Administration hears graduate students’ issues

University resources, Activity & Service fees, and improved faculty relations were some of the issues graduate students raised to university officials in a town hall meeting Thursday in the Student Government Association Senate Chambers.

University Provost Larry Robinson listened to the concerns of graduate students, who said they are often overlooked.

“(FAMU) is primarily an undergraduate institution that doesn’t really cater to graduate students,” said Alvin F. Benton, 22, Graduate Student Association president and director of Graduate Affairs. “We are trying to make small changes so that it is a better environment for graduate students.”

Former GSA President Nashay Pendleton, from Philadelphia, shared similar sentiments.

“As graduate students, we are our own support,” said the second year psychology and African American studies graduate student.Pendleton and other students at the meeting said the university should increase the amount of funds a grad student can receive as well as create additional opportunities for grants and loans.

“When you become classified as an independent student it does open the door for a greater amount of funding,” Pendleton said. “However, graduate tuition is still high.”

Graduate students said university officials should also find a way of supplying them with health insurance.

Every year, grad students enter into their programs expecting certain benefits based on a bargaining agreement with the university, said Benton, a second year history and political science graduate student.

According to him the agreement establishes and outlines the rights and responsibilities of everything from assistantships to financial aid. The agreement, which is renewed every three years, is currently being revised for contracted student assistants.

But students say the agreement doesn’t supply them with what they need.

“At other state universities, health insurance comes as a part of the packet,” Benton said. “We have to get health insurance on our own because the university doesn’t have the resources to cover it for us.”

“Unfortunately if something happens you have no recourse,” Pendleton said. “So the graduate students are looking at their employer, which is the university, and right now we have nothing.”

Larry Robinson, University Provost and vice president of Academic Affairs assured them that the faculty would meet graduate student needs at the university.

“I have not lost my passion for graduate study and research,” he said. “I will continue it personally…I’m going to expect that all the faculty we have and all the ones we hire raise the bar on themselves and get more involved in graduate scholarly activities.”

Kris Thomas can be reached at