The Arizona Desert Lamp

More Ausgleich, Less Anchluss

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 26 April 2009

ASUA/GPSC flagIn this article on ASUA-GPSC relations, outgoing GPSC President Bieda (who is also a frequent commenter) makes an interesting assertion:

Although GPSC split from ASUA during the 1996 school year, Bieda said ASUA still views itself as the student government for the entire student population.

“Legally speaking, this is unfortunately a legal issue and if we cannot resolve it with the Vice President of Student Affairs Melissa Vito, it will go to President Shelton,” Bieda said.

Sure enough, from the ASUA Constitution:

Section II: Membership
Membership shall consist of all students registered at The University of Arizona.

This clause seems to only exist in a de jure sense; various paeans are thrown from time to time at graduates, but in much the same way that ASUA will make gestures towards other members of the “university community.” For all de facto purposes, ASUA is the undergraduate student government, and its constitution should reflect that fact.

In fact, it should reflect that fact even if incoming Presidents Nagata and Talenfeld (of ASUA and GPSC, respectively) come together and hash out a governing agreement, akin to the “Central Coordinating Council” that bound the two entities together from 1993-1996. What they should not do is follow the proposal offered by CCC member Sgt. Seastone (the apparent Gandalf of UA student governance) back in March 1995:

The council authorized the investigation in response to a discussion at the previous night’s meeting of the Central Coordinating Council, which proposed the assimilation of GPSC, the Undergraduate Council, and CCC into a unicameral system.

The council’s suggestion was made by CCC member Sgt. Brian Seastone of the University of Arizona Police Department. In a later interview, Seastone said that the legislative system “needs to be revamped to become more responsive.”

Seastone said he envisions a single senate comprised of six graduate and six undergraduate representatives, as well as three other elected officials and two faculty members.

Such a system, he believes, would eliminate problems he has seen in the past year such as “three to four week delays” in legislation.

Associated Students President T.J. Trujillo, who suggested a similar change at a December senate meeting, said he supports consideration of Seastone’s idea.

One of Trujillo’s complaints with the current structure is the amount of money paid in stipends to the GPSC members: $15,400 per year, compared to the amount paid to undergraduate senators, $7,700.

Even if the bad blood of the past years could be washed away, the issues facing graduates and undergraduates are different enough that they deserve their own bodies; within the UA microcosm, they are separate states representing one nation. Thus, they should move away from a hostile Anchluss for a ‘Greater Student Government’,  and more towards a two-state marriage, like the 1867 Ausgleich between Austria and Hungary:

Under the Compromise of 1867, Austria-Hungary had two capital cities, Vienna and Buda (subsequently Budapest). The two regions had separate Prime Ministers and Parliaments that created and maintained different laws. Austria-Hungary remained unified through several ministries and in the form of a single ruler, Emperor-King Franz Joseph. The army and navy were managed by a common Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Trade regulation was also unified under the Ministry of Finance. Terms of the Compromise were renegotiated every ten years.

The equivalent to foreign relations for student governments are essentially “government relations,” whether it be the quasi-government within the university, the Zion-Council-rule of ABOR, or the actual legislature in Phoenix. Is it possible for ASUA-GPSC to issue joint statements on things like fees, tuition – and should they? Then there’s ASA, which acts as a sort of quasi-official student lobbying think tank – kind of like the RAND Corporation in the 1960s. The real problem stems from not having a unified executive, one voice that can literally speak for all students; a solution does not readily present itself.

Outside of this, the only other modification that might be useful would be the addition of an ex officio member – an undergraduate on GPSC, and a graduate on ASUA’s Senate. While hardly a cure-all, it helps to at least ensure that each nation will have to talk to each other once a week. (Plus, it’s a back-door means of moving towards constituency-based seats.)

The battles between ASUA and GPSC are particularly pathetic, like two Jacobin children fighting to death for the last bit of Marie Antoinette’s cake. Elect Nagata made a good move in consulting his predecessors; he would be equally wise to sit down to dinner with his graduate counterpart.


2 Responses

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  1. Stephen Bieda III said, on 27 April 2009 at 11:52 am

    A reasonable proposal if there was a way to implement it without major egos getting in the way. I cannot speak to what is being considered on the GPSC side anymore, as I am no longer GPSC President. However, what I can speak to is what we tried to negotiate during my term in office.

    First, we privately raised the issue back in January to President Shelton for his consideration due to an e-mail from ASUA encouraging everyone to vote in their elections. As the e-mail had information that went both against our mandate as well as the agreement that GPSC/ASUA had arranged, we did not forward the e-mail and engaged in an Administrative protest. It was during this meeting that President Shelton recognized the importance of having two distinct student government voices due to the different issues that undergraduates and graduates/professionals have. He suggested that we should engage the process to ensure that this could be settled privately.

    We then moved our way through the Graduate College, to which the Graduate College backed the GPSC’s contractual agreement and strongly felt that the GPSC should be the soul representative body of graduate and professional students. It was from there that I personally arranged meetings with Melissa Vito, VP for Student Affairs, and we involved the ASUA with a list of grievances. About the best we got from ASUA from these meetings was that they would “take the grievances under advisement” and “ASUA would consult GPSC when any graduate/professional issues came up.” Obviously, this was a disappointing result and that is where ASUA President Tommy Bruce and I left the table and now enter incoming ASUA President Chris Nagata and GPSC President David Talenfeld. At the very last meeting that I personally sat in on, GPSC President Talenfeld suggested a bicameral legislative body; to which the response from ASUA President-elect Chris Nagata was “we already tried that.”

    I appreciate your view point on this issue and feel that if there were outside arbiters without interest, we could potentially come up with something that would work out. The model that the GPSC was angling for is the ASU model, which has two distinct and separate student government bodies in the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and the Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA). The quote that has struck me in the 1995 article you posted was this:

    “”They (graduate students) will have a voice, but they’ll never be able to … win,” then GPSC Vice President Troth said.

    I agree wholeheartedly. The issues for which we championed (i.e. GA Tuition Remission, Healthcare benefits, change in graduate college policies) only started after GPSC was fully able to separate from ASUA. You know, just as well as I do, that in the current system of ASUA Governance; you would need to be a top 10 vote getter in an at-large election. The numbers are stacked against us, where we have 8500 votes and the undergraduates have about 30500. In the most recent election, ASUA managed to get ~12.5% of the constituency to vote (and Chris Nagata received 3000 votes). That would mean that nearly 50% of the GPSC’s current constituency would have had to vote in order to win any office or even potentially get two Senators into the ASUA Senate.

    The best analogy that we had to all this was that ASUA’s “ability” to speak for the Graduate/Professional Voice is equivalent to the GPSC’s “ability” to speak for PostDocs/Staff and/or Faculty.

  2. […] relations – moving cautiously towards Ausgleich. The last time we compared relations between these two governments to central European power politics, relations were not […]

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