to conduct workload surveys to assess the current situation.

To effect both these changes, graduate students will need to work closely with academic administrators, he said.

“”Meet with your deans,”” Talenfeld said. “”That is your homework assignment.””