GSA Midterm Review

Graduate Students’ Association (GSA)

Promise: Enhance student involvement by promoting safe spaces and creating opportunities for representation amongst marginalized students.

Yes: According to GSA president Eric Hitsman, engagement among graduate students has been boosted, thanks to the creation of an outreach co-ordinator position.

“The outreach co-ordinator’s job is to go around and try and mobilize students so they’re in charge of social media type things and planning events and getting the different committees that we have started together,” Hitsman said.

He also added that the GSA has created both a committee for racialized students, which has been extremely active in meeting and planning events, as well as an international student committee.

He stated by advocating for these committees, the GSA’s hope is to empower the students within them to further engage with the student body and advocate for themselves.

Promise: Increase student representation on the Board of Governors (BoG).

No: Hitsman noted that the GSA is limited in its ability to generate major change within the BoG, as much of the control is in the hands of the university administration.

That said, he noted that under the guidance of interim president Alastair Summerlee, the Board has become increasingly transparent and accessible to members of the GSA executive.

“President Summerlee has mentioned that he’s going to be more transparent about a lot of the things so we’re able to see a bit more of what’s happening in there and we’ve been able to bring up these ideas with senior administration,” Hitsman said.

He noted his organization will continue to strategize ways to increase representation on the board. He said that the GSA has changed its approach from meeting in large groups, to smaller, less formal “breakout groups”, as this method has proven more effective in gaining ideas for how to mobilize such change.

Promise: Improve Mike’s Place.

Ongoing: According to Hitsman, the GSA has plenty in store in terms of making improvements to Mike’s Place, Carleton’s graduate student bar. In addition to new weekly menu items, as well as the purchasing of a new entertainment system, Hitsman stated that the GSA has plans to replace the establishment’s flooring.

Unfortunately, given their extensiveness, Hitsman stated that the latter changes most likely will not be implemented during his term.

“For the most part we’re looking at enormous structural changes that won’t be able to be complete under our tenure here, because they’re just so enormous,” he said.

Promise: Promote more grants and awards for graduate students.

Yes: Rather than creating new grants, Hitsman stated that the GSA’s focus is to encourage students to take advantage of pre-existing opportunities.

He explained that with the addition of the outreach co-ordinator position, the GSA has been able to reach a greater number of students with information on available grants both within and external to Carleton. Hitsman also noted that there has recently been a large increase in the number of students accessing grants offered by the GSA—a change from last year’s surplus of available funding.

“Right now, there’s a big influx of students that are actually using those grants, like larger than last year, so I would say that that has a lot with the outreach in general, because last year there was a surplus on the grants that we had available,” he said.

Hitsman did note that while the GSA’s efforts to improve outreach have proven successful, the biggest road block for the association has been the ability to communicate with its constituents.

He noted that this problem could be remedied upon provision of membership lists by the university, which would give the GSA access to the emails of graduate students at Carleton, thereby enabling the organization to reach a broader range of students through a more effective means.

“A lot of grad student-parents are really busy, and they don’t have time to look for these things, so most of these times when we get applications for the student-parent grant which we created last year—it’s through word of mouth,” Hitsman said.

“I run into people often who are student-parents and when I tell them they’re like ‘what?’ they have no idea that it exists and it’s because we can’t communicate that message effectively,” he said. “So if we get that membership list I think that would get so much better.”

Photo by Meagan Casalino