General Assembly Meeting of the Council of Graduate Students
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Minutes by Sean McNee, VP for Communications
Approved by the COGS Executive Committee on October 9th.
Quorum was met.
5:00pm Food Served
5:15pm Meeting called to order by President Chris Pappas
Thank you to all representatives for attending this second GA.
Extra special thanks to our Student Senators for attending since the
Senators also had a full day today with the first set of Senate meetings.
Michael Olin, Vice President for Finance, was called to provide
information about the
COGS Endowment and the COGS Travel and Educational
Awards funded by the Endowment. The awards are for U of MN
graduate students to be able to travel to conferences or other educational
programs required for their curriculum held outside the Twin Cities
- All graduate students in good standing are eligible for the award.
Preference to students without full funding.
- Awards are for activities completed within 6 months before to 6 months
after the award date. (For this first award year, the application will
cover all activities from the start of the school year ranging to 6 months
after the award date. Starting next year, the 6 month before to
6 month after rule will apply.)
- Each award is $250, at least 5 will be given (more in the future
depending on the growth of the endowment)
- The awards are given at the final GA meeting
- More information about the Awards, including an application
form, are available from the
COGS website, the
COGS office and the
- The awards are funded by the COGS Endowment. The Endowment is
managed by the University of Minnesota Foundation. Thus, all contributions
to the Endowment are tax deductible.
5:20pm Discussion with Ed Ehlinger,
Director of Boynton Health Services
Dave Golden was originally scheduled to attend this meeting,
but was unable to attend. COGS would like to thank Ed Ehlinger
for attending our GA meeting.
Boynton Health Services (BHS)
started in 1918 to provide public health
and care on campus. Back in 1918, the student fee for BHS was $0.25. Now,
the fee is a bit more, but the mission of BHS is the same. BHS provides care
to all on campus, including students, faculty, and staff. BHS wants to make
sure that they are meeting the needs of everyone on campus.
To make sure they are, there are several committees where students can
provide feedback to BHS. The most notable is SHAC, the Student Health Advisory
Committee. COGS currently has excellent representation on this committee.
The committee meets biweekly to discuss many issues pertaining to student
health, including problems international students are having and SARS.
At this point, the floor was opened up for questions.
[COGS notes: Due to the quick nature of the questions,
these are not exact quotes for neither the question or answer,
unless denoted with quotation marks.]
Q: Concerning the addition of copays to the GA Health Plan.
A: BHS only administers health care and has no say in the formulation
GA Health plan.
However, BHS doesn't like asking for the copay
as much as we don't like paying it. It is important to remember
that the faculty and staff all have copays as a part of their
insurance plan too.
Q: Clarification on when copays need to be paid.
A: Copays do not have to be paid for preventive services.
All other general medical services require copay.
Q: A question on the confusing nature of
the copays for prescription drugs.
A: Every plan has what is called a formulary. On this formulary
listing, all drugs available as a part of the health plan are listed.
Different drugs are listed at different prices. Thus, a retail (name brand)
version of a drug may appear at one price bracket, but the generic
equivalent may listed at a lower bracket. Not all drugs have to be listed on
the formulary. For the GA Health Plan, the brackets range from $10 for some generic drugs
up to $50 depending on the drug.
[COGS Note: Make sure to explicitly ask your doctor if there
are cheaper generic equivalents to any prescription you are getting.
Because of drug patents, some drugs do not have generic equivalents yet.
BlueCross BlueShield Minnesota has a
complete drug formulary
on their website.]
Q: Concerns about the office staff in the GAIO (Graduate Assistant
Insurance Office) in Boynton and their ability to answer specific
questions about the GA health plan.
A: This is a concern and will be looked into. In general, Boynton also has a
webpage and phone numbers
available for people to provide comments about
the service received at Boynton.
Q: Is Dental Surgery covered in the GA Health Plan?
A: Plan specific information is available from the GAIO.
[COGS Note: Preventive dental care is available as a
part of the GA Health Plan. Dental Surgery is not covered. However,
School of Dentistry
provides many reasonable services to University students.]
Q: Are there going to be flu shots on campus this year?
A: Yes, there will be flu shots this year. There will be 16
'flu clinics' around campus providing free flu shots. Expect them
to start appearing around the end of October. Check the
MN Daily for more information.
Q: How effective are the flu shots?
A: It's hard to say. Flu shots work by 'guessing' the strains of the
flu that are going to appear, and inoculating people. If the right
strains appear, the shot can be very effective.
Q: What about getting health care when a student is
in Doctoral Candidate (ABD) status?
A: All fee paying students get can get services from Boynton.
Depending on whether you are currently paying fees as part of your
student status, you may or may not get free service from BHS.
Call Boynton to determine for sure.
Q: Can BHS provide emergency services?
A: Boynton "is not a major trauma center". BHS can do some
emergency services, such as stitches, dealing with broken bones,
small burns, etc. Larger problems need to go to a full
ER, such as Fairview.
Q: Is BHS available 24 hours a day?
