By Emma Smith
The final meeting of the 2018-2019 Graduate Student Council (GSC) reflected on the past year while keeping an eye to the future. The Council approved a non-binding resolution on graduate student healthcare affordability, continuing year-long advocacy efforts to improve graduate student health and mental health, as well as discussed the role of the Stanford University Press (SUP) in the graduate student community,
Members highlighted the positive accomplishments of the Council throughout the academic year, such as promoting conversations about mental health that have helped instigate changes to Stanford’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for the coming year, but emphasized the need to for sustained efforts to achieve lasting change. Crystallizing the transition from old to new, Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Vice President Isaiah Drummond ’20 also swore in the councillors of the 2019-2020 GSC. Returning councillor and co-chair Yiqing Ding and new councillor Jasmine Shao were voted co-chairs for the new term.
The GSC voted on a non-binding Resolution in Support of Affordable Graduate Dependent Healthcare Coverage, introduced by Mateo Carrillo, sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in Latin American History. Highlighting the lack of affordability for healthcare for graduate students and dependents, the resolution “urges the Stanford administration to develop effective, long-term solutions to soaring graduate dependent healthcare costs and potential coverage lapses by the end of 2019.”
Carrillo noted that he introduced the resolution so that new Council members would recognize the issue as an important challenge to continue to discuss in the next term.
“Healthcare costs for dependent healthcare coverage are spiraling out of control, and actually entering a death spiral, where premiums have risen so dramatically and enrollments have dropped so precipitously that it’s in danger of being cut,” Carrillo said.
The resolution also describes the discrepancy between the affordable healthcare for graduate student dependents at peer institutions, such as Princeton and Yale, and the more expensive coverage offered by Stanford. The resolution implores the University to comprehensively examine all available healthcare options and examine models from such peer institutions.
This resolution comes in the context of a larger advocacy effort around graduate student affordability in the last several years, encompassing issues from providing affordable healthcare and housing to combating food insecurity.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Yale community support
The GSC also unanimously approved the Joint Resolution in Support of the Yale-New Haven Community. The resolution, authored by Leya Elias ’21, Chair of the 20th Undergraduate Senate, speaks out against use of excessive lethal force by police officers on college campuses and communities at large.
In particular, the resolution expresses public support for Black Students for Disarmament at Yale, a group which has led efforts to demand accountability and change in the Yale and New Haven policing policies after Yale University Police Officer Terrance Polluck and Hamden Police Officer Deven Eaten fired 12 shots at two unarmed individuals in New Haven on April.
The Yale community has since organized several peaceful demonstrations expressing disappointment with the Yale Police Department and demanding the university be held accountable for the impact of its police force on the New Haven community.
In addition to supporting efforts at Yale, the resolution encourages the Stanford University Police Department to maintain a consistent review of their policies regarding use of force and to increase operational transparency. It advocates that such transparency be achieved through making incidents warranting use of force publicly available.
The joint resolution is co-sponsored by the Black Student Union, Stanford African Students Association, Asian American Students’ Association and Stanford National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Stanford press funding
The GSC also embarked on an impassioned conversation about the recent University proposal to eliminate funding for the Stanford University Press. Although Provost Persis Drell announced on Tuesday that one-time funds of $1.7 million would be provided to fund the Press for fiscal year 2020, many councillors expressed their concerns about the impact of the potential loss of SUP on the social science and humanities population, as well as the message that this action suggests about Stanford’s priorities and values.
“As a historian, I believe that … people in humanities and social sciences are marginalized in our academic community, much like families and dependents are marginalized in the campus community,” Carrillo said.
While Carrillo mentioned rumors about members of the administration terming SUP “second-rate,” he emphasized that the Press is a primary avenue for many in the humanities and the social sciences to achieve tenure. He added that such comments, in addition to the proposed elimination of the Press, seem to discount the work of these populations.
Similar to his resolution on healthcare affordability, Carrillo noted his motivation for requesting the discussion was to implore that new Councillors make it a priority for the rest of this year and the next.
GSC co-chair and cancer biology Ph.D. candidate Amy Tarangelo pointed out the “false-scarcity mindset” she believed the University has conveyed about funding SUP, with claims that the money saved by not funding the press will be allotted in some measure to the graduate student population.
There are several petitions circulating for the continuation of the Press, and humanities members sitting in on the meeting added that a group of students would be visiting Provost Drell’s office hours to question the University’s decision. They also noted a current effort in the faculty senate to determine a long-range plan to ensure SUP’s continuation. Following criticism over the decision, Drell announced May 1 that as much as $1.7 million in one-time funds will be given to SUP in the fiscal year 2020, though many still worry that the lack of a permanent subsidy keeps the publishing press on the “chopping block.”
“It’s really just of a question of the neo-liberal direction the University is going … education devoid of human condition, and what that means for society,” Carrillo said. “We’re sort of seeing it with Facebook and other technology, but it’s really distressing if that’s the University’s direction.”
Other council proceedings
The Council discussed funding for the annual graduate student block party to be held on May 31, celebrating the end of the academic year. The bill to fund the event will be voted on at the meeting next week.
Representatives from Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) also attended the meeting and provided updates on upcoming themed meals, including those for Cinco de Mayo and Ramadan.
To wrap up the final meeting of the 2018-2019 GSC, Tarangelo took the time to recognize the contributions of councillors throughout the year, noting that their important roles are often overlooked and underappreciated. She highlighted the year’s major successes, ranging from improving communication with the administration to spurring important conversations about affordability and mental health.
In her welcome to the new councillors, Tarangelo emphasized the role of the GSC in making lasting change within the University.
“You have the incredible opportunity to pick something you’re passionate about and make it happen,” Tarangelo said.