1. Serving as a communication link between the GSAS student population and the Office of the Dean, and advocating on behalf of graduate students whenever necessary.
2. Partnering with other student councils at Columbia and other universities, as well as the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, to jointly advocate for improvements in working and living conditions of graduate students across the U.S.
3. Providing funding for student-led academic and cultural initiatives:
- Annual $40,000 available in conference travel funding;
- Over $15,000 to recognized student groups and other student-led initiatives
4. Organizing social and cultural events for graduate students, such as bar socials, game nights, networking events, and discounted tickets to shows, concerts, and sporting events around New York.
The ASGC advocacy platform is determined by concerns raised by its constituency in the following three ways:
1. The annual Quality of Life Survey gives us insight into general issues that affect large segments of our constituency. The Quality of Life Committee delivers the Quality of Life Report to the Office of the Dean, and the Quality of Life Chair uses these insights to determine main areas of focus for the upcoming academic year. Previous Quality of Life reports can be accessed here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/quality-life-survey
2. Department representatives bring issues affecting their programs, departments, or individual students they represent at our monthly plenary meetings.
3. Concerns may also be brought to the Council’s attention directly by individual students and smaller groups. We encourage all constituents who have concerns over existing University policy, its equitable implementation, or other matters impacting their quality of life, to contact the Quality of Life Chair directly using the form on our website: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/form/contact
Anonymity is ensured for all respondents to the Advocacy Platform Survey, as well as all those who request it when raising an issue.
Recent Advocacy Efforts
Some of the specific issues we addressed in 2018/2019 include:
· Delivered a detailed report on the state of parental accommodations at Columbia compared to its peer institutions to Dean Alonso and Provost Coatsworth. Following the University's response that all changes to parental accommodations are subject to ongoing contract negotiations with the Union, contributed the report to the GWC Bargaining Committee.
· Secured uninterrupted gym access for summer instructors
· Worked on improving access to healthcare services for students who work at CUIMC but live on Morningside, and vice versa.
· Successfully advocated to temporarily suspend the implementation of the proposed 20% rent surcharge for students in Columbia Housing who need a short-term lease extension due to family obligations and other matters that don't allow them to move out immediately upon graduation.
· Following Columbia's commitment to cover internet fees for all PhD students in CU housing, we investigated whether all of our constituents are receiving the promised benefit. A substantial number of students are still not covered, and we will continue to advocate for faster implementation in 2019/2020.
The Quality of Life Chair delivers a report on their activities and accomplishments each semester. This report is included in the Executive Board’s overall semester report, available here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/semester-reports
The most recent updates on quality of life issues we take up with the Office of the Dean can be found in our email newsletter, distributed weekly and archived here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/archive
Our relationship with the Union
As of the plenary vote on October 16th 2018, ASGC retracted its prior position of neutrality on the matter of unionization, and affirmed its support for Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW) as the body legally empowered to negotiate more favorable working conditions through collective bargaining. You can learn more about our position on unionization here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/our-position-unionization
ASGC maintains a good working relationship with the Union, just as it does with the Office of the Dean. The External Representative to the Union serves as a conduit between the Council and the Union, and keeps the plenary abreast of all relevant developments on a monthly basis. The Council is committed to serving and representing all its constituents equitably, regardless of their affiliation with or support for the Union.
While the two bodies share a number of concerns, GWC-UAW and ASGC provide different kinds of support to their members and constituents. Notably, long-term policy changes regarding pay, benefits, working conditions, and workplace arbitration for the University-wide bargaining unit of student workers are all in the purview of the Union. At the moment, the University is generally unwilling to consider changing policies on matters that are part of ongoing collective bargaining in coordination with other student bodies.
However, ASGC is the only body able to address academic matters and GSAS-specific concerns for all GSAS students, including those who do not hold a work appointment with the University. ASGC is also able to respond expediently to ongoing concerns raised by individual students and smaller groups, and help facilitate solutions in cooperation with the Office of the Dean.