A: There is 24 hour call available, but BHS is not fully staffed
24 hours a day. Students will serious problems can go to Fairview
after hours. But, standard student insurance [not GA Health Plan]
is 80/20 outside of BHS, and only some medications are
covered. Thus, going to Fairview at night will cost money.
"It is better to be sick during the day."
Q: What about BHS and BlueCross? Is BHS on the BlueCross network?
A: For anyone on the GA health plan, all Boynton services are covered.
For those not on the GA health plan but have BlueCross for their
insurance, it is not guaranteed that all services are covered
by BlueCross. Check before coming in.
Finally, we had a quick update from one of our representatives
to SHAC. Meetings are twice a month and it is a chance for students
to talk directly to the heads of BHS. Any concerns about health care
can be brought up to our SHAC reps [you can contact COGS at
to get info to the SHAC representatives]. Parts of the
Boynton website about SHAC
are outdated and will be updated soon.
5:40pm Senator Elections
Elections followed Roberts Rules. There were two open senator positions.
Running unopposed, the following students were elected by unanimous consent.
Congratulations Kari and Sean! Thanks for becoming senators!
As a reminder, Senators should review the
University Senate homepage, and be aware of
the days and times of the
Senators are expected to attend all Senate meetings
and will lose their senate position if they fail to attend (or fail to
send an alternate to) two consecutive meetings. Senators are also
expected to attend
5:50pm P&R Council Meetings
Policy and Review Councils are bodies that evaluate and determine
policy for the Graduate School. This is one of the places where COGS,
and graduate students as a whole, have their strongest voice.
Each graduate program is in one of the six sections. All representatives
were asked to sit in P&R sections to talk
with the P&R chairs about their council. Representatives from
each section were asked to join their section's P&R Council, or,
if the could not do that, aid in recruiting people for the Council.
It is crucial that COGS fills the P&R Councils; or failure to
do so makes us look bad.
We'd like to thank everyone who volunteered to be on their council.
COGS provides meeting information for the P&R Council meetings.
Each Council is expected to report information from what happens at these
meetings back to the COGS GA. Council Chairs are responsible for the
attendance of their members, and should work with Elizabeth Oliva,
Vice President for Internal Relations, on any problems or initiatives.
6:10 Committee Recruitment and Reports
Beyond the Senate and the P&R Councils, COGS can place
representatives on a wide variety of committees
across the University.
Some of these committees are linked to specific colleges such as CLA
or IT, but many others affect all graduate students at the University.
Having representation on these committees is vitally important. The
graduate student voice needs to be represented at all aspects of the
University, and it is through these committees that COGS can directly
affect the quality of graduate student life.
COGS maintains a complete list of all committees we can have
representatives on. Please review the list and email COGS at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you are interested in any available positions.
SHAC - Andrew Rivard
- exploring year-round fees and coverage for all students
- International Student Health Open House is October 9th
Senate - Brian Bellows
- Revisions were proposed to the Student Assembly but did not pass
- The senate is up for reorganization
[COGS note: this is critically important to be aware
of. Up until this point, the Senate has been comprised of students and
faculty. These changes propose including voices for non-tenure faculty
(lecturers, professionals, etc) and for staff, thus creating a full
University Senate. It is important to make sure that the voice of the
students is represented in this new structure.]
- Other issues came up. Including: wage freezes, fundraising, and
- The President gave his State of the University Address. Core issue:
the U needs more money from the state.
GAPSA - Chris Pappas and Sean McNee
6:35 Information about the Impending Strike
Two U of MN unions (AFSCME Clerical 6 and
AFSCME Technical 7) voted
on October 1st and 2nd whether or not to accept the University of Minnesota’s offer
or to strike.
[COGS Notes: The Clerical Unit voted to strike, while
the Technical Unit did not, thus this information is more important
than ever to be aware of.]
Because graduate assistants are not a part of any union, COGS
currently does not have an official position on the strikes. Rather, COGS
will facilitate strike discussions among graduate students and between
graduate students and other groups in the University. There are two issues
to consider when thinking about a strike: first, how does a strike affect
the daily lives of graduate students here at U, and second, how can a
graduate student be involved in the strike process, either for or against,
in a way that brings about a peaceful resolution to this dispute.
First, how does a strike affects graduate students on an academic,
professional and institutional level? Many University workers are members
of the potentially striking unions. In the clerical union, these include many
administrators, assistants, and office staff. In the technical union, these
include computer support, IT, and other more technical positions. Most departments
across campus have unionized workers, as well as the central administration.
Most of the Graduate School is not composed of unionized workers. Thus,
almost all graduate students will have their academic and professional lives
affected by the strike. The extent will vary dramatically from department
Second, what does the administration say about a potential strike? The
University of Minnesota sent out an email to all non-striking student workers.
The section in particular that is relevant is as follows:
Student Employees and Graduate Assistants:
- All student employees and graduate assistants are required
to report for work, as normal, during a strike. They may be assigned
tasks different from those that they normally perform.
