GSA Minutes 2007-04-19

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GSA Meeting Minutes
19 April 2007

Attendance: 21

Called to order 5:25pm

Officers' Reports

Kat Shaw (GSA Treasurer)

  • We have no pizza today because we are in the red from purchase of t-shirts.
  • Our balance is approximately -$76. There was a $30 donation just now that brings us up to -$46. Buy t-shirts to complete our fundraising effort!
  • Some money is still owed by grads for t-shirts picked up but not paid for at the Graduate Student Symposium.

Molly Letsch (Graduate Student Symposium Committee)

  • Tsitsi McPherson asked if we invited grads from the Geosciences department (students of Mike Willig and others), e.g., Dave Hoover.
    • Jessica Budke: Are they on the EEB listserv?
    • Nanci Ross: Dave got the notice, but he didn’t think he was invited.
    • Krissa Skogen: We invited students from Geosciences last year to come and talk, and students at Avery Point.
    • It was decided that students from these departments need to be invited explicitly in the future.
  • Attendance at the symposium was roughly 60, fewer toward the afternoon. Although there were relatively few presenters, there were more audience members than last year.
    • Many faculty members were out of town that weekend for other reasons, including funerals. This semester also, many faculty are on sabbatical.
    • The weekend we held the symposium was highly approved beforehand by faculty as a good weekend to hold it.
  • A budget has been submitted to the GSS for next year, asking for funds to support 70 attendants because of the trend of increasing attendance.

Tsitsi McPherson (Welcome Committee)

  • Four people were welcomed at the Graduate Student Symposium. Three of the four are coming as of now. The last one was not enticed by wild and crazy Storrs.
  • Tsitsi searched for 1.5 hours to find exciting things to do in Storrs to include in the welcome packet.
  • Tsitsi now has a list of people coming in the fall.

Nanci Ross (Faculty Representative)

  • Nanci just sent an email about the faculty meeting this week.

Summer Funding

  • One question was asked, can we find out earlier about summer funding? The answer is no, because that funding depends on making sure students don’t already have summer funding.
  • There was mention of encouraging grads to help mentor honors undergrad students in exchange for summer support. There are lots of honors undergrads and not enough labs for them to work in. The incentive was given as $1500 per undergrad, but this is still a work in progress.
    • Tsitsi: What if, for example, you’re going to Belize for the summer?
      • Nanci thinks the money could be deferred, or undergrads could be employed while the advisory grad student is away, doing unsupervised work.
    • Susan Herrick: Does this include SURF funding? Can we take on SURF undergrads for the $1500 incentive?
      • The money should still be available for grads who mentor SURF undergrads.
    • Nic Tippery: Where does the money come from?
      • Nanci: The powers-that-be have been touting the honors program, but they have no place for them to work. The money would come from the honors program.
  • Nanci: Grads should push for this program. Undergrads need a faculty mentor to conduct summer research, but faculty are often too busy to sign on. Grads could bridge the gap and be the effective mentor for these students.
  • 40% of honors undergrads are Biology students. MCB doesn’t invite honors undergrads like we could.
  • Nanci reminded us that this is currently just an idea that Janine Caira is kicking around, and it is not yet full-fledged.

Building Update

  • Building update: TLS will not be torn down. There is the potential for a new EEB building where the greenhouses are currently, but it won’t be very big.

Admissions Update

  • Admissions update: There will be 10 new students in the fall.
    • We’re a bit over budget for supporting grad students. We’re often over budget, so no worries.
  • The university approved a 3% grad pay raise. Be glad because it almost didn't happen, but letters of support had already been sent out.
    • At the same time they hired 300-400 new administrators.

Graduate Student Unionization

  • There is a bill in the Connecticut legislature now to allow graduate students to unionize (mentioned by Carl Schaefer). The bill is expected to pass. If it passes, afterwards we will have the option to form a union at some time in the future.
  • The AAUP has offered, if we want to unionize, to help us set up and organize.
  • Nanci, who has a strong pro-union stance from growing up in Detroit, thinks unionizing is important. For example, she remembers the cohort of 2003, when people were talking about how great the grad student health insurance was. Shortly thereafter, grads were not considered state employees in one crucial component, for the purpose of health insurance. The university saved us in the end, but having a union could have been effective in that situation.
    • Krissa: There was talk then (in the GSS) about forming a union. But at the time it was illegal.
    • Susan Herrick: It could cost us.
    • Nanci: At the University of Michigan, grads were able to bargain for 12 months of pay, and a maximum of two semesters teaching for their entire tenure.
    • Nicola Plowes: Less time as a TA could amount to shorter tenure as a grad student, thus less cost for university overall.
    • Amanda Wendt: What is the status of the bill?
      • Nanci: It should sail through, but it wouldn’t hurt to contact your legislators.
    • Krissa: UConn would oppose a union.
  • Susan Herrick mentioned she is part of AAUP because of her job at ECSU. There are two points to consider:
    • The union takes their costs out of every paycheck.
    • The union will defend horrible employees with the same force as good ones.
  • Susan also mentioned that technically we’re not full time employees but temporary, as far as the state is concerned.

