Graduate students meet to discuss plan

Cassandra Shofar and Cassandra Shofar

Mandatory health insurance, a graduate student study center and the newly proposed incomplete grade policy headed up the agenda at the Friday Graduate Student Senate meeting.

Many graduate students are unhappy with the recent changes in their healthcare plan, said Kelly Lang, chairwoman of student affairs.

“[The price] has doubled since last year, now it is $1,350,” she said. “It’s a good plan and they have good customer service, that’s not the problem, the problem is that the price doubled and nobody knew about it and then health insurance became mandatory, so it was like a double whammy.”

While Lang feels the health plan committee has their reasons for these changes, the way they went about making the changes was the problem.

“Having a good health plan is important, but when you double the price, you have to look at the graduate students’ salaries and see what we can afford,” Lang said, adding that both the committee and the graduate students agree that communication, which hasn’t been up to standard, is vital for compromises to be made.

“The channels of communication were inadequate,” she said.

Also mentioned at the meeting and pushed into play, was a new motion for a 24 hour study center specifically for graduate students.

“Graduate school tends to isolate students from each other,” said Miriam Northcutt, a graduate student in favor of the 24 hour study center.

“Graduate students are housed in different buildings and are usually so overwhelmed with their own workloads, and those of professors, that it is difficult for graduate students to get out and meet each other.”

Northcutt came from a private undergraduate college where interaction with other students was very common and comforting but here at BG, she said it was a very isolating experience.

“It is well-documented that graduate school is a stressful and depressing time for individuals,” she said. “Given this, there should be an environment, like a graduate student lounge, that provides an opportunity for graduate students to meet each other and to talk about ‘graduate student issues.'”

A relaxing place to socially meet other graduate students and collaborate their research as well as be away from professors, roommates, and undergraduate students is what Northcutt thinks this study center would provide for graduate students.

“It’s kind of like an office, which most researchers and teachers have, but most graduate students lack.”

Another issue GSS president Zach Hilpert mentioned was their opposition to the new incomplete grade policy that the Faculty Senate are recently pushing, which would not allow graduate students to graduate with an INC on their transcript, and would make all INC’s after a certain period of time become an “F.”

Hilpert believes that the proposed changes to the incomplete grade policy would remove a vital tool that graduate students have when dealing with student-professor conflict.

“Though certainly not the ideal answer to irresolvable disagreements between students and their instructors, the ability to accept an incomplete on a student’s transcript currently provides an effective, last-resort solution for students who do not see an end to the dispute,” said Hilpert.

While he agrees that the University has “set up a system of withdrawal, along with appeals processes that exist in one form or another in each department – and while the practice of accepting a grade of incomplete in these cases is rare,” Hilpert still believes that this should not be the cause of changing the policy.

Hilpert also thinks that allowing the INC to become an “F” after a period of time is unfair to graduate students who are not always at fault.

“By automatically changing an incomplete on the transcript to an “F – this new policy will automatically pass negative judgment against the student every time in these conflicts, deciding by default and without discussion that graduate students are always in the wrong.”