Student government will be split into undergraduate and graduate bodies
On Friday, he sent a memo to University leaders outlining the separation of graduate and undergraduate governance — though he said nothing is final without Chancellor Carol Folt’s approval.
“It will allow student government to continue to deal jointly with all of the issues that need to be dealt with jointly, while freeing both the undergraduates and the graduates to deal with issues that are of particular relevance to themselves without it always having to bounce against the interests of the other group,” Crisp said.
After two student referendums in 2016 did not have enough votes to create two governments, Crisp sat down with Student Body President Bradley Opere, Speaker of Student Congress Cole Simons and Graduate and Professional Student Federation President Dylan Russell in early December to find a solution to the problem.
“This is not something new, this is something we have been talking about for quite some time,” Crisp said.
Simons said in the past year, GPSF decided they wanted to pursue a split government system, a plan they called “Two for Two.” Simons and other student leaders initially supported a “Better Together” unity plan.
Students were given the chance to vote on “Two for Two” or “Better Together” for the first time in February.
“Neither of those reached the threshold for passage, so following that, GPSF filed a suit with the UNC (Student) Supreme Court seeking to get another election for their approval,” Simons said.
“That was the election that ran this past fall. ‘Better Together’ was also on there, and neither of those again reached the threshold for passage.
“So at that point, administration had seen this taking place and decided they should intervene, and Vice Chancellor Crisp sat down, typed out his thoughts and that is where we are at today.”
Russell did not respond to multiple requests for comment by email and phone.
Simons said he thinks splitting student government is harmful to students, but it’s a decision he has to respect.
“They think having their own student government will work better for them, but also on the other side of it, if it harms our ability to say we speak for all students, in the end it is going to marginalize and harm all students, regardless of who has what power,” Simons said.
Houston Summers, student body president for the 2015-16 school year, said, in his experience, undergraduates and graduates could work together on issues.
He said it is important for student government to present a unified front.
“The idea that undergraduates and graduates are completely different people — I mean sure, they have different aspects and different experiences, but so does the individual that is in the business school compared to the individual in the College of Arts and Sciences compared to the student-athlete; they are all unbelievably completely different experiences, but that doesn’t mean we should have five different student governments to govern five different groups of people. That just should show that we should cooperate even better,” Summers said.
Will Leimenstoll, student body president in the 2012-13 school year, said when he was running for student government, he tried hard to learn about issues important to graduate students.
“It looks like in this compromise, there is still going to be the one student trustee, and if I were a grad student, I would want that student trustee to be aware of the issues that would affect me,” he said.
“This new system doesn’t really provide the student body president, assuming they are an undergraduate, with any incentive to understand the issues facing grad students.”
The issue of graduate student representation on the Board of Trustees should be clarified at the next board meeting, according to Crisp’s memo.
Simons said that he, Opere and Russell are set to meet with Crisp in the next week or two to discuss the decision.
“The situation is still pretty fluid,” Simons said.
“It will be an ongoing process.”
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