“The big thing is that we’re going to move forward with attempting to officially separate the graduate student government from the undergraduate student government,” interim President Marissa Cann said. “That’s our big push. We are trying to do this in an effort to try and maintain good relations with the student government and Student Congress, mainly because the way it is right now just isn’t working.”
Cann said GPSF is in the process of writing a letter to send directly to Chancellor Carol Folt and Winston Crisp, the vice chancellor for student affairs, who together have the power to declare GPSF an autonomous branch of government.
“We wanted to go right to the people who could make this decision happen, see if they’ll do that,” GPSF Treasurer Autumn McClellan said.
If this is not successful, McClellan said, the next step is to write a referendum to be voted on by the entire undergraduate and graduate student body.
Members of GPSF said they have felt increasingly mistreated by Student Congress.
“In the past, like Autumn said, Student Congress and GPSF have mostly just kind of ignored each other, which wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t the worst,” Engel said. “But now Student Congress is making these really aggressive moves to block us from doing the awesome things we’ve been doing.”
Engel said the Student Code gives GPSF a vague role in student government. Because of this uncertainty, there have been disagreements over the level of authority Student Congress should have over GPSF.
“It does give Student Congress, in their minds, the authority to determine how we the spend student fees that you all are paying, how we hold our meetings, things of that nature,” Engel said.
McClellan said the mistreatment of GPSF by Student Congress is not a new phenomenon. She said they have found evidence of similar issues since 1971 when GPSF was formed. However, Cann said, in the past, GPSF has chosen to basically ignore these issues.
“In terms of waiting it out for a new set of leadership, well that’s possible, and that’s been the strategy that’s been taken so far, and it’s been successful some years and not other years,” Cann said.
Former GPSF president Shelby Dawkins-Law said she proposed separation of the undergraduate and graduate governments last year, but she was encouraged to try combining the two more closely instead. The referendum to bring the two closer did not pass due to low voter participation.
“I brought this topic to Winston Crisp last year in my meetings with him,” Dawkins-Law said. “And the feedback that I got from him and everyone in that office was: ‘Try the nice way first, and then revisit it later if it doesn’t work out.’
“It’s not working.”