“Since the establishment of the GPSF, there has been a pattern of conflict between the GPSF and Student Government, produced by competing interests and ambiguous boundaries of authority,” the letter says.
GPSF’s letter, which is addressed to Chancellor Carol Folt and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp, describes a history of mistreatment by student government, especially Student Congress.
According to the letter, hostility is due to the imbalance of graduate student representation in student government. Graduate students are allowed 15 of 41 seats in Student Congress.
“We’re about a third of the student body, so we’re about a third of the congress seats,” GPSF Treasurer Autumn McClellan said at an emergency meeting Tuesday. “Those seats, unfortunately, many have remained vacant for a long time. It’s been said that they’ve not all been completely filled for the past 10 years.”
The letter said this is because Student Congress caters to the needs of undergraduate students and schedules meetings that are difficult for graduate students to attend.
The letter was drafted by the executive board of GPSF with suggestions from former GPSF presidents. It has been signed by more than 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students as well as UNC faculty, staff, and administration.
“We were hoping at least to hit a thousand,” GPSF interim President Marissa Cann said. “We’ve been pretty pleased with the turnout so far as signatures go.”
But not all GPSF senators signed the letter or agree with the decision to separate from the undergraduate student government, including Julien Isnard. He said he does not think there has been enough discussion about both sides of the conflict between Student Congress and GPSF.
“My co-senator and I went to talk to someone on the other side of it, and, hearing a little bit of both, we thought that it’s really unclear what is actually happening,” Isnard said. “So we just need to take some time to figure it out before we do anything big like separating after 40-something years.”
Cann said she doesn’t know if administrators will be ready to take action right when they receive the letter, but she thinks it’ll open up discussions.
“I anticipate that they’re going to receive the letter and be brought into awareness as far as all the issues that have been going on between the GPSF and Student Congress,” she said.