The problem of vacant seats — largely fueled by problems of interest among graduate students — has plagued Student Congress for years.
Sixteen of the 42 seats in Student Congress are reserved for graduate students, but nine out of the 13 seats now vacant are graduate seats.
Student Congress will host a mandatory candidates meeting tonight, marking the first step in the election process to fill the 13 empty seats in the body.
Title VI of the Student Code mandates that any empty seats must be filled by special election.
Speaker of Student Congress Zach De La Rosa said he is confident that filling the undergraduate seats will not be a problem.
“I’ve heard many positive responses,” De La Rosa said. “Every undergraduate seat will be a competitive seat.”
But the undergraduate seats account for only four of the 13 empty positions, and graduate student seats are harder to fill, De La Rosa said.
If following the first elections, seats remain empty, Board of Elections Chairwoman Shruthi Sundaram will plan for a special election in November, she said.
“We’ll have a better idea after Monday’s meeting when we have declared candidates,” she said.
De La Rosa said a special election in November might be necessary if the seats aren’t filled.
“Before Monday, I know that the undergraduate seats will be competitive — graduate, I don’t know.”
District 8, which represents graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences, has five seats, all of which are currently empty.
Sundaram said graduate students are less inclined to get involved because of their physical distance from campus, as well as the time commitment associated with Student Congress.
Lisa Heimbach, a graduate representative in district 10, said students are so busy that they don’t have time to devote to what they consider undergraduate affairs.
“Grad students will say, ‘I already did this undergrad, I had this experience,’ and not get involved on campus.”
Heimbach also said the turnover rate among graduate students contributes to their lack of interest.
Student Congress is reaching out through the Graduate and Professional Student Federation to find interested representatives, De La Rosa said.
He added that the body is debating moving the time of meetings from 7:30 p.m. to a more “family-friendly” hour to make them more attractive to graduate students.
Student Congress had problems filling its seats last year, with two special elections taking place within the first 10 weeks of school.
Student Congress has held several open houses and distributed fliers in order to appeal to students.
The main avenue of communication has been the listserv generated at Fall Fest.
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