The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday September 23rd

Student Congress special election yields five representatives, 10 empty seats

Five vacant seats were filled, but 10 seats remain empty.

“My belief has always been that Congress will function at its highest possible efficiency when all constitutionally established seats are filled,” said David Joyner, speaker of Student Congress, in an email. “But the outstanding leaders that serve in Congress have consistently done remarkable jobs of advocating for all students’ interests.”

Vacancies persist in Student Congress, Joyner said, because many students don’t understand what the position actually entails.

“Student Congress is the only directly elected group of student leaders on campus and those leaders are arguably the ones with the most accountability,” he said. “If we’re putting all of our trust in other groups to do oversight or advocacy work, we lose that sense of accountability.”

Joyner said he was proud of the students who did run for what he called an “often thankless role.”

The vacancies in the governing body are of particular concern to graduate and professional students, who represent three of the 11 congressional districts.

District 10, representing graduate students in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and social work, had seven vacant seats going into Thursday and failed to fill a single seat in the special election. As a result, the district will have no official representative in Student Congress for the next academic year until another election is held.

Grayson Berger, chairperson of the Board of Elections, said it is the prerogative of the student body president to hold a special election.

Student Body President Houston Summers could not be immediately reached about whether he intended to hold another special election to fill the vacancies.

District 11, representing graduate students in the College of Arts & Sciences and School of Education, also failed to pick up a representative.

Brittany Morrison, a law student, was the only graduate student elected on Thursday. She will join representative-elects Evan Shields and Jonathan Keeney in the fall representing graduate students in the business, journalism, government, information and library science and law schools.

Morrison said the vacancies in the other graduate districts put a higher importance on her role.

“There’s not a lot of our voices to be heard,” she said. “There’s a big difference between graduates and undergraduates.”

Earlier this semester the Graduate and Professional Student Federation campaigned to divide Student Congress into two equal governing bodies — one for undergraduates and one for graduate and professional students. Increased representation in Student Congress is an important step toward making that a reality, said Brian Coussens, a representative-elect for District 11, in an email to the GPSF Thursday.

“A strong representative presence on this body may be needed in shaping further discussion of how graduate and professional students are governed on this campus,” he said.


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