- Student employees and graduate assistants must not take any
action that will restrain or coerce employees who are
[COGS note: The full text of this email
was sent in response to the
potential Teamsters strike from earlier this summer. It is safe to
assume the University has not changed its position since this time.]
If a strike does occur, there will be a 'picket line' surrounding
campus. It is a personal choice for each student whether or not she/he
crosses this line. Whether or not you cross this line and come onto campus
is a political statement as to if you support the strike or not. Many
people in support of the strike are making arrangements to perform all of
their required duties without having to physically enter campus, mostly
through arranging meetings off campus and/or conducting
transactions via the Internet.
It is worth remembering that the strikers are not being paid while
they are on strike. If you wish to support them beyond staying off
campus, there are ways of making donations and contributions.
If you choose to not support them, then allow them to strike in a
peaceful manner and do not obstruct them from striking.
COGS is concerned about the potential changes in Graduate Assistant
roles if a strike should occur. Expect that life at the University will
be different during a strike and everyone who reports for work will have
to be flexible with their job assignments to minimize the affect that
the strike will have on teaching and research. Thus TAs and RAs may
have to perform slightly different tasks during the strike. If at any
time you feel that your assignments have changed too much and that you
are working much more than you were before the strike, please let
COGS know. TAs and RAs should not be expected to fully absorb the
workload from striking workers. All University employees who
show up to work must share this burden.
Thanks to Kris Houlton for providing COGS with the information
about the picket line and ways to support striking workers.
6:45 Meeting called to official end
Representatives were asked to stay after the meeting to talk
about issues affecting graduate students. Here are the issues that
were brought forth during the discussion after the meeting.
- Fees. There are more fees appearing on graduate student bills.
It would be nice to know what these fees are, where they go, and
why we are being charged these fees. Some colleges are implementing
extra fees, such as 'Technology Fees' and no one knows why.
[COGS notes: After talking with the Graduate School
deans, we have more information about fees. There are various levels
of fees: University level, student status level, college level, and course level.
is at the University level to help pay
for central administration costs. It can be viewed as the 'special part' of
your tuition that is paid to the University administration to keep the
U running. The University administration sets these fees.
- At the student-status level, students are changed various fees such as
Student Services Fee
and other various fees,
including the GAPSA fee. These fees are determined from the Senate Fees Committee.
- At the course level, students are charged
fees to cover the costs of
materials, transportation, etc. used in some courses.
- Finally, there are
college level fees, such as Technology Fees. Each
college determines what these fees are and how they are used. If graduate
students want to know what these fees are used for, then we have to contact
the Deans of that college directly. Many colleges have their own fees
committees. COGS does not currently have representation on all of these
- There was some discussion of unionization of graduate students
here at the U of MN. People said the U of MN was one of the few schools
in the Big Ten not unionized. People were wondering if this has come up
[COGS notes: The graduate assistants at the U of MN
did attempt to unionize in 1998. Also, only half of the schools in the
Big Ten have unionized graduate assistants: Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan,
and Penn State do. Michigan State, Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota do not.
We don't have information at this time about Purdue and Ohio State. Most of
these are TA-only unions. By Minnesota state law, both TAs and RAs would
have to unionize together which makes the situation more complicated since
TAs and RAs have very different schedules and needs. Again, COGS does not
take a stance on this issue either way, but wants to facilitate discussion.]
- Graduate students are struggling to make ends meet. The changes in
health care are not large but noticeable. The increase in student fees
is not large but noticeable. Changes in housing quality are not large,
but noticeable. When all of these issues are added together, it is strongly
affecting the quality of life for graduate students here at the University.
- Finally, COGS seems to be very good at getting information out to graduate
students about what has happened in the past but very good at taking an active
stance and changing the lives of graduate students. How can COGS stay ahead
of the curve?
[COGS note: It's all about the committees, the P&R Councils, and the Senate.
If we are to proactively change University policy for the better of all
graduate students, we need students on the committees where this policy is being
debated and formulated. We need your help to be our eyes and ears and,
most importantly, our voice in the University. We can't do it without you.]
- COGS only has representation from around 40 programs of approximately
150 or so that we represent. How can we get that higher?
[COGS note: Plans have been in the works through a variety of channels to
get higher involvement from programs that have not been sending representatives.
We first started with the official channels through program DGS's, etc. We are
now moving to a more direct level of student interaction. If anyone is
interested in helping COGS organize 'social events' to promote COGS awareness
on campus, please contact COGS at email@example.com
- Online surveys from departments. The Graduate School asks that all
departments fill out detailed online surveys about the status of each department
(number of students, number of applicants, etc.). These surveys give the
Graduate School information about all of the programs the U offers. COGS was
in the process of getting specific questions about advisor/advisee relationships
on this questionnaire. It may be worth reinvestigating these surveys and
seeing how COGS can benefit both from the information the surveys contain and
from being able to affect questions placed in the survey. Mike Miller, past COGS
President, has volunteered to stay on top of this issue.