Graduate students to have own lounge

When the Ronald Tutor Campus Center opens its doors in August, graduate students will finally have their own place to go — a new 3,000-square foot lounge that the Graduate and Professional Student Senate has decided to purchase.

GPSS voted earlier this week to spend $200,000 over the course of the next five years to name a lounge on the fourth floor of the new campus center. Though there was debate about whether the cost was worth it, the decision ultimately passed with a slim majority.

GPSS President Johannes Schmitt said he started exploring the possibility of purchasing the lounge with USC Student Affairs last semester.

He said he went in wanting to find some place for graduate students in the new building and was surprised by the administration’s swift response in offering them a space to call their own.

For five yearly payments of $40,000, the GPSS obtains naming rights for the lounge, allowing GPSS to name the space “The Graduate Student Lounge” and dedicate it to all graduate and professional students at USC.

Schmitt said he hopes naming the lounge will encourage graduate students to use it as a common space.

“There’s this problem of visibility of graduate students,” Schmitt said. “Every graduate program individually has a lounge within their department, but we want to encourage [graduate students] to come out of their comfort zone.”

Schmitt presented his proposal to the Senate on Monday night. Patrick Bailey, executive director of Student Life and Involvement, also spoke to the Senate, discussing a recent survey that revealed most USC graduate students sit in their cars between classes.

“Graduates at large have nothing specifically to themselves,” said Abhinav Chandran, public relations chair for GPSS. “Undergraduates have places to go. I know people who just do their work in Leavey, spend time in Leavey — having a place specifically for us, we’ve never had that before.”

Deborshi Saha, a graduate student studying computer science, said the lounge will be particularly useful for international students.

“I think a lounge would help international students meet local students,” Saha said. “Most graduate students I know go to the library or Burger King or the UV between classes.”

Some graduate students, however, think spending money to name the lounge was not a smart investment.

“Personally, I think we shouldn’t waste money [on naming the lounge],” GPSS Senator Sean Taitt, a first-year graduate student with the USC School of Social Work, said.

Taitt was one of several students to speak out against the proposal during the meeting.

“It’s another forum for networking, but it’s going to cost future graduate students more to pay for the building,” he said. “It takes away from others later on.”

One student senate member called out, “If it’s called the Barack Obama lounge, can I still use it? I don’t get why we need to name it.”

But Schmitt believes the name will encourage graduate students to “linger on and be there” and might help “foster a more prominent, unified graduate student community” on the campus.

Additional criticism of the proposal addressed the fact that the lounge will not actually be for the exclusive use of graduate students; as a common space in the campus center, it will be open to all students. Schmitt pointed out the potential benefits of the situation.

“Undergraduates should know there’s a place on the fourth floor they can go to ask questions or meet graduate students,” he said.

Schmitt said, though it seems like a lot of money, some students may not understand how large this year’s GPSS budget is.

In fall 2009, the graduate programming fee — which enables graduate students to attend and benefit from GPSS programs — was expanded to include all students taking less than six units. This expansion has generated approximately $200,000 in additional funds available to GPSS this year. Of this, 80 percent must go toward the GPSS travel grant fund. GPSS plans to make the payments for the lounge from left-over money in this fund.

Schmitt said he thinks this is an important step for graduate students.

“Undergraduates have so many opportunities to be a part of that Trojan experience,” Schmitt said. “I don’t think that Trojan experience exists for graduate students as much. Most graduate students, I think, would be interested in having more going on at the graduate community level, and I think The Graduate Student Lounge may help with that.”

21 replies
  1. Nik
    Nik says:

    The price is a bit much just for naming rights, but I think if the deal could be sweetened to provide exclusive access to graduate students, then it would be a worthwhile expenditure. There’s not as much in a name as there is in function. It’s high time the Trojan graduate community had a place to ourselves and a venue to come out of our shells. I haven’t heard of the survey concluding that grads spend their downtime in cars, but I do know a lot of us can become introverted just from hanging out at Leavey too much. If we’re going to spend that kind of money, it better be just for us.

