The Council: What It Does, and Where You Fit In
You’re Already a Member
The Computer Science Graduate Course Council, like all great aspects of computer science generally goes by the acronym CSGCC, or more informally the course council. As it is currently set up, the course council is a volunteer organization which provides funds, equipment and contacts to help all CS grad students make life a little better for themselves. The course council actually includes all computer science graduate students automatically. So, you’re already a member! In practice, the day to day functions of the course council are carried out for all members by a small band of volunteers called the Executive. The most important services we traditionally undertake each year include the following:
The Graduate Student Lounge
The graduate student lounge provides a place for us to hang out, eat lunch, discuss problems, and read current news. It is important both for the services it provides directly, like the microwave, and indirectly in the way it provides a space for us to meet informally. In addition to the microwave, the lounge also provides a fridge, a blackboard and chalk to draw on it with, a coffee maker, kettles, chairs, tables, sofas and a TV. The council also looks after the repair, maintenance and cleaning of these facilities for us.
In addition to the basic facilities of the lounge, the council also provides magazines and a coffee club. In the past, the council has subscribed to Time, Macleans, National Geographic, and The Economist and made them available in the lounge. The coffee club actually provides tea and popcorn in addition to coffee. The coffee club provides a convenient place to find coffee or popcorn any time, but especially on the weekends and evenings when the rest of the campus is closed. Traditionally, the council also provides, milk-powder, sugar and condiments like salt, mustard, and ketchup. The small amount of profit generated by the coffee club is used to maintain the equipment and supplement the shrinking amount of funding we obtain from the GSA. The profit also provides a credit float which we used to purchase supplies ahead of time for users of the lounge. Members of the council can use the tea, coffee and popcorn provided in the lounge and sign for it on sheets. These are tallied every couple of months and then money is collected from those with outstanding accounts
Representation Brings Money & Power
The course council is an official sub-part of the Graduate Students Association at the University of Saskatchewan. This official relationship provides us with the opportunity to send official representatives to the GSA. These representatives can communicate to us about workshops, events and important decisions being made at the university level. There are many worthwhile events happening at the university that we have not generally taken advantage of in the past. The GSA group holds workshops on making presentations, applying for grants, and career development for instance. The GSA also organizes sporting events. In the past we have encouraged our representatives on to the GSA to report directly to the members of the council by email. The representatives can also influence the decisions of the GSA, and through membership on committees of the GSA influence university policy. The official relationship also means that we qualify for money provided by the GSA. Only those departments which have their own course councils can get back money from the GSA. We can then use this money for our own activities and programs.
The course council also has representatives at the faculty meetings for the department of computer science and the facilities committee which looks after the purchasing of equipment and creation of policy for the laboratories in the department. Generally, our representation on the GSA, faculty and facilities committee has resulted in a couple of issues per year.
Events and Activities
The course council organizes department events throughout the year to help us meet everyone in the department and break the year up a bit. Traditionally we have a welcome party the second week of September to introduce the new grad students to the crowd here at the U of S and say hello to people who may have been away over the summer. The event traditionally starts with a baseball game between the faculty and students. Its a great way to learn the game as the game is quite informal. Generally, both the faculty and students will tell you that they “won” the game last year. We don’t keep track too closely 🙂 The baseball match is traditionally followed by a potluck dinner.
Midway through the year, we hold a big party. By this point everyone has gotten to know a few people, so we get people to organize into groups to present skits and entertainment for the evening. Last year we called the event “The Warm Your Toes Party”. Acts included the wildly popular “The Alorithmics” (student’s competition act), “CS-Bay” (the staff feature), and “Faculty Idol” (the faculty feature). Last year we also had a full catered dinner and a cash bar.
Generally we plan a couple of smaller events in the spring and summer. In the past this has included a barbeque, a soccer game, and volley ball match.
There is also generally a couple of movies nights in the year. The department provides VCRs so we just have to rent the movie and provide refreshments.
Thinking About the Future
The student’s council runs over an extended time period, so its good to think about the future a bit. One of the future concerns we have is over the equipment in the lounge. We expect some major repairs at some indefinite date in the future for the fridge, kettles, coffee maker and microwave. We’ve set aside some funds for this in a capital reserve account.
We also expect that the funding from the GSA will be further cut back in the near future. The small amount of profits from the coffee club were intended to prepare for this eventually. We have also considered some pay per event fees but this isn’t attractive from a social view point.
At the present the student’s council has focused mostly on social activities. There has been some interest in getting some professional activities going. Last year, the undergrad student council organized a career day where they had several speakers come in and talk about how to prepare for the job market. We have talked a little about starting a professional society chapter. We could start an IEEE or ACM student member chapter in the department and overlap its activities with the grad council. Both organizations require regular events take place and that you have a certain number of members around the department. We do have members at the moment, but we don’t have activities yet.
Executive Positions (a more informal definition!)
The day to day operations of the council are carried out by a small band of volunteers. Planning events can be fun and of course, the filling of an executive position is good for a line on your resume. There are about 13 positions to fill so there are lots for everyone! Unfortunately we didn’t do as much cooperative planning this year. Usually people work together, but there are actual official roles set out for executive members. One of the perks of being on the executive is a fancy title. The official titles include the following:
President: Main contact person for the executive. Looks after organizational things like calling elections and making sure that positions on the executive are filled.
Vice-President Finance: Keeps a record of expenses. Makes out the cheques
Vice-President Internal / WebMaster: Takes notes during the CSGCC meetings. Keeps the CSGCC website up-to-date. Looks after the lounge.
Vice-President External: Interfaces with GSA, the university level graduate students association.
Social Director: Handles details of activities like arranging playing fields, getting volunteers to help move tables ,making signs.
PhD Representative to Department Meetings: Officially represents needs and concerns of PhD students in the department when decisions are made at department meetings.
Masters Representative to Department Meetings: Represent the needs and concerns of Masters students in the department when decisions are made at department meetings.
GSA Representatives: Represent computer science interests at the university graduate students association meetings. In past years representatives have gotten a free Christmas dinner and donuts/cookies at meetings. We get a number of representatives based on how many students we have in the department. Generally this works out to three representatives. We need regular representatives at meetings so we appoint 3 representatives and 3 alternates. A representative can nominate an alternate to take his/her place if he/she can’t make a particular meeting.