Maxi Polihronakis (Grad-Invited Seminar Committee)

  • There have been 10 nominated speakers. Nominations will be accepted through tonight.
    • Em Komisky: Will you send the list around?
      • Maxi: Yes, next week.
  • The schedule for spring next year is already filling up. It could be the next fall before the speaker could come, in which case Maxi would not be able to coordinate his/her visit.
    • Em: How does the selection/arrangement process work?
      • Maxi: 1. We vote to choose the person. 2. The person confirms that he/she will come. 3. We arrange a date for the seminar. If any of these steps doesn't work out, we take our second choice, and so on.
  • Andy Bush is covering the seminar coordinator position for Bernard Goffinet.

Diego Sustaita (Monday Evening Seminar)

  • The final MES of the semester will be on April 30. The speaker will be Ivan Castro-Arellano, a postdoc of Mike Willig. The MES still needs to find a faculty home to host. Mike Willig has not responded yet, and he lives pretty far away.
    • Em mentioned that she has a home too, but it's far away also.

Tsitsi McPherson (Curriculum Committee)

  • There was a change discussed for Cindi Jones' EEB 276 (Plant Anatomy) class. There is a wish to change the number of lab hours. Currently, the lab for this course meets twice per week for 2 hours each time. The proposal is to change this to one lab session per week, with the total time reduced from 4 hours to 3.5 hours. The single longer lab period will allow more thorough investigation of the material presented.
    • [There was confusion at the meeting of this announcement being about Cindi Jones' Developmental Plant Morphology class, which Jessica Budke and Em Komisky refuted.]

Krissa Skogen (Center for Conservation and Biodiversity)

  • The CCB co-sponsored the Teale lecture by David Sibley.
  • Bioblitz is coming up, June 8-9 in Middletown, CT.
  • Dave Wagner is the local contact, he can put you in contact with your respective person.

Jason Hill (GSS Representative)

  • Jessica: Was our Graduate Student Symposium budget voted on?
    • Jason: Not yet. Not sure why.
  • Nic: What budget?
    • Jessica: The budget for next year's Graduate Student Symposium.

Other Business

Carrie Fyler

  • The 4th annual Jim and Carrie’s Romantic Willimantic Pub Crawl will be happening Friday, June 1.
    • Rachel Prunier and Em object to June 1, because they will be in South Africa and Vermont, respectively.

Nic Tippery (GSA Secretary)

  • You have probably noticed the GSA meeting minutes are committed to EEBedia. When I do that, I put a link by everyone's name who speaks or gets mentioned. Links that don't go anywhere are red and uninformative. I suggest that everyone with an EEBedia account (i.e., everybody) should give themselves a personal page, even as brief as to list their contact information. It is much simpler to link within EEBedia than to link to external sites like personal pages on the EEB site. Some great examples of personal sites on EEBedia are those of Carrie Fyler, Molly Letsch, and Amy Weiss, who has started a page of songs about plants. Any contributions you can make to reduce the number of red links are greatly appreciated.

Jessica Budke

  • Pat Anderson sent an email around asking if grads wanted to talk about funding, dispersal of funds, and reporting funding to the government. For example, what is the best way to get your Bamford Funds dispersed so you have access to them and are minimally taxed. Many students were interested in having that meeting. It was voted on and decided to have the meeting Monday next week, during the 1-2pm time slot that Pat has available. Stay tuned for an email from Jessica confirming the time.
    • Tsitsi: There is form 970 from the IRS to report scholarships and grants.
      • Molly: It's very dense and confusing.
      • Tsitsi: It's pretty easy.

Susan Herrick

  • Susan: My house will be ready for an end-of-summer party. We have a pool and a playground suitable for adults.

Buy t-shirts! Or pay for them if you haven't yet.

Adjourned 6:02pm

Minutes committed by Nicholas Tippery (GSA Secretary).