GSGA Rallies Against GOP Tax Plan

The Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) and Student Government Association (SGA) convened Monday evening for their second joint legislative session to discuss collective action about the GOP tax plan. After the joint session, GSGA approved funding for the “#MeTooEmory” luncheon.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Nov. 2, which would remove tax exemptions on qualified tuition reductions, meaning that the tuition waivers for graduate students working as teaching or research assistants would be taxed as income. The bill passed the Senate Budget Committee in a 12-11 vote Nov. 28. Some graduate students argue that the tax plan reduces graduate student incomes and negatively impacts higher education

“Long story short, this is very bad for higher education,” GSGA Executive Vice President Vineet Tiruvadi (18G, 21M) said.

The GSGA Executive Board sent a statement to all graduate students about the GOP tax plan. Executive Board members jointly drafted the statement, Tiruvadi wrote in a Nov. 28 email to the Wheel. SGA Vice President of Communications Konya Badsa (15Ox, 18C) sent a statement from the GSGA Executive Board regarding the GOP tax plan to all undergraduate students in a Nov. 27 email. No one on GSGA Executive Board objected to the release of the statement to the student body, Tiruvadi wrote to the Wheel in a Nov. 28 email.

“With passage of H.R. 1 in the House, consideration of the Tax Cuts and Jobs act moves to the U.S. Senate,” the statement reads. “The Senate draft is more favorable to graduate students, but the conditions have not been finalized and could change. It is more important than ever for you to voice your thoughts and concerns on this bill.”

GSGA has been “actively reaching out to administrators, congressional delegations and universities around Georgia,” and encouraged graduate students to make their voices heard by doing the same, according to the statement.

Emory is slightly more protected than state schools, wrote Tiruvadi, who also serves on the Georgia Institute of Technology’s graduate student government as the graduate student body executive vice president. If the Senate passes its version of the tax plan, Tiruvadi told the Wheel that Emory’s GSGA will coordinate with other schools’ student governments to respond to push Congress members to vote against the plan.

Badsa’s email included a note stating that SGA supports graduate students in opposing the tax proposal.

“SGA stands with and supports the graduate and professional students in allowing our voices to be heard in the outcome of this legislation,” the SGA statement reads. SGA also urged undergraduate and graduate students alike to contact their representatives and senators “in our commitment to accessible higher education.”

In addition to continued efforts to have students contact representatives and senators, Tiruvadi asked SGA to act collectively with GSGA on the issue during the joint legislative session.

“Reach out to me, so we can do a joint collaborative thing between GSGA and SGA to really tackle this and put statements out, reach out to our senators, reach out to our representatives together, run some numbers to figure out how much this affects undergrads, how much this affects grads,” Tiruvadi said.

Tiruvadi said that although the Senate’s version of the bill specified that tax exemptions for tuition waivers would be preserved, the conference committee which will follow the Senate’s passing of the bill could still remove the exemption.

Regarding the GOP tax plan and its consequences, Tiruvadi said that “it’s a big black box that we’re really trying to understand a lot more. … Nothing like this has really ever happened before.”

In a separate meeting after the joint session, GSGA voted unanimously to approve $191.85 in funding for “#MeTooEmory,” a luncheon organized by the Center for Women to discuss issues and share stories around sexual harassment.

Vice President of Student Concerns and Inclusion Tiffania Willetts (18T) focused on rechartering the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) as a University-wide Organization (UWO) under GSGA. ASAP is currently working to recharter under SGA.

“The goal would be for this to be a starting point, this Friday, just to start the conversation, to then have a larger event in the spring, and then to, along with that, to recharter ASAP” in order to “react to [the pervasive sexual assault accusations in the media or in Emory’s community in the future] in a timely manner and there would already be a student group ready to do that,” Willetts said.

The luncheon received $100 in funding from Goizueta Women in Business (GWIB) and Emory Women in Neuroscience, $50 from each organization, prior to its request to GSGA.

The event is expected to draw 25 people.

Michelle Lou contributed reporting.

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