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.