Graduate students leave UC Student Association hoping for greater independence

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UC graduate students voted to leave the UC Student Association — a systemwide student advocacy body — last month to advocate for graduate students independently.

According to Jonathan Morris, UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly external affairs vice president and interim chair at the UC Graduate-Professional Coalition, or UCGPC, conversations surrounding the graduate student exodus began in March and April of last year within the graduate committee of UCSA, which is composed of undergraduate and graduate students across the UC system.

“UCSA as an organization is a place where undergraduates go to be heard and make many radical stances,” Morris said. “The effectiveness of the approach has not seen results for graduate students for the last couple of years.”

According to Morris, graduate students contributed only 10 percent of the UCSA budget, which is about $50,000.

But Parshan Khosravi, former president of the Associated Students at UC Irvine and now external vice president of UCLA’s Graduate Student Association, said he did not agree with the departure and was one of the primary proponents of the graduate students remaining in UCSA.

In a Facebook post, Khosravi said the split felt like “a spit in the face” and that there was “no ostensible gain from doing so.”

“I found myself ashamed of being a graduate student, of being a part of an arrogant and irresponsible body that has just voted to leave the future of (our) graduate advocacy in question,” Khosravi said in the post.

UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly President Kena Hazelwood-Carter maintained the split is about “centralizing marginalized voices.”

According Hazelwood-Carter, there are more undergraduate students than graduate students in the association, and if they have differing opinions, graduate students could be outnumbered. She also refuted the notion that graduate students may be less concerned with social justice issues than undergraduates.

“Often, graduate students are marginalized; very rarely do people think about those students needs when they think about the campus as a whole,” Hazelwood-Carter said.

Becky Grady, president of the UCGPC, conceded that this will be a transition period for the graduate students.

“Graduate students have been talking about wanting to establish the graduate student identity,” Grady said.

She explained that when people think of a “student,” they usually only think of undergraduates.

Teresa Wachira, external vice president at the Associated Students of UC Merced, said she believes that the UC graduate students are advocating for their rights, so it is not her place, as an undergraduate student, to tell them how to advocate effectively.

“What’s important now is that we get back to the work that these associations are actually built for — advocacy and organizing,” said Rigel Robinson, ASUC external affairs vice president, in a Facebook message.

Contact Elise Ulwelling at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @EMarieulwelling.