UA, GSC Pass Resolutions, Bills Aimed at Improving Student Life

The Undergraduate Association and Graduate Student Council are moving forward on a number of resolutions and programs aimed at improving student life and addressing student concerns, including a new UA fund to support student initiatives and a large-scale GSC survey which will assess graduate student needs and cost of living.

Undergraduate Association

On Oct. 22, the UA Senate unanimously passed a bill creating the “Fresh Fund,” a $10,000 fund “used to support new ideas and initiatives,” UA President Martin F. Holmes ’08 said. Any undergraduate student with a new idea or who wishes to start a new group can approach the Senate for funding.

Previously, the money was part of the discretionary fund managed by Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. Holmes said the Fresh Fund is intended to serve the same role and that Benedict wanted to pass the responsibility to the UA.

The lifetime of the Fresh Fund is set to one year subject to renewal at the end of the year.

This summer, the UA began working to get ISBN numbers of required textbooks posted online. Holmes said the UA, Information Services & Technology, and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Education have met with the Coop to work on the project.

“We’ve discussed preliminary plans,” Holmes said in an e-mail, but a few things are holding up the project. “IS&T is still working with the Coop to look at its infrastructure to coordinate the project — it’s taking a while to coordinate all of this. … MIT Legal had questions about partnering with the Coop.”

Several new committees are on the drawing board for the UA, including an ad hoc committee focused on undergraduate enrollment. With the freshman class size growing each year, the ad hoc committee will “speak with directors and administrators involved to see where strains [on resources] are going to be,” Holmes said in an e-mail.

The UA recently passed a resolution to support the faculty’s proposed policy on MIT press statements. Proposed at the Oct. 17 faculty meeting, the policy asks MIT to refrain from making public statements about members of its community facing criminal investigation, like in the case of Star A. Simpson ’10.

In another resolution, the UA encouraged MIT to provide more funding for the Biodiesel@MIT group, which developed an idea of turning used grease from dining halls into biodiesel fuel that would power SafeRide shuttles. Holmes said the UA has provided $1,250 of an additional $12,500 the group needs to implement its idea.

Also, a resolution was passed requesting the administration to increase student involvement in decisions about the future of W1, the current Ashdown House, that is being converted into an undergraduate dormitory.

According to Holmes, the UA has received $10,000 from Benedict and Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80 to sponsor dinners for students and faculty members.

Finally, the results of a recent TechCash survey showed that an “overwhelming majority” of students want to be able to use TechCash at Bertucci’s, Holmes said. The survey has approximately 1,000 responses.

Graduate Student Council

GSC President Leeland Ekstrom G said that the success of the Career Fair has made it possible for the GSC “to allocate additional revenue towards several projects.” He cited budget increases of $19,000, $1,000, and $2,000 for the GSC Funding Board, the Travel Grant that supports conference-related travel expenses of MIT graduate students, and the Professional Development Series, respectively.

Ekstrom said that the GSC is debating whether to have Career Fair on its regular Thursday or move it to a student holiday on Monday. The UA is debating the same question.

At the next general body meeting, the GSC will vote on the following proposed increases: $5,000 to the Athletic/Performance Activities Grant, $4,500 for upgrades to the GSC office, $5,200 for the new dining program Two Dollar Tuesdays, and $10,000 for the Grad Gala. Over 700 graduate students attended the first gala held in May.

Ekstrom said that the GSC is looking for more ideas as “there are some additional monies to be allocated.”

Working with the Office of Institute Research, the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee will release a cost of living survey measuring “what MIT graduate students spend on all aspects of living while at MIT,” Ekstrom said. According to Ekstrom, such a large-scale survey of all graduate students has not been done since 2002.

The survey “will also assess student interest in different dental care plans that the committee has been researching,” Ekstrom said. The GSC has been looking for alternatives for students since the Boston University Student Dental Plan was closed to MIT students earlier this year. One of the purposes of the survey is to assess students’ needs and how much they are willing to pay.

The GSC’s Academics, Research, and Careers Committee organized a technology conference “with a number of students from the University of Karlsruhe [in Germany] looking at [radio frequency identification] in the aviation industry.” The Activities Committee has started making plans for Grad Gala 2008 and continues to work on the Two Dollar Tuesday dining events.

An ongoing project is developing a Web site to help students find housing off campus, Ekstrom said. “It would be like a social networking site but targeted to find housing, where users could tag their experiences with apartments and compare notes.”

The next GSC meeting in December will feature debate on a “proposal to recommend that MIT create a standing committee to examine the social, environmental, and corporate governance practices of the companies that MIT invests in,” Ekstrom said.

Paul S. Nerenberg G was chosen to be the graduate student representative on the committee searching for a new student life dean to replace Benedict who will retire at the end of the academic year.