GPSG looks to have better relations with the city

The Graduate and Professional Student Government’s proposal to have a graduate student serve as a City Council liaison was not met with overwhelming praise by city councilors.

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NICK ROHLMAN

UISG city council liaison Benjamin Nelson addresses the council regarding GPSG’s memo to the council recommending an additional student government liaison representing graduate students

At the Oct. 17 Iowa City City Council meeting, the council discussed its position on the Graduate and Professional Student Government’s proposal to have a City Council liaison.

The GPSG wants to form a more collaborative relationship with the city, so it requested to have a student serve as a “non-official, non-voting member of the City Council.”

The group nominated Scott Roberts for this school year.

Currently, the University of Iowa Student Government, which represents undergraduates, has a similar position.

GPSG noted that its concerns and needs are not the same as those of undergraduates, because graduate and professional students often live more integrated into the community. Because of this, local policies affect grad students more.

Not only are these students affected more by what the city does, the statement said, but they feel they have more prevalent issues that they would like to address.

While GPSG hopes to benefit from a liaison, it believes the city would benefit as well. The relationship would grant the city more access to a highly educated and diverse population, it said, and it believes that the city should respond positively because many of the grad students are likely to have an impact on Iowa City in the future.

GPSG also stated that the proposed partnership is in line with Iowa City’s strategic plan.

RELATED: UISG talks boosting mental health services, hopes to increase student participation

“I think the suggestion has considerable merit, but I see a couple challenges too,” Mayor Jim Throgmorton said.

He asked why the council should choose liaisons from a particular group when there are numerous different groups throughout the community.

He said the UISG liaison came about 10 years ago when there were concerns raised about excessive drinking.

Throgmorton proposed sending a liaison from the council to work with the GPSG instead.

However, Councilor Kingsley Botchway spoke in favor of the liaison position.

“I don’t see any issue from the standpoint as far as how we do this and why we wouldn’t then support another organization,” he said.

Botchway said he is focusing on the governmental body structure and does not see any issue with having the liaison.

Councilor Susan Mims said she agrees with Throgmorton in the sense that she doesn’t know where the council would draw the line.

“Unless it’s only OK to have a liaison from the university system, then you could draw the line that way,” Mims said. “But then people outside of the university could say ‘wait a minute.’ ”

She said that while she wants to support the proposal, she is concerned about how to make the distinction between who can and cannot have a liaison.

After hearing the councilor’s responses, “there was general disappointment and surprise among GPSG members,” the group said. “However, we are still deeply committed to working and building a strong relationship with the city.”

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