(Courtesy of Dylan Russell)
GPSF President Dylan Russell said the organization is ready to be more than an advocacy body.
“I firmly believe that representation is best when it occurs locally, and so the more individuals you have that can represent their specific needs and constituencies, the better government I think we will see here at Carolina,” Russell said.
GPSF gave Student Congress a list of demands that resulted in — co-optation, which would change the student constitution to give GPSF more power while keeping it within student government, or a split. Russell said both plans will allow graduate students to gain representation.
“Separation works for us because we get to keep our structure, and we get to gain legitimate governing authority that Student Congress currently has,” he said.
The ballot petition needs 2,900 signatures, can be signed by both undergraduate and graduate students and must be completed by Tuesday.
Grayson Berger, chairperson of the Board of Elections, said the petition is required to make sure there is a demand for the change from the constituency.
“I think it’s possible depending how many people they get out there, how much reach they have and how interactive they are. But it will definitely be a challenge,” Berger said.
Russell said the group is trying to collect the signatures online and through meetings with students.
“Do I wish we had longer? Sure,” Russell said. “But I don’t think any of us are going to be deterred by the time period.”
Russell, who is as GPSF president, must also get enough signatures to be an official candidate for the position.
“I’m ready to start lobbying and advocating again for the needs of undergraduate and graduate students at Carolina and ready to move past ... this point we’re at right now and focus on how we can best represent our students,” Russell said.
If GPSF collects the signatures, both options — co-optation with undergraduate student government or separation from it — will be placed on the ballot.
David Joyner, speaker of Student Congress, said students will have several options even if GPSF raises the signatures.
“The other option is to cooperate and to work closely together under the system we already have and to better that relationship,” Joyner said. “It’s not getting any publicity because we don’t need signatures to make that happen. We just need leaders who are committed.”
Russell said the ultimate goal is for graduate students to gain representation.
“We’re not asking for more than our fair share. That’s not fair. That’s not equitable. That’s not what we’re about,” Russell said. “It’s about gaining the representation that grad students deserve.”