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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


President Mendoza: Will You Return The GSA To Glory?

Last week I wrote that the Graduate Student Association at Penn State was dead. Today, The Daily Collegian reports that, after their coverage of the lack of candidates for the GSA executive, all the positions have been filled with elected leaders.

Unfortunately, the new leadership of the GSA under President-elect Alfonso Mendoza do not seem aware of the history of the graduate student community or their student government at Penn State. The Graduate Student Association’s paralysis will continue so long as a their membership remains in the dark about their group’s history and understands that unique new solutions must be applied to become effective once more.

Association Sees Candidate Surge (TDC) — GSA President-elect Alfonso Mendoza, who ran against Ann Petko (graduate-special education), said he contacted GSA on Wednesday — the day before the election — about running for president.

“I learned about the elections about a month ago, and I figured that with a school this big, someone would already be running for the top positions,” Mendoza (graduate-materials science and engineering) said. “Then I learned that there were still a lot of positions available, and I figured, ‘Why not?’ “

Mendoza said his priority next year will be to increase student awareness. “From my understanding, the GSA has really been a small-scale operation. My main goal is to get more grad students involved,” he said. “We boast one of the biggest graduate populations in the country, and I think we’re a little bit underrepresented.”

While I’m sure that Mr. Mendoza has the best intentions at heart, the goal of “increasing awareness” after being elected on a platform of, essentially “why not?” is not an aim likely to be achieved within the next academic year.

The Graduate Student Association is dead because Penn State grad students are no longer likely to empower themselves or their peers through it. The governing body has virtually nothing to govern after years of decline and disempowerment. The GSA’s main offerings are its tax guide and health insurance policies, both of which could just as easily be performed by administrators through the Office of Student Affairs.

What President-elect Mendoza and his officers will have to do is answer what the GSA can do for graduate students that only they can do. In other words, how can students empower one another — not through more programs and activities like free films on weekends, but through unifying the graduate student population.

The GSA must go about informing their peers on the history of Penn State, empowering their community to act (and interact) with their counterparts in the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) and across campus to let students stand up for themselves again, and stop having to ask administrators for everything before they try to accomplish anything.

Mr. Mendoza should also consider the potential benefits for the graduate students at Penn State if he forges strong ties with Penn State Student Body President Gavin Keirans in the UPUA. Together, they could be very effective advocates.

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