While the exact date of the Graduate Students’ Association’s formation is clouded in mystery, as almost no written records of the early days exist, the first clear record of the GSA dates are from the 1972-73 school year, when Mike’s Place, the grad pub, officially received its name.
During the 70s, evidence suggests that the GSA was preoccupied with trying to get graduate student fee money from Carleton University Students’ Assocation (CUSA); responding to requests for funds; and finding a permanent home for Mike’s Place, which had been moved numerous times by the university administration.
The university administration saw the GSA as a sub-unit of CUSA, and subsequently funneled all student fee money to CUSA, which then passed on only 33-50% of graduate student fees to the GSA. Attempts to gain autonomy from CUSA are reported as early as 1980 (it would be many years before this was achieved).
The 1980s were marked by the GSA’s growing visibility, the expansion of Mike’s Place, and the drive for autonomy from CUSA. In 1981, the GSA incorporated as a non-profit corporation, named GSA Carleton Inc. Mike’s Place finally found a permanent home in its present location on the 2nd floor of the University Centre.
Finally, in 1990, the university recognized the GSA as a fully autonomous student organization and started forwarding all student fees from graduate students to the GSA. This decade was characterized by the growth of the GSA as an organization and as a political force at Carleton. The GSA moved into a suite of offices with a lounge, founded many of its current services, and expanded Mike’s Place to seat one hundred. In addition, the GSA began to offer a dental and prescription drug plan to grads.
Following the university’s decision to renege on its commitment to a new student building in 2006, the GSA renovated the existing Mike’s Place and began investigating renovations to the Grad Lounge in 2007. Due to a lack of interest by the university administration to update the building’s infrastructure, these renovations have not yet been undertaken.
During this decade, the GSA expanded its traditional services, such as travel grants, emergency grants and departmental support to meet growing needs. The GSA also introduced new services, such as scholarships and awards.
Today, the GSA continues to serve grads at Carleton. Through the GSA, graduate students are represented on university committees and the organization has been front and centre in efforts to support a sexual assault support centre on campus, in making public transportation affordable for students, improving student services and space on campus, expanding academic opportunities, and fighting against skyrocketing tuition fees and the elimination of post-residency fees (and the struggle to bring them back), as well as other issues identified by graduate students.