Just as the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) represents the entire student body, the University’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) represents graduate students on campus. Following the recent internal by-election, Steve Brown was elected as the new GSA president.
Brown is a graduate public policy student and has a history of involvement in student politics. In the early-mid 2000s, he was president of the La Trobe University Student Union and edited La Trobe University’s student magazine, Rabelais.
Operating similarly to UMSU, all students enrolled in a graduate course are automatically members of the GSA. Furthermore, the GSA is completely independent from the University, the School of Graduate Studies and UMSU.
During the GSA elections, issues arose over how the electoral process was carried out. The election for postgraduate fellow for the university council was suspended, following the accidental omission of Brown’s name on the ballot paper. Subsequently, a motion was passed by the GSA to have the election coincide with the general election in April/May this year.
There has been recent debate over the effectiveness of having both UMSU and the GSA, even to the extent of considering an amalgamation of both organisations. Brown encourages closer ties with both associations, but not necessarily amalgamation.
“I think that the relationship can only grow and strengthen,” he said. “In the long run, as the student mix changes at the university, the role of those two organisations will need to change as well. How that happens is in the hands of future administrators of the GSA and UMSU.”
With over 23,000 members, the GSA provides facilities and advocacy to graduate students across all faculties. The GSA also hosts a range of clubs and events such as the Postgraduate Ball, and have recently begun curating their new publication The Graduate, launched in 2014.
The GSA aims to make its presence known to graduate students by providing a range of seminars and events to showcase its services, including the Graduate Careers Fair.
“Our focus for the calendar year is going to be the ongoing campaign against charging university students higher fees and the proposal floated by the university for a student precinct,” states Brown.