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Graduate Student Senate logoThe Graduate Student Senate (GSS) represents the student body in all matters relating to the concerns of graduate and advanced professional students. The GSS shall participate in the establishment of policies and regulations relating to the graduate program, in consultation with and subject to the final approval of the Dean of Students, Dean of the Graduate School, the Chancellor of the Knoxville campus, the President and the Board of Trustees of the University of Tennessee. The GSS shall also make recommendations to appropriate decision-making officers in matters concerning graduate and advanced professional students.

Each graduate and professional program of study is allowed at least one representative, who is elected by his/her peers or appointed by the department’s administration. The GSS President and Vice President are elected in the annual SGA elections.

What are the responsibilities of GSS?

The fundamental responsibility of the GSS is to enhance the graduate student experience at UTK by maintaining open lines of dialogue between students and university administrators. GSS representatives serve on several campus committees and develop special councils as necessary to tackle issues pertinent to its constituents. The GSS sponsors an annual “Fun Run” to raise funds for the UTK libraries, hosts socials to increase interdisciplinary communication, and administers awards for graduate and professional student to present their research at conferences.

Current Priorities

  • Increasing the visibility of the GSS, participation on campus, and access to the university’s administrators.
  • Proposing new policies regarding state residency and partner benefits.
  • Improving the travel awards process and implementation.
  • Improving the annual Graduate Student Orientation and Fun Run.


Below is a select portion of the Graduate Student Senate By-Laws. The full SGA Constitution can be viewed by following this link.

 Article II.  Legislative Power

Section 1. The legislative power of the Graduate Student Senate shall be vested in the representatives. The representative body shall consist of representatives from each graduate and advanced professional program of study at the University of Tennessee. The President or Vice President shall serve as the presiding officer and shall have the right to vote in the representative body in the event of a tie.

Section 2. These representatives shall be selected by the students in their own programs, either in the spring or at the beginning of the fall, depending upon the nature of the particular graduate programs. The selection of the GSS representatives should coincide with the programs’ graduate student organizational elections, where applicable. If an election in a particular program of study is deemed necessary by that program, the GSS shall assist with the selection of a representative by administering an election. The dean or department head of the program shall submit the name of the selected individual to the Graduate Student Senate.

Section 3. In some instances it may be logical to have one representative represent more than one program of study. In addition, the organization of the programs of study at the University of Tennessee changes periodically. For this reason the GSS shall develop a list of representative seats (using the Graduate Catalog) for the following year prior to the annual SGA elections.

Section 4. The GSS representative shall have the power and duties:
A. To attend each GSS meeting or to designate a proxy to attend in his or her absence.
B. To actively and accurately represent the viewpoints of their program of study in all matters before the GSS and to conduct meetings of graduate students in their college, department, or school to solicit their views and concerns.
C. To inform his or her constituents of GSS issues, activities, bills and amendments through use of any one of the following methods: e-mail contact, web page, list server, personal meetings, newsletters, telephone contact, and/or group discussions. Each delegate is required to make contact with his or her constituents so as to inform them that he or she is their representative.
D. To maintain an active e-mail account for the purposes of receiving and sending information, as well as providing GSS and GSS with a fast, convenient way to communicate with representatives.

Section 5. The legislative body of the GSS shall have the power:
A. To pass resolutions which shall represent the official position of the GSS.
B. To approve all or part of the finding and recommendation of any GSS committee before such recommendation shall become the official position of the GSS.
C. To approve all proposed appropriations of funds before expenditures can be made.
D. To remove from office, in accordance with Article VI of these Bylaws, any GSS officer, committee member, or chairperson who fails to fulfill his or her duties as outlined in Article II and III of these Bylaws.

Section 6. There shall be four standing subcommittees in the Graduate Student Senate that are hereby charged with carrying out duties outlined in Section 8 of this Article. GSS will elect representatives to serve as subcommittee chairs by no later than the 2nd meeting of the fall semester. Each subcommittee must have one chairperson, and will consist of a subset of members of the general GSS body of representatives. The purpose of these subcommittees will be to provide a collaborative effort to investigate, develop, plan, and advocate for graduate student concerns, programming, and issues as they arise.

Section 7. Each GSS representative will be required to serve on one subcommittee, and will be responsible for notifying the president of his or her subcommittee preferences no later than the 1st general fall meeting of the GSS. It will then be the responsibility of the GSS president to form the subcommittees and moderate the election of chairpersons by no later than the 2nd general GSS meeting of the fall semester. In the event that GSS representatives are unable to identify a subcommittee chairperson for each committee, the GSS president shall appoint a chairperson or chairpersons for the subcommittee or subcommittees.

Section 8. This section outlines the descriptions and responsibilities of each subcommittee within GSS.
A. Committee on Graduate Student Equity & Diversity: The purpose of this committee shall be to identify, evaluate, and advocate issues pertinent to the graduate student experience at the University of Tennessee in matters related to workplace issues and satisfaction, financial matters that relate to graduate study, matters that promote diversity and inclusivity, and issues of equity that relate to graduate study at UT.
1. Committee Members will meet to discuss and develop legislation to communicate with the GSS body for discussion, debate, and voting. A majority vote of the subcommittee is needed for legislation to emerge from subcommittee to the GSS body. The Chairperson will provide a verbal report of committee workings/progress at each GSS meeting.
B. Committee on Communications and Outreach: The purpose of this Committee will be to focus on matters that relate to GSS and its ability to communicate with graduate students at UT. Also, this committee will plan social events for GSS members as well as graduate students throughout the year. Additionally, this Committee will provide advertising and promotion of GSS-related events/business throughout the year.
C. Committee on Graduate Student Travel Awards: The purpose of this Committee will be to assist the GSS President with sustaining, evaluating, and administering the GSS Travel Award throughout the year. This will include participating in the travel fund application deliberation process that takes place throughout the fall, spring, and summer travel cycles. Additionally, the Committee will be responsible for evaluating problems/issues as they arise and continuing to cater the application to best represent the most fair and equitable process possible.
D. Committee on the Fun Run: The purpose of this Committee will be to assist in the planning, development, and facilitation of the annual GSS Fun Run. Members of this Committee will assist the GSS Vice President with fundraising and public relations duties prior to the Fun Run, and will also be required to volunteer at the Fun Run.

Section 9. GSS subcommittees are required to meet at least 3 times per semester except over the summer term. The chair of each subcommittee, or his or her designated proxy, will provide and update at the following GSS general meeting about subcommittee progress. The chairperson, or a designated proxy, will also be responsible for drafting and presenting formal resolutions or bills to the GSS body. Drafts of resolutions and bills will be due no later than 3 days prior to the meeting of the full body of GSS representatives. While GSS subcommittees may choose to elect co-chair persons, each subcommittee will have one vote in matters that are outline within the powers and responsibilities of GSS eternal governance.

Section 10: If a subcommittee chairperson is not fulfilling their responsibilities, a simple majority vote by the subcommittee membership will result in the removal of this representative from the chair position. The subcommittee will be responsible for nominating candidates or chair, which will be elected by a simple majority at the following GSS general meeting by the representatives. Any chair voted out of his or her position may file for an appeal with the GSS President and chairs of other subcommittees who will deliberate over the appeal and determine rather or not the removal will stand. In the event of a tie, the decision to remove the chair will be overturn.

Please note that these By-Laws will be reviewed and updated during Spring 2016.

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