Advocacy Committee Survey Meeting - 8/14/2019

Advocacy Meeting Minutes

Date: June 27, 2019


  • Phillip Helms
  • John Thompson
  • Camilla Kleidbjerg
  • Lealia Xiong
  • Peishi Cheng
  • Nikita Kamraj
  • Mia de los Reyes
  • Ellen Yan
  • Jiexin Chen
  • Sarah Sam
  • Sean Pike
  • Rhondale Tso


  • Introduction to the Purpose of the Annual GSC Survey.
  • Review of previous year’s survey and central findings.
  • Discussion of current survey results
  • Plans for creating survey report and further discussing interesting findings.

Discussion of current survey results:

  • Questions that should be added to the next GSC survey:
    • More questions related to mental health
    • Questions about pets, to potentially advocate for changes in housing policies to make it easier for graduate students to own pets, partly for mental health reasons.
    • Add questions about graduate student satisfaction with recreation (could add clubs, etc.)
  • General Comments:
    • Race/Gender:
      • Should compare the race statistics to those of the general use population and specifically the statistics of other research institutions.
      • Unclear about use of “affirmative action” at Caltech - needs some clarification to see what actual practice is here and how the graduate policies might be different than those for undergrads.
      • Should compare admitted vs. accepted for underrepresented minorities. If there is a major discrepancy here, this provides support for anecdotal evidence that prospective students from underrepresented groups are discouraged after visiting Caltech.
    • To ensure our data is correct, we should ask the grad office for the number of students in each year of study, the number of international students, the number of students from each division, etc. and ensure that there are no glaring differences between the population that took the survey.
    • The goal of the survey should not be to provide all possible data, but point us to problem areas where further research is needed to understand what is causing a specific problem.
  • Follow-up items:
    • See if we can get access to results for the health survey that was given last year. This might provide many of the mental health details.
    • Ensure that the results we have been given contain answers to all of the questions asked.
    • Get breakdown on financial questions between students living in Caltech housing and all others.
    • Get breakdown of data by division.
  • Key Report Items:
    • Lack of underrepresented minorities in grad student population.
    • Advisor-Advisee Relationships
      • Differences between genders with regards to the level of feedback given by their advisor.
      • Student-Student issues also seem important, but perhaps this is lessened if clear expectations are provided by the advisor.
      • An approach our committee might take is to convince a single department/division to implement some helpful policies, then show these are effective and use that as evidence to get an institute-wide policy/practice.
      • Vacation Policy
        • The advocacy committee chair will remind students of their right to vacation once per term.
    • Housing Prices & Difficulties:
      • Propose moving fund
        • Available for incoming graduate students or those who are leaving the cats (to help students with security deposit and purchasing furniture)
      • Ask for regularization of annual minimum stipend increases to keep up with increases in housing costs.