ASUC states support for Graduate Assembly separation at special town hall meeting

Elise Ulwelling/Staff

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After months of meetings, representatives from both the Graduate Assembly, or GA, and ASUC met to discuss, again, the GA’s potential secession from the ASUC during a town hall meeting Thursday — this meeting marked the first time the ASUC indicated it would support moving forward with the secession.

In previous meetings, the ASUC has argued against separation, instead proposing a restructured model. But ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris said at the meeting that the majority of senators are now willing to pursue the separation after recent arguments and discussions in senate meetings.

“It’s lovely to hear that we’re starting to converge on a single point,” GA President Kena Hazelwood-Carter said at the meeting.

A straw poll amongst GA delegates indicated in February that they will most likely vote to secede from the ASUC. Ahead of the official vote on April 5 to separate, the GA and the ASUC fleshed out the details of separation, including what space allocations and future collaboration might look like.

AbdulQadir-Morris presented several “non-negotiable” conditions for separation, including the creation of a joint committee and a democratically formed timeline of next steps. In order to ensure accountability moving forward, AbdulQadir-Morris suggested someone — potentially herself — receive a stipend to oversee the transition process.

“As long as we have a detailed enough plan of how we’re going to proceed with this, it’ll go as smoothly as possible,” said ASUC Senator Megha Torpunuri at the meeting.

Both parties discussed how spaces should be allocated following separation.

AbdulQadir-Morris said that for senators, preservation of the current 4th- and 5th-floor layout of Eshleman Hall is non-negotiable, and ASUC Senator Madison Miller questioned why the GA needs more space.

“It seems to me that the space the GA has is seldom used to its maximum efficiency,” Miller said at the meeting. “Undergraduates are quite literally fighting for space.”

Since its formation in 1969, the GA has been a subsidiary body to the ASUC, and it has historically struggled to equitably access funds. Over the past year, the GA has pursued independence in order to achieve greater financial and legal control.

Hazelwood-Carter said the GA’s control of spaces is not equitable to the graduate students’ presence on campus — about 27 percent of the student population. In a GA document with suggested structural amendments, the GA requested increased space in the ASUC Student Union and the right to schedule use of the senate chambers.

In the future, the GA wants to create mechanisms to formally meet and collaborate, said GA Vice President of Finance Andrew Schwartz at the meeting. He added that both parties should work together on advocacy agendas and pass joint resolutions whenever they agree on an issue.

“When it makes sense for us to come together, we want to come together,” Hazelwood-Carter said at the meeting.


Hannah Piette is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Hannah_PietteDC.