Earlier this week we kicked off a new kind of event: the General Assembly meeting. Unlike the General Membership Meetings we hold each semester, Assembly meetings are casual, issues-driven events that provide an opportunity for GAs to meet, discuss their thoughts and issues, and provide the sort of collective member-driven direction to our organization that we couldn’t otherwise achieve. If you didn’t make it, we’re sorry we missed you! Look for our next assembly meeting on October 15th (location TBA).
Our focus this past Monday was twofold: first, as we’ve all learned the hard way, most of our first paycheck is consumed when we have to pay student fees. Second, parking services has begun issuing a $4.95 shipping fee when GAs apply for parking passes (which, reminder, full-time GAs aren’t supposed to have to pay for at all). One of our members rightly noted that the administration doesn’t recognize that most graduate students are not dependent children. We are largely self-supporting adults, and no small number of our members have families and children of their own to take care of. We can’t get by with nothing for the month of September.
The attendees reminded us that another issue is on everyone’s radar at the beginning of the semester: navigating our new health insurance. Regardless whether you are a new or returning student, you have a new insurance plan this year and you have to enroll to activate it and receive an insurance card. If you have not yet received a card, make sure you have filled out this form! There is widespread confusion on this point, and a lot of our GAs felt that health services and administration need to take a more proactive role in ensuring that GAs have accurate, timely and useful information about their health coverage. There was also an extended discussion of the ramifications for GAs, who largely remain on or near campus during the summer, of the closure of health services during that time. Our next assembly meeting (October 15th, mark your calendars!) will tentatively be focused on health insurance issues. Over the summer, our VP did an extensive investigation into the feasibility of dental and vision insurance that I’m sure will be discussed, so if you are equipped with teeth or eyes, you might want to catch this one!
Among the other issues raised during our open forum were the fact that orientations (grad school and departmental) are not adequately focused on grad assistant needs, and the general confusion that exists surrounding the mysterious two weeks of unpaid vacation GAs are supposed to take as per the contract. We’ll pick these issues up at our next meeting, too. In the meantime, if you have a suggestion for an issue-focus, or for the Assembly meetings in general, drop us a line.