Explaining Syracuse University’s Graduate Student Organization and its initiatives

Delaney Van Wey | Asst. News Editor

During the Graduate Student Organization's last meeting of the spring 2016 semester, members discussed the GSO budget, among other topics.

Updated: Jan. 13 at 11:01 p.m.

What is the Graduate Student Organization?

The Graduate Student Organization at Syracuse University represents graduate students in the University Senate, giving graduate students a voice in larger university issues. GSO is composed of representatives from degree-granting programs and elected officials. All graduate students are members of GSO.


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Who is in GSO?

Rajesh Kumar, a Ph.D. candidate in the computer and information science and engineering program, serves as GSO president for the 2016-17 academic year. Kumar holds master’s degrees in computer applications and mathematics. Before being elected GSO president, he had served as chair of the GSO travel grant committee.

Kumar will be working on career services for graduate students, student health insurance, off-campus safety and increasing representation and participation of graduate students in GSO at SU, according to his executive board profile on the GSO website.

Can Aslan, a doctoral student in the bioengineering program, is the vice president of internal affairs after being GSO president for the 2015-16 academic year.

Aslan has served in the GSO Senate and the University Senate, as well as in the GSO Outreach Committee. He also founded the Engineering and Computer Science GSO. Aslan is looking to further improve representation and involvement of graduate students at SU, according to the GSO website.

Peta Long, a doctoral student in mass communications, is vice president of external affairs.

David Lemon, a Ph.D. candidate in biology, is comptroller.

These are the seven committees  within GSO:

  • Academic Resources and Affairs
  • Diversity
  • Finance
  • Graduate Employment Issues
  • Grant
  • Outreach
  • Student Life


GSO senators approved a budget of $485,910.71 for the 2016-17 academic year during its last meeting of the spring 2016 semester.

The organization has planned to instill a new method of allocating funds to individual student organizations. The finance committee chose to distribute funds based on whether a group represents an academic department.

If a group has historically represented or is directly representing an academic department, that group will be funded per student in that department. Students are valued at $58.45, with up to a $12,000 cap. Groups that are not representative of an academic committee receive $1,000.

During the spring meeting, Aslan  was approved to put aside $2,000 of the $40,000 special programming budget for the School of Education Council’s clinic simulation program.


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Although graduate student employees gained the legal right to unionize last summer, GSO has refrained from leading a unionization movement at SU.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate student researchers and teaching assistants would be able to unionize to protect their interests like any other employee, something that GSO had been interested in for years.

Retaining university employee health benefits for graduate student employees has been the main concern that drives the interest in unionization, so when the university agreed to keep students on the health plan for another year the interest diminished.

GSO has recommended that its ad-hoc committee, which explored unionization, become its own registered student organization to pursue a graduate student union at SU for now, rather than spearhead the process itself. It has said it may reconsider unionization if interest grows or when the health plan is up for debate again.

Off-Campus Security

From the beginning of the fall semester, GSO worked on the issue of off-campus public safety. GSO President Rajesh Kumar said during the Oct. 20 meeting that graduate students didn’t have enough access to information about off-campus safety.

During the semester, the GSO Student Life Committee met with university officials to discuss security in the areas graduate students typically live off campus. GSO has also worked with the Department of Public Safety and the Syracuse Police Department to move forward on installing more off-campus security cameras.


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Career Services

GSO also made improving career services for graduate students a focus last semester. The group wants more and better services in every department that would be exclusive to graduate students, Kumar said at the Oct. 20 meeting.

The group met with Chancellor Kent Syverud and Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly to discuss a review of the issue. They agreed to survey students through the departments’ respective faculty members to gather information about potential changes.

Conference Bid

Last semester, GSO put together a bid to host the 2017 National Conference of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. The group wants to present SU as “a leading institution of social justice change,” said Vice President of External Affairs Peta Long at a meeting last semester.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry agreed to support the conference bid and will facilitate the use of SUNY-ESF facilities, although it had not promised any financial support by the end of the semester.

GSO also received the support of the chancellor, provost, dean of student affairs and dean of the graduate school.

The budget for the event was finalized at $23,000. GSO is also discussing the idea of pre-conference workshops on national issues pertaining to graduate students.


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