Following a Q&A session Tuesday night, the Graduate and Professional Student Federation Senate decided to endorse Kathryn Walker for student body president.
Brandon Linz, GPSF vice president for internal affairs, said Walker had the most actionable items for graduate students.
Walker and Houston Summers, another student body president candidate, both participated the event.The third candidate in the race, David Marsh, did not attend the Q&A because he was at a forum hosted by Student Congress.
“The senate had a lot of enthusiasm for both candidates, but Kathryn’s zeal and respect for graduate students seemed to pull the most weight,” Linz said.
In the past, GPSF believed, as a representative body, they should not endorse a candidate, but Linz said the group agreed they should have a larger voice this year and could accomplish that by endorsing a candidate.
Linz said endorsing a candidate would make it harder for the student body president to ignore graduate and professional students.
“It allows GPSF to have a larger voice,” Linz said. “If we say we support a candidate, it makes our issues bigger issues on their platform.”
Walker and Summers stressed the importance of creating relationships with graduate and professional students.
Summers said balancing the allocation of fees for GPSF and possibly creating a separate governing structure for GPSF are important issues on his platform.
“I believe my age and stage of life gives me the unique opportunity to be able to understand a lot of the issues that graduate students deal with on campus,” Summers said.
Walker said, as an undergraduate, she feels graduate students are overlooked and there is a lack of communication between student government and the graduate student body.
Walker proposed adding an official vice president position for the GPSF in her administration.
“I think it’s crucial that we work together and say, ‘How do we fix this?’ to incorporate all students and make sure every student’s voice is heard,” Walker said.
Candidates discussed how they would reconcile their political beliefs with the best interests of the student body.
Summers said he planned to work with the Office of University Development to set aside particular funding for GPSF.
Senate members also had concerns about the renaming of Saunders Hall, fees and stipends in their graduate programs and the student body president’s role within the UNC system.
Both Walker and Summers said they support the campaign to rename Saunders Hall.
Walker, the former chairwoman of the UNC College Republicans, said regardless of her political beliefs, students are her priority and that working with the General Assembly is important even if students disagree with their representatives in Raleigh.
“Having someone who comes from a similar political stance is good because they speak the Republican language while advocating for students,” Walker said.
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