MCS GSAC Meeting Minutes
March 21, 2002

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March 21, 2002

In Attendance:
Ed Horsey (Biological Sciences)
Justin Douglas (Chemistry)
Kathryn Trapp (Mathematical Sciences)
Marc Fasnacht (Physics)

Rick McCullough (MCS Dean) Gregg Franklin (MCS Dean's Office)
Katya Malkin (MCS Dean's Office)

2000 GSAC Minutes Archive
2001 GSAC Minutes Archive

This year's minutes:

January 17, 2002

February 7, 2002

February 28, 2002
While waiting for Rick McCullough to arrive, GSAC discussed plans for the Happy Hour to be held on Friday April 12. Marc reported that we can get up to $250 from GSA. The physics and chemistry departments can supply $100 - $200 each, and math has $200 from GSA that can be donated. This gives us a total of $650 - $850. It is estimated that it will cost about $800 to host the event (assuming 80-100 people show up), so money should not be a problem. If we come up short, Gregg can contribute from his account.

The issue of whether or not a security guard is needed was raised. Katya checked with Francine in Mellon Institute and found that a security guard is not needed as long as everyone is over 21 and there is a social host present.

Since the chemistry department has hosted several happy hours of its own, Justin volunteered to take charge of getting beer and pizza. Beer and pizza can be purchased with a Tartan Trust card, which can be reimbursed from Gregg's account (GSA and departmental funds should be moved into Gregg's account prior to April 12). He will also make sure that flyers advertising the Happy Hour are posted in Mellon and e-mailed to the group so they can be posted in Wean and Doherty.

Faculty will be welcome to attend.


Rick McCullough joined the meeting to discuss the following issues:
  • Health Insurance
    Graduate student health insurance may go up by $400 per year and is an issue of great concern to the students. Apparently, in addition to rising costs of health insurance in general, there have been a series of special cases within the Carnegie Mellon graduate student population over the past few years that are now being factored into the costs.

    Rick was sensitive to this issue and willing to provide support. He suggested that it would be more effective to put pressure on the university about this issue. The college cannot contribute the full cost of health insurance for its students. He suggested that GSAC send him short documents arguing their case, so that he can pass these along to the provost when they meet. He indicated that the provost is also supportive of lowering health insurance costs for graduate students.

    Rick was also supportive of conducting a benchmarking study to see how other universities handle this issue and could provide a small amount of funding to conduct such a study. He indicated that the university would be responsive to this type of study.

    Gregg has formed a committee to pursue this issue. The committee should include Sharon McCarl, Rea Freeland, and David Owen.
  • Stipends
    Rick mentioned that when he was Department Head in Chemistry, a study was conducted to compare stipends at similar chemistry departments and Carnegie Mellon's department was found to be average. However, he was open to the possibility of revisiting this study and supportive of raising stipends if data can be found to suggest that it is necessary.

    Several other factors should be considered when looking at this issue.
    - How might raising stipends affect funding for research? Since stipends are ultimately paid out of research grants, this could cause problems.
    - What about TA's? Although departments such as math, with courses taken by students across the university, do receive some funding from the university, TA's are paid primarily by MCS. Rick was unsure at this time whether the college could increase stipends.
  • Space for offices/lounges
    This issue was addressed briefly. There is currently a space audit being conducted for the four MCS departments. One option for temporary space for math students who will be losing offices due to the construction near Doherty and Wean is the Old Student Center.
  • Possibility of Shared Biology/Chemistry Lounge
    Rick suggested that a committee be formed to address this issue. The committee should consist of Gregg, Katya, Ed, Ayse, and representatives from Chemistry (Justin and Karen?). There is currently no money for renovation, but sharing the existing chemistry lounge is an option. Using the space where the food vendor used to be is also an option - perhaps even sharing this space with a new vendor.

