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GPSS passes DEI resolution, budget amendments

Brittany Huston
Officers of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate discussing committee reports at the GPSS meeting held in the Memorial Union on Nov. 27, 2023.

A Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) resolution supporting DEI initiatives and amendments to the GPSS FY24 budget passed at the GPSS meeting. 

Charity Njeshi, the College Chair for the College of Veterinary Medicine, was unanimously voted in for a Special Election for the Senate Engagement Officer starting the spring semester. 

Support Inclusion, Diversity, Equality and Accessibility (IDEA): 

Support Inclusion, Diversity, Equality and Accessibility (IDEA) initiatives at Iowa State, a resolution stating the GPSS is “uniquely positioned to develop ideas for improving graduate and professional education” was presented to the body during its meeting on Monday. The GPSS wants to uphold the activities and functions of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office and will work towards supporting and promoting the important work conducted by the DEI, according to the resolution.

This Senate Resolution was passed unanimously and will be sent to President Wendy Wintersteen, Provost Jonathan Wickert, interim Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dawn Bratsch-Prince, the deans of each college and Iowa State Daily editor in chief Andrew Harrington. 

In its November meeting, the Iowa Board of Regents approved 10 recommendations for the university on how to administer and address diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. 

GPSS FY24 Budget:

The GPSS Finance Committee performed a mid-year budget review and determined a surplus in the FY24 budget, according to GPSS documents. The committee recommended, and the GPSS approved, redistributing unused funds from the Fall Allocations for $13,500. 

The GPSS adopted the amended budget for Exec Scholarships, Senate and Exec Meetings, Exec Projects, Research Day and Presidential Events. 

“The finance committee got together and figured out where we might best put that,” Kean Fallon, a graduate in mathematics and GPSS treasurer, said. “So what we did was change the Senate Meetings budget from $1,750 to $4,000.” 

The amendments passed unanimously. 

Senate Engagement Officer:

The GPSS announced the current Senate Engagement Officer is leaving at the end of the fall semester, and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate requires a Senate Engagement Officer to operate efficiently. 

Njeshi was the only one nominated for the position and was unanimously voted to become the Senate Engagement Officer for the 2024 spring semester. 

Report from the Vice President:

“Another thing spoken about at the Board of Regents meeting was safety and how some of the different avenues for policing on our campus and public safety are done,” Eddie Mahoney, Vice President of GPSS and graduate student in computer science, said. “A lot of that is how lights will get fixed, security cameras and that kind of jazz.” 

Public safety is transitioning on the university campus by adding more security cameras around campus to help prevent and catch crimes and violence. 

Iowa State removed the blue light system around campus a couple of years ago because research showed that little to no calls were being made yearly. Now the university is trying to find a way to replace that system with a more up-to-date system that will be used. 

The university announced in the spring the launch of Iowa State Safe, an app that partially serves in place of the blue lights, one effort by ISUPD. 

Report from the Wellness Chair:

At its September meeting, the Board of Regents approved its annual appropriations, which included $1 million “to support our universities’ efforts for expanded mental health resources at our three universities.”

The GPSS discussed the funding during its wellness update. 

“We had a meeting with Health and Wellness leaders to see which areas they think will be appropriate for us to use this mental health funding,” Kimia Noroozi, a chemical and biological engineering graduate and GPSS wellness chair, said. “The first one and most important one they recommended was support for the telecounseling services.” 

Telecounseling services is a free service Iowa State provides virtual and in-person counseling services. Iowa State partnered with Virtual Care Group to provide individual therapy, on-demand crisis counseling and 24/7, 365 days a year access. 

The contract is not free for the university and needs to be renewed each year, which could be an area that the funding could go to. 

Another idea suggested by the body would be to hire counselors for individual departments so that they are familiar with students’ needs and struggles while being able to provide help easier and faster. 

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