Grad students overshadowed
By CHRISTINE KRALY
Associate News Editor
Ask graduate students what they love about Notre Dame and they respond with a multitude of answers.
More than likely, though, the answer won't be that it's because the graduate school has a terrific reputation or relationship with the rest of the University.
The graduate school's motto has long been "Small but superb," a phrase coined by Nathan Hatch when he held the position as the school's vice president. James Merz, the school's present vice president, has since added "and growing modestly to meet our challenges."
The school is small, yes, but "a little far from [superb]," said Jorge Ganopolsky, a grad student studying biochemistry.
Part of this, Ganopolsky says, is due to the differences he sees in graduate and undergraduate privileges. Ganopolsky, who likes to swim at the Rockne Memorial, suffers the burdens of undergraduate breaks when summer and break hours for the facility shorten.
Other places on campus, including the Hesburgh Library, change their hours during breaks. This, he said, shows preferential treatment because graduate students live at school throughout the year.
"[You can] feel the difference," Ganopolsky said. "When undergrad students [are not around], we're not taken care of."
The school's motto, said Mike Waddell, a joint medieval studies and philosophy graduate student, is a "pretty accurate" reflection of his work.
Waddell wanted a relatively small school, by graduate school standards, but one with a good academic reputation, which is why he says he came to Notre Dame. Students need to understand, though, that the University's main focus is not on graduate studies, he said.
"The University has a stronger commitment to undergraduate students," he said. "You need to know that when you get here."
Notre Dame, Waddell said, is interested in improving its profile, not educating its graduate students, and the University needs to evaluate why it does this.
"Most of the University seems to have its attention drawn towards undergraduate than graduate [students]," Merz said.
According to Merz, inequality exists in many aspects of graduate life.
One concern is health insurance. All students, graduate and undergraduate, are required to have it. University health insurance covers only the student bearing the insurance, not a student's spouse or children. This limitation in the policy, Merz said, affects graduate students far more than it might affect undergraduates.
Merz said University officials have discussed the "very complex, extremely costly" insurance issue, and that a second program has been negotiated.
The inequality, according to Merz, stretches to many areas of University life. The Graduate Student Union, he said, "[has been given] totally unsatisfactory" office space, unlike undergraduate groups, who he says receive ample space. It's tough to perform successfully as a student organization, he said, when the group is still at the bottom of the priority list for meeting rooms.
The group sponsors speakers and conferences, which Merz said is a concern when space is unavailable.
The undergraduate and graduate programs "need to share visibility," Merz said. Graduate representation doesn't play much of a role at Trustees meetings, he added. This includes the decision to turn down the Big Ten and remain independent, a decision Merz said considered little graduate opinion.
Maybe the most visible difference in graduate and undergraduate life is the living arrangement. Eighty-five percent of undergraduates live on campus in well-lit, well-maintained residences, said Merz. Graduate students, he said, don't see these same luxuries as they live in off-campus housing that is not maintained at the same level as undergraduate residence halls.
According to du Lac, graduate students have no parietals rules because "the design of graduate student apartment and townhouse facilities allows for 24-hour visitation without compromising the safety, security and privacy needs of other individuals."
Grad students have to comply more with the individual resident policies of Fischer-O'Hara-Grace (FOG) than with those outlined for residence halls.
According to Rex Rackow, director of Notre Dame Security/Police, FOG residences are patrolled on a regular basis just as residence halls are.
Entrance security is not the same as residence halls. FOG buildings are apartment-style and are not card key accessible, but are locked and guarded as the resident's responsibility.
With all these visible differences, many grad students say some of the most important improvements need to be made in fostering better community relationships, particularly with undergraduates.
Melanie Peldo, a chemistry grad student, says that people often have a hard time seeing graduate students as students, rather than just the teaching assistants that grade papers. This is one more thing, she said, that serves as a barrier in fostering strong relationships with undergraduates.
Waddell says that grad students sometimes set themselves up as elites compared to undergraduates. Graduate students, he said, need to think of themselves as undergraduates' "intellectual older brothers and sisters."
What needs to change first, Maria Canalas, president of the GSU says, is attitude. Students and administrators need to change the way they think if anything's going to change in treatment.
All News Stories for Friday, November 5, 1999