The Graduate Student Council met June 22 to pass a resolution for continued support during the COVID-19 crisis and discuss plans to reopen campus and what services will be available to students.
The emergency fund allocation resolution for graduate students allows GSC to move up to $7,500 to a fund that will provide assistance to students in need while the campus is re-opening. The university will also contribute excess funds from canceled programming to the fund.
“All of our programming got shut down, so we had between programming, printing and travel roughly $21,000 we no longer had to use,” GSC President Tiffany Miller said. “Our budgets lapse at the end of August. So we have to use all the rest of our account. Frankly, I don’t know what else I would spend the money on.”
In order to be eligible for this fund, currently-enrolled students must be in good standing with the university, have no outstanding payments to the institution or have not been awarded any funding earlier last year.
Dean of Students Maureen “Moe” McGuinness also attended the meeting to discuss the current situation with COVID-19 and how the university has been aiding students. McGuinness said she’s given close to $8,000 to graduate students — particularly international students — since the pandemic started.
“They’re paying rent, they have no other money right now, and many of their home countries have put a hold on transferring currency,” McGuiness said. “A lot of them have lost their on-campus jobs, and we are getting them connected to food banks. But a lot of them need help with rent. So we are giving them $300 dollars as they apply to the four criteria.”
GSC also discussed how precautions in reopening campus will impact the organization. All departments on campus will reopen July 1 with precautions set to protect students and their families.
“One of the things that is going to be challenging for us as a student organization is that we are not allowed to meet in groups larger than 50 people,” Miller said. “The [Center for Disease Control] guidelines right now are a bit more strict and recommend no more than 25 people in a space with distancing employed. Our Organization alone — when you account for the 45 senators, five executives and 10 directors — has 60 people.”
Miller said the university will not have the funds to be able to purchase enough masks to supply every student, faculty and staff member for the fall.
“The Provost’s Office isn’t going to be able to order 37,000 masks,” Miller said. “They may order 1,000, they may order 5,000, they may order 10,000. But regardless, they’re not going to be able to order enough to cover the entire university.”
The cultural competency training previously only required for undergraduate students, will now also be required of incoming and concurrent graduate students. The push came from Miller, who attended a previous meeting on the new training and how it would be utilized with new students coming in the fall.
“Graduate students have a large sphere of influence,” Miller said. “It’s that weird nature of being a grad student where you’re kind of half-staff, half-faculty, half-student. You’re going to work with students that are different from you, that are from different cultural backgrounds, etc.. You’re gonna work with faculty and staff that are different from you, and you’re going to have an effect on all three groups, as well as other graduate students, whether or not you realize it.”
After announcing the introduction of the cultural competency training, Miller said GSC will release an executive statement on the Black Lives Matter movement.
The document outlines how the GSC senate will emphasize supporting and uplifting the Black graduate community and will include senators’ experiences with systemic racism and prejudice.
The Graduate Student Council introduced Dr. Tamara Knapp-Grosz, the Senior Director of Counseling and Testing Services, to discuss the mental health services at the university and clear up misconceptions about who has access.
“Students that are in the counseling program are totally there, they access our services, all the time,” Knapp-Grosz said. “The clinical psych students also are all eligible for our services. The only area that is not eligible for working with is the counseling psych doctoral students. And the reason is because they are a part of their program. They’re a captive internship, which means they actually do a minimum of a year in our clinic, but often more than that, as part of their educational program. They’re receiving supervision from our counselors so that becomes a dual relationship which is against our ethics.”
Students in this school still have access to health and wellness programs at the school.
“However, they have access to a number of other services on campus that they can receive counseling from,” Knapp-Grosz said. “We give them a couple of different options — the option of UNT Well — but they can also access the Counseling Center on Well Street if they want a minimum rate. Then some of the students also choose to go see the people at the counseling center at TWU.”
Featured Image: President Tiffany Miller leads the Graduate Student Council meeting in the Union on Mar. 3, 2020. Meetings are now held online due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Denton County. Image by Oscar Lopez