  2. Alex
    Alex says:

    I love the idea, but can someone explain why it’s going to cost so much. Grad school is part of USC, USC owns that building, so why charge so much (if anything)?

  3. Joe
    Joe says:

    As a grad student, I think it’d be great if there was a place on campus that was restricted to graduate students and their guests. A bar, for example, would be a good idea — 21-year-old undergrads and 25-35 year old grads don’t really “fit” together in one on-campus bar, no matter how nice it is. The age groups are just looking for very different kinds of atmosphere. But this proposal isn’t a bar or restaurant, and it isn’t even exclusive. Also, it’s on the fourth floor! Who do you know that climbs three sets of stairs just to kick up their feet and relax? The space will either be abandoned, or if it is worth using as a study space, will be equally full of noisy undergrads talking about skateboards and comic books and things. Whatever it is they talk about.

  4. I am an idiot
    I am an idiot says:

    Can you guys put my name on it? Oh, my name is Graduate Idiot because I can not spend the money by myself.

  5. graduating undergrad
    graduating undergrad says:

    Awesome! Another way for grad students to make themselves feel more important over the undergrads. I have never met such a large group of rude, self-entitled and disrespectful people as the grad students at USC (especially film grads) This will just allow for more superiority complexes to develop; undergrads had to pay for this building, why can’t it be the undergrad lounge?

  6. Abhinav Chandran PR GPSS
    Abhinav Chandran PR GPSS says:

    Dear Nadav,

    First of all in case you were not listening properly the idea of having the voting in the end was only a trial to see if it is more convenient for senators. I however do not remember you raising any objections when this was suggested at the start of the meeting.

    In case you have not realized yet, the E Board has no voting privileges whatsoever. So to suggest that E Board is biased is quite unreasonable. I think the senators are smart enough to know what they want.

    The committee reports are less than an hour and it should concern you. We present it to the senate because we are accountable to you. If you do not want to know if we are doing our duties then we will be quite happy to stop giving the reports. To say that it does not concern you shows you do not yet know your responsibilities. The most powerful component of this whole graduate system is neither the students nor the Eboard, it is the senate. So imagine if the senators become non active. I agree they already have enough work, but they do have a responsibility, because they are the ones with the power. So for you to say that its o.k to have non active senators is quite worrying.

    Just because a decision was not made in your favor does not mean it is a bad decision. It was a decision made by a majority. As a president of VGSA you need to be respectful to others opinion especially when other fellow senators are speaking or else it gives VGSA an unnecessary bad image. VGSA has a very good reputation built over several years and have consistently bee the best umbrella organization over the years. You are in an important position and the way you carry yourself is how people will judge VGSA. If you have an opinion, then by all means make your point but do not try to enforce it on others. Mudslinging is not going to get you anywhere.

    To everyone else,

    I agree it is a big amount. I understand the concerns this raises. But I would like to clarify that this money is coming from a small percentage of the recent fee expansion. So that means this is coming from a new inflow of money so it does not interfere in any way with the existing allocation of funds. The fee expansion is the money paid by students who take less than 6 units. They also have an option to opt out of paying. This expansion is bringing in a new inflow of $200,000 of which only 20% or less than that will be used for the payment of the lounge. Besides that every year we have a large excess of money leftover from the travel grant funds, so we can use that excess money to pay too. This was not a decision made on impulse or for bragging rights.

    To those who have commented who are not a senator, it would be nice if you could become a senator or at least attend the senate meeting as a non senator. We can always do with an opinion. Your comments would be very valuable during the meeting and may help the senate in making the decision. If you attend and you are not a senator you may not be able to vote, but definitely you can voice your opinion which is important and is what we want. Senate meetings are every first Monday of the month. Check the gpss website at for the location.

