MCS GSAC Meeting Minutes
October 19, 2004

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October 19, 2004

GSAC Meeting
Tuesday, October 19, 2004

In attendance:

Allison Marciszyn (BSC)
Justin Douglas (CMY)
Violeta Marin (CMY)
Gerard Brunick (MSC)
Abhijit Brahme (PHY)

Gregg Franklin
Katya Malkin

1. Membership
Several members have graduated or will be graduating soon and have left GSAC. We are currently looking for:
  • One new member from Biology
  • One new member from Math
  • Two new members from Physics
  • Two new members from Chemistry
If you know anyone who would be interested, please encourage them to join!

2. Happy Hour
The next Happy Hour is scheduled for Friday, November 5, from 5:00 - 8:00 pm in the Singleton Room. Justin volunteered to get the beer and order pizza. Since he will be leaving GSAC soon, Gerard offered to help out so he will be able to take over this function when Justin leaves. Curtis Meyer from Physics has agreed to serve as the Social Host.

Justin will create a poster/flyer to advertise the event and we will post these around campus. We will also email the students to announce it.

3. Meeting with the Dean
Toward the end of last semester, GSAC decided to schedule another meeting with the Dean to discuss issues of concern. The following issues were brought up as possible topics for the meeting:
  • Health Insurance
    Although it may not be within his power to make changes to policies governing graduate student health insurance, the group thought it was important to raise this issue. The Department of Biological Sciences adds the cost of health insurance to their students' stipends. The additional money covers the cost of the cheapest plan, so if students choose to add a more expensive plan, they have to make up the difference in cost. Apparently, opting out by providing proof of other health insurance is not always an option due to specific requirements such as coverage for mental health.
  • Security in Mellon Institute
    This is an ongoing issue that was discussed at our last meeting with the Dean. Although there have been improvements, outstanding issues include:
    • The security guard is not on duty after 11 pm.
    • The back door phone has been out of order for some time.
    • The new ID cards do not work at the back door (this has been going on since August when the cards were issued).
    • When roads are closed due to construction, it is difficult to determine where the shuttle stop will be.
    Gregg will contact Sharon McCarl regarding the security and back door phone issues.
  • Benchmarking Studies
    There was discussion of whether or not it is feasible to do a benchmarking study to get an idea of how MCS compares to science colleges at other comparable universities in term of issues like health insurance, stipends, and various student fees. To begin a study like this, one representative from each department should check with the person responsible for graduate recruiting in their department. Since graduate programs are typically ranked at the department level, the universities involved will probably differ for each of the four departments. This might prove to be a lot of work and not necessarily useful in negotiating changes. It would be a good idea to bring up the subject with Rick to see if a study like this would be helpful.
  • Fees and Payroll Deductions
    There are significant increases in student fees each year. The Technology Fee in particular was discussed. The students would like to receive more timely notice of increases and due dates. Some departments cover this fee, but in others students rea responsible for paying it. Also relating to the technology fee, there were complaints about the quality of the Mellon Institute cluster.

    Payroll deductions for health insurance payments are provided by an outside company and are only available to students for a fee.
There may be some overlap with GSA on these issues. GSAC members should talk to the GSA representative from their department to see if GSA is already working on some of these issues.

4. Communication Issues
The group discussed how to improve communication between graduate students and the college/university. The Graduate Times is no longer published, but in general people thought that a newsletter or flyer like the 8 1/2 x 11 would be a good mode of communication. Mass emails are sometimes helpful but can be easily overlooked or ignored.

Although academic issues among graduate students in MCS are primarily handled at the department level, it is still a good idea to share these issues at GSAC meetings so that other departments can see how they are handled.