Wednesday, March 29, 2006
And the beat goes on...
I would like to let all of you know that your friendship while I was deeply worried and anxious over my future sans funding was amazingly wonderful, and that I have probably never felt so overwhelmingly blessed.
I also want to share that on Monday I was elected Vice President of the Graduate Student Association. Consequently I have funding for next year, and so am going to remain in NYC for at least one more year. Further, not only do I have funding, but upon reflection I actually have a pretty clear mission: I want to shape the GSA and its activities in a way that better represents the Jesuit nature of the university -- care of the whole person (cura personalis) and hence the adequate service for & treatment of graduate students, and the mission of social justice and education, and hence try to promote the idea of graduate students as a community being involved in this mission beyond merely getting their degree.
There's a long saga behind my election as VP. Last year, in order to address the problem that the officers (President & Vice President) of the Graduate Student Association had historically been drawn from outside the GSA Council (and hence had little knowledge of what the Council had been up to), and that they had historically only stuck around for one year (and thus did not really end up moving the council forward, since that's a lot of turnover, and the new officers never knew what the old ones had been up to), we decided to reform our election procedures. What we wanted to promote, then, was (1) institutional memory and (2) commitment to the GSA.
Rather than soliciting nominations from the whole graduate student body, we would have the current president & vice president announce their intentions in the Spring of either leaving, or staying on for a second year. We wanted to encourage officers to stay for this second year so that their work could be carried on. So, the officers would announce their intentions to the Council, and the Council would then deliver an up-or-down vote on whether they agreed that the officer should stay on or not.
If the Council decided the officer should stay on, then life is easy.
If the Council decided the officer should not, then a call for nominations from the Council would go out (promoting from within in order to promote the goal of institutional memory). The incumbent would then run against whatever Council members wanted to run. If no Council members were interested, the incumbent would run against whatever members of the graduate student body wanted to run. (and of course the incumbent could drop out of the race at any point).
What's the major problem with this? The problem is that with a young & inexperienced Council, it's really easy to just give a 'pass', or a 'yes' vote, to any incumbent. We did not build in a procedure for members of the Council to actually challenge one of the officer positions. This is a big problem, both in terms of democratic procedure and also in terms of money: the officer positions come with a stipend, which ought to be earned, and not merely preserved as a sinecure.
So when I talked about challenging the current VP for the VP slot, there was no procedure for me to do so. And, since I was part of the election reform last year, and part of the ongoing Constitutional Review process that's trying to reform our whole constitution (including & especially our election process & duties/responsibilities of officers), I was kind of right in the middle. It made sense for me to be one of the people trying to work out what a procedure for challenging should be, because of my experience with the Council (3 years) + this constitutional involvement, but it also put me in a pretty hard position, conflict-of-interest-wise, since I really wanted the position and particularly needed the money.
Further, anything we chose to do could not be merely ad hoc, since in the absence of a pre-established procedure for challenging, whatever action I took would help determine future procedure.
See the difficulty?
Oh, and did I mention that the current VP already had a source of funding? So this year he was on 2 sources of funding (a departmental position + working 1/2 time as VP), and next year he was still going to have the departmental funding. Whereas I, of course, was faced with the possibility of no funding.
And of course, I knew perfectly well that the current VP didn't have a great relationship with the President of the Council (Josh - not my ex Josh, another Josh), since Josh & last year's president (Reuben), and I get along real well & talk about this sort of thing & in fact are friends. (and if you want to see the sort of job the VP had been doing, look at the GSA website, particularly the "Upcoming Event" of the Fall 2005 orientation. one of the VP's responsibilities is updating the website. Uh-huh.) Oh, conflict conflict conflict.
Anyway, eventually the current & past presidents talked me into running, and so I did.
Here's my letter to the president:
Dear Josh,So the solution Josh eventually proposed was to make a call for other challengers from within the Council, and have the current VP and I run in a more or less straightforward election race.
I would like to let you know that I intend to contest the position of
Vice President of the Graduate Student Association and submit myself
Over the course of last year's strategic planning we resolved to
encourage institutional memory and commitment among both officers and
council members. In light of this, a decision was made to encourage
officers to remain for two years. In order, however, that this not
become a sinecure, and in order to make sure that the mission of the
GSA is served, a review and ratification must take place before an
officer can serve a second year.
I believe that my candidacy fulfills the spirit of the GSA Council's
intention: having served on the council for four years, I possess
institutional memory, and certainly my participation over the years
speaks to my commitment. Further, I also have a commitment to the
future of the GSA, and a desire to work toward the ongoing development
of the GSA Council and the improvement of the GSA, in accordance with
the strategic planning process. In other words, I have memory and
vision. Therefore, I do not believe that my candidacy violates the
agreement that was made last spring.
In order to ensure that my candidacy is considered with full
procedural fairness, and in the light of the ongoing process of
establishing clear rules for the GSA Council, I submit the question of
how best to proceed to you, as President.
Which seems reasonably easy now -- but was very difficult to get to. Hence the saga.
But it's done now. And I'm pretty excited. I'm a woman with a mission, one might say. (Insert Blues Brothers quote, if you like)
In other news, Josh (the ex) and I had a great time hanging out this past Sunday; friendship really does seem to be working for us. So I'm happy that I made the right decision, and happy with all that in general.
Friends are obviously so much better than boyfriends.
And in still other news, I've been reflecting a lot about meaning, and life, and truth, and things like that. I'm not sure if I'm ready to commit some of those thoughts yet to this blog, but I will let you know that I'm really very happy. (In a way that goes beyond the mere fact that once I pay Reuben back for the flight out west, and pay my taxes, I'll be dead broke 'til the summer -- that makes me anxious, but doesn't take away from this current sense of joy.)
Love to you all,
jane 11:57 AM [+]