Graduate students not represented in ASMC

February 28, 2012

Jake Wasserman at the re-opening of the Oakland Museum.

Due to the fact that graduate students do not currently have representation in the Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC), prospective clubs like graduate student Jake Wasserman’s ‘Exploring Oakland’ are hard-pressed for institutional funding.

The reason for the lack of graduate representation, according to Rebecca Freeman, Vice President of ASMC, is that only undergraduate students pay ASMC fees, and therefore are the only ones who have representation in student government.

Wasserman is nevertheless hopeful for the future of his club, which will venture into the city of Oakland to experience a range
of activities. Wasserman stressed its importance to everyone in both Mills and Oakland .

“Exploring Oakland will provide links between the Mills community and Oakland as a whole,” said Wasserman, “The core group that could most use this connection is undergraduate students.”

But the future of Wasserman’s club is uncertain. In order for Exploring Oakland to become an official club, its executive board, made up of a President, a Treasurer and a Publicity Chair, must consist of undergraduate students.

“That’s one of the main requirements, that the executive positions are made up of undergraduate students,” said Aya Fawakhiri, the Organizations Assistant for the Office of Student Activities (OSA). “After that, graduate students can join.”

Fawakhiri noted, however, that graduate students can form a club and serve on the executive board, but they won’t officially be recognized as a club and will not get funding from ASMC.  That is why graduate students are encouraged by ASMC and OSA to recruit undergraduate students to serve on the executive board – that way, the club can get the funding and the graduate students can join as regular members.

“I would welcome usurpation by undergraduate students,” Wasserman said, referring to the restriction regarding who can serve on a club’s executive board.

According to Angela Batista, Associate Dean of Students, ASMC funds clubs directly while OSA oversees the clubs’ structure and see that they fulfill all the necessary requirements, including submitting the correct forms by the appropriate deadline and having undergraduate students serving on the executive board.

“For clubs to get funding, they have to be recognized by ASMC as undergraduate,” said Batista. “Recognition of clubs and organizations is tied to undergraduate representation because they are funded through ASMC by undergraduate student fees.”

Though graduate students don’t currently have representation, “ASMC is willing to hear (them) speak if they have a concern they want to share,” Freeman said.

OSA provides support for both graduate and undergraduate students, and Freeman said that “ASMC funds various events with OSA that graduate students can go to.”

Uncertain of Mills’ monetary support, “We’re going to do it (the club) in a way that doesn’t require funds,” Wasserman said.

To raise awareness for his club, and hopefully spark some interest, Wasserman intends to set up an information table in Adams Plaza called ‘Ask about Oakland’ on March 5.

“There are a lot of people who know lots of stuff (about Oakland),” Wasserman said. “My hope is that students who join will find something to promote to the Mills community about Oakland.”

Wasserman doesn’t believe that graduate students should be able to pull out of undergraduate funds.  Nevertheless, graduate representation is an issue that has been discussed over the years at ASMC meetings.

There may be an underlying reason for the absence of graduate student representation, according to participants at a meeting of the ASMC Executive Board in October 2009: ASMC believes it would be unfair to give power to the male graduate students at a women’s college.

One suggestion at the same October 2009 ASMC meeting was to create a graduate student committee, or a class council, with representatives on the executive board of ASMC. That way, graduate students could have a say in their community while remaining separate from female undergraduate students.

Batista said change, similar what ASMC is suggesting, is unavoidable.

“As the population of the college grows, including graduate students, different needs will have to be met,” Batista said.

Graduate students not represented in ASMC was published on February 28, 2012 in News

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  • Kayla Isaacs

    This is ludicrous. Jake Wasserman is attempting to create a
    club that would benefit all Mills students and potentially the city of Oakland.
    The purpose of his club would very much aligned with some of ASMC and Mills
    College’s broader goals of improving relationships between the college and the
    surrounding neighborhoods, as well as its social justice mission. It is the
    perfect opportunity to allow non-native Oaklanders to explore the city that too
    many characterize as ghetto and dangerous. As Wasserman himself points out,
    this club would primarily benefit undergraduates who may be new to Oakland and
    isolated within the Mills bubble.


    The most revealing sentence in this article was tucked
    discretely into the fourth to last paragraph – “ASMC believes it would be
    unfair to give power to the male graduate students at a women’s college.” Give
    me a break. It’s not like Wasserman is attempting to usurp power from female
    undergraduates who are officers of an already existing club. What if he were a
    female graduate student? Would that be more tolerable?


    Wasserman – rightfully, in my opinion – sensed a need for
    such a club on campus, a void that clearly no female undergraduates are rushing
    to fill. It’s silly to deny him this club simply because he’s a male and a graduate
    student. His club, I might add, would very much bolster the DSL’s purported
    goal of “providing learning experiences and opportunities grounded in social
    justice designed to prepare students to be engaged citizens in our global
    community.” Or does that mission apply only to undergraduates?


    Also, how does it make any sense that graduate students pay
    no ASMC fees, but they can still partake in events that undergraduates have essentially
    paid for? They can’t create their own clubs or serve as an officer in a club…
    but they can take advantage of the food, off-campus outings, and other
    activities that cost us money? This isn’t very fair to undergraduates.


    I respect that graduate students are less involved in campus
    life and activities than are undergraduates, especially since they are here for
    only one or two years. I suppose the rationale is that the typical graduate
    student paying into ASMC would receive much less in benefits than they would be
    paying. Perhaps graduate students should vote as to whether they would pay the
    ASMC fee in exchange for representation. Perhaps they should pay a reduced fee.
    In any case, I think it’s great that a graduate student such as Wasserman wants
    to break the mold of the aloof graduate student who doesn’t really care about
    the Mills community or the undergraduates, and who just wants to retire home to
    his apartment at the end of the day. Mills should be bending over backwards to support
    him and all like-minded graduate students in this mission. (Hint: It might even
    increase such students’ sense of belonging to the college, making them more
    likely to donate $$$ down the road).


    Mills depends on its graduate students, both male and
    female, for its financial solvency. The Mills administration clearly has a
    conflict of interest if they accept revenues from these students but try to
    isolate them from active participation in school activities.  Mills is no longer strictly an undergraduate,
    female-centric institution. As Angela Batista put it, “different needs will
    have to be met.” Like it or not, we have men and graduate students at Mills
    College, much as certain students, administrators, and staff members pretend we
    don’t. In return for their money, we should give these students the opportunity
    to participate and be leaders in the Mills community, so long as they lead in the
    spirit of DSL’s mission, as Wasserman clearly intends to do.