The GSAS Action Network, a graduate student advocacy group, will attend public meetings with members of Congress to discuss labor and environmental policies in the coming weeks, the group decided Monday.
At the Monday meeting, the group, formerly called the Progressive Action Network, also voted to change its name at the meeting, discussing concerns about partisan associations with the word “progressive.” In an email, Dakota McCoy, a graduate student and one of the group’s organizers, described the GSAS Action Network as a“nonpartisan group for social and environmental justice.”
According to McCoy, members generally intend to address “issues of social and environmental justice, things like pipeline construction, renewable energy, labor rights, prison policies” in addition to “issues of race, gender, and women’s rights” when they meet with policy makers.
Some graduate students said that their academic interests influenced their decisions about what they want to tell their representatives.
“I really want to connect with my local politicians,” said Mary K. Salcedo, a graduate student in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. She said that she intended to speak with her representatives about supporting women and people of color in science.
The group planned two other events to be held in February. On Feb. 21, GSAS Action Network members will co-sponsor an event called “Carving Story out of Expertise” with Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. During this event, Dr. Ari D. Shapiro, a journalist who has worked with National Public Radio, will teach graduate students how to communicate their research to the public in clear terms.
On March 5, members will attend a workshop instructing them on how to lobby their representatives for specific reforms.
With these two events already scheduled, members said that it was important for the group’s third event to be focused on advocacy rather than education.
“Those are both very much learning skills workshops and those are very important but I got some feedback that one event should be direct advocacy,” McCoy said.
Members of the group praised these initiatives, stating that they were bringing graduate students from different fields together and allowing the organization to advocate for change.
“As scientists and sociologists and anthropologists and psychologists we’re coming together and supporting initiatives,” Salcedo said. “We’re hoping that if we can actually act, then we can change decisions.”
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