UT, A&M grad students band together to communicate with state, national legislators

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UT and Texas A&M graduate students are coming together to form a coalition to petition for legislative support and funding.

The students co-authored a joint resolution last month which established the partnership between the two schools. This resolution is the first step toward working with other Texas universities to approach state and national legislators to advocate for common issues.

“At the end of the day, exchanging ideas is integral for legislators and for us as students,” said Suchi Sundaram, legislative affairs director for UT’s Graduate Student Assembly. “Coming together for numbers not only increases our support but it also validates it.”

The resolution is the first time that A&M has made a joint resolution of this kind with another university, said Jamie Wangler, advisor to the Graduate and Professional Student Council at A&M.
Both legislative bodies signed the resolution in February after Paul Taele, President of the A&M graduate council, reached out to Sundaram and Wills Brown.

“There was this realization that we didn’t have a single coalition of graduate student governments,” Taele said. “We realized it would be easier if we advocated together.”

This new partnership, uniting the two largest universities in Texas, will focus on quality of life for students and affordability, Sundaram said. She said the most pressing issue is funding, as recent discussion in the legislature has foreshadowed budget cuts at Texas universities.

Because graduate students are often on research tracks and rely on studies for experience and credit, Sundaram said research support is a priority for the coalition.

“Graduate students are kind of at the center of receiving and accessing funds and grants for research,” Sundaram said. “It’s a universal concern that graduate students share, and we wanted this coalition to focus on this core issue.”

Taele said this resolution will act as a starting block for a larger coalition of Texas universities. Among other universities, the University of North Texas may soon join the partnership. However, Taele said the larger coalition is still in the preliminary stage.

“I think the main focus of this coalition is to have that exchange of ideas among University representatives and also to provide support for the amazing work that legislative organizations are doing,” Sundaram said.

Sundaram will join graduate students from A&M and other Texas universities with the Student Advocates for Graduate Education on a trek to Washington D.C. to campaign for national legislative support this Saturday.