Grad Student Government Drafts Bill of Rights

According to GSA President Alex James, a bill- of-rights committee was created to draft a document modeled after similar bills created by other UC graduate organizations.

The idea was first proposed last year after GSA leaders were notified that certain students had suffered from unfair labor practices. According to GSA VP of Internal Affairs John Alaniz, professors can exploit foreign students by capitalizing on their pressure to perform.

“If an international student was fired, he would have to leave the country, go through immigration and find a new job,” he said. “In comparison, if a state student was fired, he would not have the same sense of urgency and the same consequences to face.”

Although Alaniz declined to provide specific examples, he said GSA has received reports of university individuals who take advantage of this situation, making these already disadvantaged students work harder than state students.

One of the most important provisions of the bill is the “right to arbitration,” under which a set of guidelines allow for dispute and resolve between a student and superior. The “right to arbitration” provision would ensure students know they have a right to dispute unfair practices, he said.

“We want students to know that if there’s a dispute, they have the right to address it without worry,” Alaniz said. “We just want them to know they can approach the department and can bring their disagreements to light.”

The current draft also asks that the university create more holidays for graduate students. Although graduate students teach, they are not considered staff, and thus do not receive any vacation days other than national holidays. For example, they do not receive days off during Spring Break.

Alaniz said that all these provisions are meant to reduce the strain on graduate students.

“Graduate students are under a lot of stress, and are some of the greatest consumers of student mental-health services on campus,” he said. “We want to protect these students who are working and teaching, juggling a lot of responsibility and in a tenuous position.”

The bill is currently being discussed within the GSA and Grad Life, a committee of faculty and graduate students.

After the bill is finalized, it must be approved by GSA, the faculty senate and Chancellor Marye Anne Fox before it is passed.

Although the bill has not been officially brought to the chancellor’s office, it was discussed at the town hall meeting last Wednesday, where Fox voiced preliminary support for the initiative.

“We haven’t looked at it carefully, but we’d be happy to do what we can,” she said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Alaniz said the GSA committee hopes to have the bill passed by the end of this year.

“We hope this is something we do once, and then will help the rest of the graduate student population for a long time,” Alaniz said.

Readers can contact Angela Chen at [email protected].