    Rick also suggested that the group try to get Terry Collins involved in this. He said that Terry is a big advocate of this and might even have drawings from the planning phase of a previous project to develop a lounge. He added that Sharon McCarl should be involved if we decide to pursue a new space.

    Regarding space options, there is a possibility on the 7th floor and 4th floor, and the best opportunity is probably on the 3rd floor. The first and second floors are not suitable.
  • Possibility of Shared Physics/Math Lounge
    Rick asked Gregg to check with Fred Gilman and Jim Greenberg about this, but did not think it should be a problem. It might be possible to get a bigger room for a shared lounge.

    Space in Wean Hall is a problem, however. Although no extra space became available after Newell Simon Hall was built, a study is currently under way to determine whether it would be possible to move the CS department out of Wean Hall. A space audit for all four departments is also under way and if a better plan for use of the current space cannot be determined, GSAC can make an argument to the provost. Sharon McCarl is the contact for information about the space audit.
  • Mellon Institute Issues
    Lack of Food Vendor:
    Rick provided some history on this issue. The Fluted Mushroom, which used to reside in Mellon, complained that they did not have enough business to stay there. They also had a contract with several buildings on campus and a disagreement with another building caused them to make the decision to leave the university altogether.

    Business and Planning did an analysis of this situation and found that putting a food vendor in Mellon would result in a $20K loss! However, this is in large part due to the high cost of renting a business space in Mellon. Rick is considering whether we can do something about this as a college - for instance allowing a vendor to come in free of charge. Sharon McCarl is the point person on this issue.

    Maintenance Issues: A Mellon Institute Building Services Committee, headed by Sharon McCarl, should address all building issues. This committee had not met since Susan Henry stepped down as Dean, but has recently been reinstated. The committee is currently addressing building security and flood lights have been added outside the back door, a new security camera will be installed, and MI specific coding for ID's will be instituted. Extra security measures will also be taken for Saturday events. Heating and air conditioning issues are also a problem. Aside from general comfort, lack of control over temperature can also be detrimental to experiments.

    In general, each department has been assigned a "go to" person who reports problems to FMS and also alerts Sharon. This way, Sharon and the building committee can follow up if complaints are not addressed. If you have a problem, please notify the appropriate person for your department:

    - Biological Sciences - Donya Parker
    - Chemistry - Heather Pons (MI), Joe Sapienza (DH)
    - Mathematical Sciences - Patsy McCarthy
    - Physics - Patrick Carr

    There should be a memo sent out to students and faculty so they will know the procedure.
  • Outside Work
    Rick's personal opinion is that students should not pursue outside work while in graduate school, as 100% of their time and effort should be dedicated to pursuing their degree. <

    Policies regarding outside work are departmental. There are also some tax issues to consider. For instance, if a student works 20 hours/week or more, his/her stipend becomes taxable. Rick indicated that he was willing to entertain ideas about changing the policy on outside work for graduate students, but is not likely to support allowing it. He suggested forming a faculty/student committee to address this if students feel that it is a significant problem. Examples of students who wanted to pursue outside work, but were not able to would be helpful.

    Summer internships are not considered outside work and are encouraged, particularly if departments offer a nine-month stipend.
Here is a summary of action items from the discussion with Rick:

Gregg - continue to address student health insurance issue (one goal is to create a short document explaining the problem that Rick can give to the provost)
Gregg - form committee to address chemistry/biology lounge
Gregg - meet with Fred Gilman, Jim Greenberg to follow up on shared physics/math lounge
Group - consider conducting a benchmarking study to address stipends

The outside work issue was tabled for now, but the group should keep it in mind and bring it up again if students feel that they are missing out on important opportunities. Rick also mentioned that a new 3-1-1 program in Biotechnology Management involving MCS, Heinz, and GSIA is being planned. This would give students more opportunity to combine work experience with their education.

The next and final GSAC meeting for the semester will be Thursday, April 11 from 3:00 - 4:20 in DH 1322. Renee Starek will join us to give an update on the career seminar plans.