Section I. The Structure of GSU
GSU unites itself primarily through three specific forms of collective social interaction: the regular open meeting, thereferendum, and special meetings and actions.
- Regular open meetings are held at consistent times and locations. Any change of time or location must be announced to the membership at least 5 days before a meeting. At open meetings the organization coordinates its day-to-day affairs. The regular open meetings always remain public and open to anyone. In cases where a person obstructs or threatens the orderly conduct of a meeting, that person can be excluded from the meeting by a vote of two-thirds of those present at the meeting.
- Referenda are generally held electronically, to allow all of GSU’s members to express an opinion on a particular important matter. Only GSU members participate in referenda. The referenda serve to set the organization’s goals and decide on the organization’s direction.
- Special meetings and actions occur as needed, and they can be initiated by the regular open meeting or by referendum. They include GSU meetings inside particular departments, large open fora, and rallies.
- Membership. Any person who is not a part of the university administration and/or tenure track faculty can become a member of GSU. A person can become a GSU member by signing a GSU membership card, submitting an email address, and paying dues each year. No other requirements limit membership. Dues are currently set at $5 per academic year, but the dues amount can be changed by referendum. The regular open meeting can decide to authorize people to join without paying dues, in case of hardship or in other circumstances, and it can make this authorization generally applicable to certain categories of potential members. GSU will not release to the general public any information about a member, nor will it publicly confirm whether or not that person is a member, without the person’s prior permission. But contact information about a member, the member’s current status, and other similar basic information is available freely to any other GSU member.
- Department Coordinators. Academic departments and other units on campus may have departmental coordinators. Coordinators serve primarily to promote communication inside and between departments and to organize new members in their departments. GSU strives to find coordinators in each academic department. If an academic department has fewer than 10 GSU members, then it may have an informal coordinator designated at the regular open meeting. Once an academic department has EITHER 10 members OR 20% of its graduate students as members (whichever number is smaller), the department should choose its own coordinator. A person interested in becoming a coordinator should announce this intention via email to all GSU members in the department, informing them that the selection of a coordinator will be ratified at the next regular open meeting. Alternatively, a department member may announce that a department meeting will be held at which a coordinator will be nominated, to be ratified at the next regular open meeting. Departmental coordinators serve until either:
- the school year ends,
- the majority of the department’s GSU members sign an email asking for her/ his replacement,
- the coordinator is replaced for absenteeism: If a coordinator does not attend three consecutive regular open meetings and does not email the GSU internal list to explain her/his absence within two days after the meeting, her/ his position will then need to be filled by a replacement.
Members and potential members who do not clearly fall under the jurisdiction of any single academic department may elect to join the academic department or unit they feel most relates to their interests and position within the university and the broader community.
Departments may have more than one coordinator, to have rotating coordinators, or to come up with any other system that works for them. However, if a department has more than one coordinator, all of that department’s coordinators together have one vote in the regular open meeting.
- Establishing New Departments or Organizing Units. GSU members may form new departments or organizing units with a minimum of 10 members or 20% of the proposed unit’s students (whichever is smaller). New organizing units may include recognized University departments not yet represented by GSU members; workplaces within the University; or other organizational forms as determined by GSU members. New organizing units must be proposed and approved at regular open meetings.
- Cancellation of Membership. Any member may withdraw from GSU at any time. To withdraw from GSU, a member must notify the Membership Coordinator in writing, and return their membership card.
Section II. GSU’s Decision-Making Process
- Types of Decisions. Substantive decisions are made through referenda of the whole membership. Proceduraldecisions are made at the group’s regular open meeting.Referenda call for decisions on matters that immediately and concretely affect GSU members. Decisions involving whether or not to strike, the terms of negotiations, the acceptance of negotiations, amendments to bylaws and the creation of new departments are all examples of substantive decisions.Procedural decisions involve the maintenance and everyday functions of GSU. The decision to create sub-committees, determine meeting times, set agendas, develop strategies and propose referenda are all examples of things voted on at regular open meetings.
- Procedure for Regular Open Meetings. In regular open meetings, every effort is made to reach consensus on decisions. However, if consensus on a pressing matter seems improbable within the time allotted, a vote can take place. A issue may be deemed urgent only by consensus. Because of GSU’s size at the date of the ratification of these by-laws, all members present at a regular open meeting may vote. All votes are won by simple majority, not including abstentions and people absent. Regular open meetings have a quorum of 5 people. If 5 people are not present at the meeting at the time a decision is to be made, then that decision cannot be made. As GSU grows, the number required for a quorum is subject to change via referendum.
