Budget cuts to Toulouse Graduate School will affect research, Graduate Student Council travel, salaries

Budget cuts to Toulouse Graduate School will affect research, Graduate Student Council travel, salaries

Budget cuts to Toulouse Graduate School will affect research, Graduate Student Council travel, salaries
September 27
00:33 2018

The Student Service Fee Advisory Committee cut the 2019 budget for the Toulouse Graduate School and Graduate Student Council (GSC) by $81,400 and $30,545.52, respectively, following their spring meeting, according to documents obtained through a public information request.

The Student Service Fee Advisory Committee – which decides how Student Service fees are allocated — is comprised of nine students. This includes the SGA president, who serves as the chairperson of the committee and chooses four members including one graduate student.

During meetings that cut the amount of money from Student Service fees going to the Graduate Student Council (GSC), one of the graduate students on the committee was not involved in the discussion of the cuts, GSC president Giselle Greenridge said.

Greenridge also said one of the graduate students who serves on the committee was not informed of the GSC budget cuts or involved in any of the discussion about it.

“It was news to her,” Greenridge said. “How do you have two graduate students [on the committee] and not inform [them]?”

Four of the nine students on the committee are appointed by the president of the university and “must be representative of the entire institution,” one of which must be a graduate student.

Greenridge said it is difficult to say whether the committee is representative of the entire institution because the UNT policy regarding the committee does not state criteria for selected students.

This decrease will affect funding for research, GSC travel and council members’ salaries.

The cuts to the graduate school’s funding decreased scholarship allocations from $81,400 to nothing. However, this is not reflective of all of the graduate school’s scholarships.

Victor Prybutok, dean of the Toulouse Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education, said money for tuition benefits has not been affected and has nothing to do with the student service fee money.

“Under President Smatresk, we’ve had more than doubling of the funding in terms of tuition benefit,” Prybutok said.

Toulouse Graduate School’s student service fee allocation decreased from $132,248.12 in 2017 to $50,848.12 in 2018, while the GSC’s allocation decreased from $99,036.72 in 2017 to $68,491.20 in 2018.

Funding for research helps students get equipment and software for which they may need to pay access fees. Some funding also helps students do off-campus or out-of-state research.

The new budget allocated GSC $3,000 for travel compared to $9,127.80 in 2018. Greenridge said they have spent around $14,000 for traveling in the past, and that travel is very important for GSC and graduate students.

“We advocate for grad students nationally and internationally,” Greenridge said. “$3000 is not sufficient for us to to advocate nationally and internationally.”

Greenridge also said the cuts are unfortunate because graduate students are required to attend conferences, especially in their final year.

Prybutok said while the cuts were not surprising, what was shocking was his assumption that the level of funding would continue.

“At some point, it became clear that this was being discussed because in the spring, we started having some external conversations about it in late spring, but by then it was largely something the committee was already on a path to do and had already decided,” Prybutok said.

Greenridge said it seemed like the committee’s mind was already made up during hearings.

The cuts also impact the salaries of students who serve on the GSC – four paid executive positions in the fall and five in the spring when they have a parliamentarian.

“We received the letter June 18 but took office June 1,” Greenridge said. “We took the position thinking we’d get a certain salary.”

Greenridge said the council’s responsibilities have not changed either, despite the decrease in salary.

“It means they’re effectively working for [and] doing the same work for less money,” Prybutok said. “So then the question is, how are other schools compensating their graduate students? We’re still working on that.”

The letter from the committee to the graduate school states travel grants were not approved this year because the university allocated $100,000 to be used for travel. The largest travel allocation was awarded to Recreational Sports Clubs with $75,098.54, after not having any travel funds allocated in 2017.

Greenridge said she does not know where the money to fund research and travel for graduate students went this year, and that the travel money was managed through the Raupe Travel Grant last year.

If the money is back under Raupe, Greenridge said she does not know if graduate students will be able to apply for it, since the Raupe Travel Grant is only offered to undergraduate students.

Student Government Association’s wages were also cut by $15,550.56. The letter from the committee states this cut better reflects the executive board’s work weeks.

The Student Service Fee Advisory Committee’s letter to GSC states “compensation has been approved to mirror SGA.”

Mari Aguilar, a graduate student earning her master’s in communication studies, said she thinks the budget cuts are not helpful because the GSC helps students who are in transitionary stages.

“There are already limited resources,” Aguilar said in an email. “Limiting those resources even more by conducting budget cuts can be a recipe for disaster to those who rely on them.”

Going forward, Prybutok said the graduate school will provide help to the GSC in preparing for the presentation to the committee.

“We’re gonna work with them by providing support from the financial officer from the grad school to assist them in preparing better budgets,” Prybutok said. “We’ll work with them to present a better presentation so they can make the best case for their needs for funds.”

Greenridge said she would like to see an appeals process implemented when it comes to the distribution of funds by the committee.

“I think we need to start thinking about where the money would be most effective,” Aguilar said. “But as of right now, grad students need all the helpful resources that they can get. Is a graduate student council budget cut really the way to go?”

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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Zaira Perez

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