GSA: A Brief History
Compiled from Student Government Accounting Synopses
(Also available is a historical list of all GSA Presidents.)
GSA was founded over 50 years ago in 1936 by James E. LuValle, after whom the North Campus commons is named. Between 1937 and 1948, GSA was structured very differently and was run by the Graduate Guild. GSA assumed a structure comparable to its current structure in the late 1940's and early 1950's.
The construction of the Pauley Pavillion in 1961-62, ended the "Vet's Village" -- a collection of barracks that had provided cheap housing for married students since the end of World War II. With the help of then Vice Chancellor Charles Young, GSA and the Married Students Housing Association successfully lobbied the Regents and the Housing Office to purchase apartments on Sepulveda south of National Boulevard for married students, and to make Mira Hershey hall co-ed graduate housing.
During the 1960's, Presidents Poynter and Pierson ushered GSA into its most influential era. GSA successfully pressured the ASUCLA bookstore to reform its poor organization, including separating the bookstore from the other retail items to make the bookstore its own department. These reforms were fiercely resisted by ASUCLA managers, including curiously Bill Ackerman, after whom the building which houses the ASUCLA Store is now named.
During these years, GSA edited its own page within the Daily Bruin. However, in 1962-63, the Daily Bruin found itself in dire straits. A plane crash had killed staffmembers -- who were not replaced -- and there were often internal conflicts and charges of poor reporting or bias. It was eventually decided that only GSA's intrusion into the Daily Bruin's affairs would stabilize the paper and return it to more objective reporting. This crisis finally led, in late 1963, to the creation of the Communications Board, comprised of graduate and undergraduate representatives, to oversee the Daily Bruin and all other student publications.
Prior to May 1977, the mandatory membership fees for GSA were $4 per student per quarter. In the Spring 1977 elections, the graduate student voters established a new constitution with many substantial changes. This constitution decentralized the legislative process in GSA, created new Officer positions, and reduced membership fees to $2 per student per quarter -- half going to the local Councils, and half going to the central office. The Assembly, composed of about 120 Departmental Representatives, was given full authority over GSA affairs through a mail ballot process.
In the Spring 1982 elections, graduate students voted to -- in part -- reverse some of these changes. The "Administrative Officer", formerly "President", was renamed "President" again. Similarly, the "Internal" and "External" Affairs Officers were renamed "Vice President - Internal Affairs" and "Vice President - External Affairs" respectively. Also, fees were raised to $5 per student per quarter: $3 for the central office and $2 for the Councils, which remained unchanged for many years until recently when fees have been raise to $10 per student per quarter.
To support UCSA (University of California Student Association), a body representing the student governments, graduate and undergraduate, of all 9 UC campuses, graduate students approved an additional $0.50 fee increase in 1987, mandated to go to UCSA. This amounts to a total of about $15,000 per year.
A constitutional referendum in 1992 divided the burgeoning Health Science Council into two councils, the Health Professionals Council (Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, and Nursing), and the Public Health Council (School of Public Health.) The remaining nine Ph.D. programs that were in different schools were folded into the Biological Sciences Council. This restructuring brought the number of councils to its current total of eleven. In 1996, Forum narrowly approved a resolution supporting SAGE/UAW.
The mid-1990's were marked by a severe financial crisis at ASUCLA, precipitated by a combination of poor planning, earthquake damage (the need for seismic retrofitting of Kerckhoff and Ackerman), the recession, and also mismanagement -- which lead to the forced resignation of the Executive Director. GSA appointees to the ASUCLA Board of Directors Jim Friedman and Tim Beasley were instrumental in taking this decisive action.
For GSA, the chief consequence of these monetary woes was that the Student Interaction Fund, which had long funded GSA and many of its programs from ASUCLA revenue, had to be withdrawn, reducing GSA funds drastically. Although the Chancellor signed a 5 year contract to replaced a significant portion of this money for specific programs (Melnitz Movies, the Environmental Coalition), no new ones could be funded, and the amounts were frozen and the uses somewhat more restricted. Another consequence of this crisis was that, in exchange for crucial loans from the UCLA administration to prevent bankruptcy, Chancellor Young forced ASUCLA to remove from its Board of Directors the GSA president and the USA president -- who had formerly been ex officio members -- on the grounds that the presence of directly elected representatives made the board too "political" and therefore less fiscally responsible.
In response to this crisis, early in 1997, ASUCLA, under the leadership of its new Executive Director Patricia Eastman, raised student fees from $7.50 per year to $51.00 per year for a five-year period. Because of the time constraints and urgency, the ASUCLA Board of Directors invoked a little-used clause in the Regental Policy that permitted it to raise fees by getting direct Regent approval, without the ordinarily mandatory student votes. Although the undergraduate student government sent a letter to the Regents supporting this action, GSA Forum declined to do this after a rather long and heated meeting left the issue unresolved.
GSA had financial problems during this period as well. Raising the GSA fee requires an amendment to GSA's Constitution. During the 1990's, referenda were placed on the annual Spring ballot to raise fees almost every year. Although these measures were approved overwhelmingly every time, the voter turnout in those years was consistently less than 10% of the total graduate student population (currently about 10,000) which is GSA's constitutionally mandated minimum requirement for an amendment to be valid. Fortunately, with the advent of online voting, GSA was able to exceed the 10% voter turnout threshold and increase the GSA fee.
With the increased fee revenue, GSA has thrived in recent years. Re-opening the Graduate Student Resource Center in Winter 2005 marked a new wave of initiatives designed to better serve the graduate student body and to foster a sense of graduate student community on campus. Along these lines, GSA put on the first annual New Graduate Student Orientation in Fall 2005. GSA also backed a successful ballot initiative to create the Graduate Writing Center in Spring 2006. With the continued dedication of its graduate student members, GSA will continue to improve life for graduate students at UCLA.