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Saturday, May 08, 2021

In an effort to prevent graduate students from being bullied, the Student Senate approved legislation Tuesday for a graduate student bill of rights.

The bill of rights would serve as a reference for graduate students to know their rights and the work environments they're entitled to, said Cecilia Amador, vice president for the Graduate Student Council.

As an international student from Peru, Amador said she wasn't aware of how she should be treated in her new work environment.

Amador said a survey completed earlier this year by the UF International Center and UF Counseling Center found one in four graduate students would change faculty advisers if possible.

"Sometimes they're feeling mistreated, but (graduate students) don't know if this is part of grad school or not," Amador said in an interview before the meeting.

In another interview before the meeting, Sen. Ranaldo Allen, who is also Graduate Student Council president, said the council drafted the list of rights. It was handed over to the Senate to be added to the Student Body Constitution, Allen said.

After being approved by the Senate and then Student Body President Ryan Moseley, the bill of rights must be approved by UF's general counsel, who will make sure it doesn't overlap with existing policies at UF, Allen said.

Allen defined bullying as verbal harassment, humiliation and excessive work duties.

In an interview before the meeting, Sen. Heshan "Grasshopper" Illangkoon, who represents graduate and professional students, said negative environments for graduate students aren't the norm but are frequent enough to be a concern.

"The fact that it does exist, it's something that people need to look at closely," said Illangkoon, who said he hasn't been a victim of bullying.

The bill of rights would help improve the relationship between graduate students and faculty advisers, he said.

During the meeting, Amador said international graduate students are more at risk of being bullied by faculty advisers because they control international students' funding. If funding were cut, it would result in the loss of student status and student visas, she said.

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She said she hopes UF will consult with independent faculty to find a solution to bullying.

"We have the right to work and study in a safe and healthy environment," she said. "This is something that really needs to be taken care of. We've been suffering for a long, long time."

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