    If you have any further question regarding this issue or on how to get involved please contact me at Also elections are coming up so if you have a strong opinion and feel you can do good things for graduate students, consider running for the elections.


    • Nadav VGSA senator
      Nadav VGSA senator says:

      Abhi (GPSS PR chair),

      I was present throughout the meeting and do not recall being asked to move the voting to the start of the meeting. Trevor do you recall something?

      The E-board is biased, more seriously certain members in it are not being honest towards the senate (i.e the “multiple” letters case from eh last meeting).

      The committee reports are an option for me and the other senators to hear not an absolute necessaty like the voting and the finance requests. therefore they should be moved to the end of the meeting letting senators who have to go home leave. even if there is one person remaining in the room the committee chairs should give their shpill and the all thing did not take less than an hour.

      Please keep VGSA out of it, VSGA historically being the best umbrella org. has nothing to do with voting/not voting for E-board proposals. I am not mad about my proposal not being chosen to replace the current situation ( I am perfectly fine with keeping the situation vague) but I am very happy it outrulled the E-board proposal and unvailed certain traits that the E-board works hard to conceal. BTW, I am raising my opinion, the fact that you don’t like it is not my problem.

      If something your folks should work on reducing the student fee rather than increasing your debt so you’ll have to increase it on the students again soon, I don’t buy the argument that it is a small amount from the student fee because 80% of your funds have to go to travel funds (worst case for you) starting a payment plan while you are still making payments is a bad idea. moreover it does not provide something tangible for the students that they don’t already have, even if it will called the Barack Obama lounge me and the rest of the grad students could still use it.

      I am all for GPSS getting non-senators students involved that was all my proposal was about, If you want to contact me I think I have some good suggestions about how can you go about it. what I am against is having 20 committees for 0 affairs just to create paid E-board positions and force senators to be active in them. My suggestion is keep only the committees that are essential for the function of GPSS (to be determined by he senate) and the rest of the committees can function as voluntary committees from head to tow.

      last I think posting something here w/out putting your name/position on it is cowardness

      have a good weekend


      • I-am-not-a-coward Venkat
        I-am-not-a-coward Venkat says:

        No comments regarding the new lounge… Leavey rocks as such… It definitely feels like a lounge with people sneaking in food and drinks, watchin youtube and having LOUD and fun conversations…

        Apart from that, I think you VGSA and GPSS guys should be havin’ your previous conversations in an email thread!

  7. Trevor - VGSA Rep.
    Trevor - VGSA Rep. says:

    I voted in favor of this proposal by the GPSS Board.

    This proposal is a good opportunity to “grab” some extra relaxation/study space for the graduate students who would otherwise be packed into the basements of the libraries, or as was mentioned prior, sitting in their cars. There is no meeting place that I am aware of that is currently designated a “Graduate Lounge” where students from any discipline have group space to meet and work.

    There is, of course, the counter-point of the “What’s in a name?” argument that was brought up at the Senate meeting and in this article. For this particular space, I think that having the name means quite a bit. I am not particularly interested in meeting my colleagues in the “Undergraduate Lounge” even though I would technically have every right to do so, and I would assume the same is true in the opposite case for anyone who is not a graduate student to want to use the “Graduate Lounge.”

    Obviously, I am not of the opinion that this is a waste of money. The operating budget for GPSS is quite large; although someone from the Finance Committee please correct my facts if I am wrong. The proposed payments amount to about 5% of the GPSS total operating budget for the year, each year, for the next 5 years. This would amount to about a $2.50 fee on each graduate student to name this particular space; when each student pays in about $31.00 per year in programming fees. Not only is the lounge going to be available in the immediate future, but I believe that this lounge will exist for far longer than the proposed 5 year payment plan, and I look at it as an investment in our future graduate students who don’t work in an office or lab to have some place that they can call “home.”

