Graduate students need voice


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Throughout the semester, we have seen a number of movements and events emerging around campus for the purpose of raising awareness about issues and groups that typically are not examined nearly enough.

In this positive campus spirit of self-examination, it is important to consider one group around campus that does deserve more recognition: graduate students.

Certainly, Appalachian State University is a primarily undergraduate institution, but graduate students do make notable contributions to the university. Through their research and teacher assistant work, graduate students help to further the core university goals of research and education.

Graduate School Dean Max Poole spoke of the important contribution to intellectual advancement that graduate students offer, adding that strong graduate programs raise the profile of universities and  help in recruiting quality faculty.

Yet, there are graduate students who feel they do not receive proper recognition. Zach Hottel, the parliamentarian for the Graduate Student Association Senate, said that while he believes the administration does make some efforts to help graduate students, there needs to be a cultural change at the university toward incorporating the interests of graduate students into broader university plans.

On this basis, we can all come together to address the problems of the university. Despite differences in the campus experience of undergraduate and graduate students, there are certain issues that all students can get behind.

Among those issues are strengthening the focus on academics rather than athletics and amenities, as well as working to address the broader problem of diminishing resources for higher education, which affects all students.

Hottel probably wants more than anything to educate people on campus – from undergraduates to members of departments – to better understand the contributions.

There are a number of things that can be done to achieve this goal. For example, Hottel suggests organization of programs and events where graduate and undergraduate students may interact directly.

This would be helpful not just for graduate students, but also the undergraduates who would have the opportunity to learn more about an important group on campus they likely do not know enough about.

More broadly, we as undergraduates involved in university life should use what power we have to see that the needs of graduate students are addressed when having discussions about the direction the university should take.

As we undertake this process of critically examining the university culture around us, it is important to listen to groups who could have a more prominent voice on campus, and graduate students certainly fit into that category.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.