David Joyner, speaker of Student Congress, introduced a bill to avoid what he called a constitutional crisis.
If there was a referendum of two constitutional amendments that contradict each other, students will be able to rank their preferences. The Board of Elections will then run it as a runoff.
Joyner said students will always have the option to not make any changes.
Student Congress also discussed adding two amendments to the ballot involving the future of GPSF.
The first amendment to the constitution, introduced by Joyner, is to change the role of GPSF and Student Congress.
How the role would change includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Increase in the graduate and professional student fee to $11.25
- Student Congress cannot impeach the leaders of independent agencies elected by constituents
- GPSF can appoint their student attorney general
That amendment would also allow the speaker of Student Congress to receive a stipend up to the amount of the vice president's stipend.
Graduate students spar
Priyesh Krishnan, a graduate student member of Student Congress, said this is an existential question about separating GPSF and student government. He said that Student Congress has always represented everyone.
Krishnan made a motion to not allow the $11.25 change for the GPSF.
This motion prompted Russell to ask Krishan multiple times, “How many meetings have we had discussing this?”
This was the first time he had heard these concerns from Krishnan after working over 30 hours together, he said.
Krishnan also commended Congress representative Cole Simons for trying to do something courageous. Simons introduced a bill to dissolve the GPSF Senate, a plan that was also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.
Simons’ bill was presented to GPSF 36 hours before the town hall held by student government leaders on Jan. 25.
Russell said GPSF is now collecting petition signatures to get a referendum in the election, but they wouldn't have to do that if Student Congress would consider separation.
“If this body would consider the (separation) then we wouldn’t need the signatures,” he said. “But since they won’t consider it, we need the signatures.”
Simons motioned to suspend the rules to discuss his bill before voting on the other resolutions for referendum.
He said that because his model proposes full integration of the two governing bodies, there is more money to allocate for students as a whole.
“I think of this as an integration,” he said. “In no way did I create this to harm any constituency.”
Simons apologized for the abrupt nature of his proposal, which has caused upset within GPSF.
John Anagnost said that the bill is irresponsible and absurd.
“This isn’t how you write a constitution,” he said, visibly worked up.
Simons withdrew his legislation after intensive debate and a poll showing only one representative who favored his plan over the cooptation plan.
Comment from a former GPSF president
During the public comment period, graduate student Shelby Dawkins-Law spoke about her frustrations with the governing bodies at UNC.
She said that for nine years as a Student Congress constituent, she has always been frustrated by what happens.
Dawkins-Law said that to the average person, Student Congress looks like they made a move in the night. She said it looks dishonest.
“In a perfect world things would remain the same,” she said. “People would just have less ego and more listening skills."
Many groups that were heard in finance committee a week ago had to have full Student Congress approve their funding requests.
Most of the funding requests had no amendments made to them before being passed.