How The ASU Failed Graduate Students In A Big Way: Statement By A Past AGS President

Recently, a Student Representative Council meeting open to all students featured someone coming in to tell us all how the Union is like a baby and that we need to put its needs before our own. I find this a bit ironic given that this “baby” was made to serve and represent us in the first place, but I will be fair and take the best interpretation of this: the union serves all students instead of just individuals and, as a result, there will need to be compromises made. That said, I really have to ask what compromise required defunding and removing the only organization in the ASU which represents the graduate students.

And just for the sake of transparency, this will be biased as I have a bone to pick here. I am one of the past AGS Presidents.

For those who don’t know, which will likely be most of you, the unceremonious defunding and removal of Acadia Graduate Students (AGS) as an Internal Organization occurred under Brendan MacNeil. I will not be divulging details of what happened (not now, anyway), but the decision was far from a transparent one. And the decision was not communicated to any deans, chairs, or even graduate coordinators. The coordinator for Biology was not aware until a few weeks ago… when I told him. In addition, when former President Matthew Stanbrook began his tenure he did not even seem to know what AGS was. An entire IO is removed from the ASU and people, even those with obvious connection to it, are somehow completely unaware. Something about that doesn’t seem right.

Then, as if the disregard for us was not already clear, the ASU did not even honor a rule for selecting the incoming Graduate Studies Senator that they made us write into a revised Society Constitution (which we never bothered with) based on their own By-Laws. It was agreed originally that the Graduate Studies Senator would be an elected position starting this year instead of being appointed by the outgoing President and the Office of Research & Graduate Studies. Somehow this was not communicated to the Chief Returning Officer and the election call for nominations still has the outdated rule, which is sad considering they remembered to remove AGS as an IO on the website. And again, this was not a rule which depended on AGS continuing as a society. It is literally in the ASU’s governing documents.

All of this lets us know exactly what the ASU thinks of the Graduate Student population: a collection of ATMs they can strip representation and agency from while still collecting fees.

The ASU, and particularly the SRC, seems to forget that “student” applies equally to both undergraduate and graduate students the same way it does to both full-time and part-time students under their own governing documents. We are not second-class students simply because there are fewer of us. Not only do I not feel represented or even valued by the ASU at this point, I feel that graduate students even remaining a part of the ASU should be reconsidered. If the ASU feels they can treat us like this the moment it becomes convenient then we clearly need to seek greater autonomy.

To be clear, that movement will not be led by me. My time in the ASU is done and my time at Acadia is drawing to a close. I leave it to current and future graduate students to decide the next step.