    Each incoming GPSS Board should focus on something larger than party boats and BBQs (although they have their place, too); a long term-plan of building something “good” for future generations of graduate students to benefit from. For this year’s GPSS, I think that this lounge is a good goal. I trust that Johannes, along with the rest of the Board, will conduct the contract negotiations with USC in a professional and competent manner to make sure that this space is kept as the “graduate student lounge,” and moreover that it continues to be used as a lounge because it is definitely true I am not interested in a future 3000 sq ft storage space called the “Graduate Lounge.”

    Perhaps I am the only one reading or caring at this point, but I would recommend that Senators/Proxies that voted on this particular agenda item post their vote/view with their first name and the department they represent. This way, students we represent in the GPSS Senate at least have the name of someone they can contact with questions or concerns. For those that are impassioned about this particular issue or another issue regarding USC graduate life: get involved with GPSS or your local umbrella organization even if you are not a Senator, or at the least: contact your Senator. Let your opinions be heard!

  8. wastage of resources
    wastage of resources says:

    Wastage of student money for a name!! Such a pathetic idea
    Get money as GPSS fee from students and then blow it off….


  9. observer
    observer says:

    I just wanted to address some of the critics of the newly approved lounge. I was present at the senate meeting and it was passed by a large majority of the present senators. Granted it was not a unanimous decision but there was enough support to suggest that this is actually something that many Grad students want. Patrick Bailey said at the senate meeting that a survey taken said that most grad students spend free time btwn classes in their car! How sad, hopefully this lounge will remedy that situation!

    • Nadav VGSA senator
      Nadav VGSA senator says:

      the vote did not pass easily and if you read this and think this suggestion is absurd you should take a look at the one offered by the election and recruitment chair that would panelize non-active senator by reducing their school funds, In my opinion the problem lays in the fact that the GPSS voting is kept to the end of the senate meeting (usually later than 9pm), when most of the senators leave the room (I guess most people have HW, family, jobs) and the remaining are exhausted/half a sleep from a 3 hours of listening to committee reports that do not event apply to them. Observer, your comment will gain much more value and credit if you will actually identify yourself. Thanx Nadav

    • hey
      hey says:

      If you (not you, this Patrick Bailey) are not lying, I haven’t seen any such kind of survey. Suppose it is true, the reason people resting in their cars is not because we don’t have a room named for GPSS, instead it is because of the lack of space. With the new campus center coming, the space shortage should be alleviated. With or without a GPSS name plague on the door, we can go to any lounge there to rest and convene. It makes no sense you donate our money to the new building. Do you get a tax exempt out of it? We can donate ourselves out of our own willingness.

      Should senate disclose who votes Yay, who vote Nay?

      Dose the senate have the right to spend money that does not belong to them, the money belonging to the future senates? Shouldn’t this matter be decided by all graduates who pay the fees?

  10. Interesting
    Interesting says:

    Has undergraduate senate put in $200k to name an undergraduate lounge? Where would they go between classes?

    Such a moronic idea to waster money!

  11. Nadav VGSA senator
    Nadav VGSA senator says:

    very bad idea, BTW I assume Jeniffer who wrote the first commet is Jeniffer Reynolds: GPSS academic affairs chair who pushed this idea in the first place. FYI the GPSS board must (by the constitution) maintian neutral and unbiased.

  12. hey
    hey says:

    We got our own version of Obama here in GPSS. I am totally against this investment. This kind of matters should be decided on a referendum, not by a couple of kids plucking their heads and wanting an “experience.” We already have good enough Trojan experience, we don’t want to waste this much money just for a naming right.

    I think GPSS deserves more scrutinies, in whatever fashion it entails.

  13. Michele
    Michele says:

    The money towards this is taking away from fun events like the boat cruise. Graduate students are busy working…we don’t have time to go to a lounge. What a waste of money.

  14. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I’m so excited about the Grad Student Lounge and am thankful to the senators who took this historic opportunity to carve out a space for graduate and professional students on campus.

Comments are closed.