“I saw a need that needed to be fulfilled and thought I had unique experience serving as Student Body President at Appalachian State University, a White House intern and a former public school teacher,” Russell said in an email.
This week, Russell said his team will fill two vacancies on the executive board caused by resignations at the end of the fall semester. Former secretary Adam Engel and Cortney Miller, former vice president of internal affairs, both left their jobs in December.
Russell said his goals for the semester include better defining GPSF’s role at UNC.
“The constitution currently does not give GPSF the means to be anything more than a quasi-independent agency,” Russell said.
“Our hope is that we move from this constitutionally defined role to an advocacy and governing body that more clearly reflects the unique needs of all graduate and professional students.”
Tensions with Student Congress led graduate students to call on administration to make GPSF an autonomous governing body at the end of last semester. GPSF is continuing to pursue the separation from the undergraduate student government.
“Basically anyone that’s an executive board of any branch of student government has been involved in meetings to try to figure out next steps, where to go,” Student Body President Houston Summers said. “I think we’re all weighing the options of what does a separation look like?”
Summers said the focus of the meetings has been finding a way to best represent all students, undergraduate and graduate.
Student Congress Speaker David Joyner said he would not call the meetings a process of separation.
“I think the tension is just that there are some people in GPSF who think that undergraduates should stay out of their affairs but don’t seem to have much of a problem with graduate students being involved in undergraduate affairs,” Joyner said.
Summers said student government is currently developing several plans for the future of GPSF, ranging from complete separation from student government to no changes at all.
“We’re going to all work together to get that out to the larger student body,” Summers said. “We haven’t decided on exactly what that looks like to make sure all of those plans are vetted and then, I would imagine, voted on in the student body president elections.”
Russell said the decision on where GPSF stands in student government is ultimately up to the student body.
“I have full faith and confidence that the student body will vote in a manner that will make sure that the strong history of student self-governance will persevere at Carolina,” Russell said.