- Implementation of a new, departmentally-based voting structure. As GSU grows, a new voting structure can be implemented in order to ensure equal representation among differently sized departments. In the new structure, consensus procedure remains unchanged. During voting, however, each department has one vote, regardless of how many of its members are present. The above rules for voting will apply, but with “department” (or organizing unit) substituting for “person.” The decision to implement this new structure must be proposed at a regular open meeting and approved by referendum.
- Procedure for Referenda. A referendum can be called in three ways:
- 10% of the GSU membership can send an email requesting a referendum.
- Members at an open meeting can agree by consensus to have a referendum.
- Members or departments at an open meeting can vote to have a referendum.
After a referendum is called, an email must be sent out to all GSU members advertising a future open meeting at which the referendum’s contents and wording will be settled. An open meeting is then devoted to settling on the terms of the referendum. If appropriate, this open meeting could take the form of a large open forum. The referendum then occurs in such a way that all members are able to vote. Generally, the referendum will take place through website and email. The length of time allowed for voting must be determined at the meeting devoted to the terms of the referendum, with a minimum of 24 hours. Referenda have a quorum of 100 people or 25% of GSU’s membership, whichever is smaller. If this quorum is not satisfied, the results of the referendum are not binding. For a decision to be reached by referendum, 2/3 of voters must approve, not including abstentions and people not voting.
Some decisions must necessarily be made through referendum. These decisions are:
- The decision to accept or decline any offer by the university administration.
- The decision to increase dues.
- The decision to have a public membership list.
- The decision to affiliate with or join any other organization.
- The decision to amend GSU by-laws.
- Status of Decisions Reached. Decisions made by referendum are fully binding for GSU. Decisions made at the regular open meeting by consensus or by voting are fully binding for GSU as long as they do not contradict a decision made by a referendum.
- Amendments to By-Laws. These bylaws can be amended by referendum with the requirement of a 2/3 majority vote.
Section III. Special Responsibilities
- Signing Up Members. Any GSU member may sign up new members, following this procedure: First, the member must obtain blank membership cards from the membership coordinator (see below). Each card is individually numbered, and the card numbers taken should be noted by the coordinator. Next, the member has a new member sign one card for her- or himself, sign another card to be kept by GSU, and pay the first installment of dues. Finally, the member who has taken the blank cards from the membership coordinator must return one signed card per new member to the membership coordinator and give all dues collected to the financial coordinator (see below).
- Ad Hoc Responsibilities. GSU appoints people or committees to complete most tasks on an ad-hoc basis. Examples of this include facilitators and note-takers for regular open meetings, roles which different members assume at each meeting. Other examples include people or committees that organize specific one-time events. As soon as these tasks are completed, the appointed person or committee’s responsibilities end.
- Standing Committees. As decided at regular open meetings, standing committees may be established, for example to conduct necessary research, to advocate on specific issues (e.g. health care or international students’ interests), or to plan social events.
- Positions of Special Responsibility. Some positions of responsibility remain steady, however. A financial coordinator must be elected by consensus or by voting at a regular open meeting. Other positions of responsibility include a membership coordinator (collecting membership cards and information); communications coordinator(checking the GSU email account and responding to queries); a website coordinator (maintaining the website including the system of electronic referenda); and a meeting coordinator (ensuring that a facilitator and note-taker is chosen for each meeting and that meeting times and locations are reserved and announced to members). Positions may be added or combined as necessary by decisions made at regular open meetings. These special coordinators hold office from the beginning of an academic year until the beginning of the next academic year, or until they are removed by consensus or voting at a regular open meeting. If coordinators will be elected at an upcoming regular open meeting, this must be clearly announced to members.
- The Financial Coordinator. The financial coordinator may make small purchase decisions on her or his own. All such purchases should be presented in a verbal or written report at the next regular open meeting. Any time the organization spends total sum of more than $100 in one week, however, the expenditures must be pre-approved at a regular open meeting. Only in exceptional circumstances should retroactive purchasing approval be granted for large purchases. Any money left in the GSU account at the end of the year will be saved for the next year’s expenses.