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Student government still looking to fix problems from last year

The initial attempt was voted down in a runoff election, but it will be back on the ballot in November.

Student Body President Bradley Opere said following the elections, all parts of student government are working together on communication and moving forward.

“Once you come from the division of an election and how everything was run, it sort of can be difficult to start off from there. We’ve been doing a lot of trust building and we still are,” Opere said. “I think it’s positive for the most part.”

In the spring, students had an opportunity to vote for a Two for Two referendum — which would have allowed graduate student government to form an independent governing body; the Better Together referendum — which would have changed the constitution while keeping the current student government structure; or for no change.

According to an April 2016 ruling by the UNC Supreme Court, the November vote will retain the same language and voting procedure.

Dylan Russell, president of GPSF, said he hopes the November election is a positive change for the student body.

“The fact of the matter is that there just needs to be a conversation about where graduate and professional students’ voices belong on this campus ... Graduate and professional students make up 37 percent of the student body and we have very different needs and issues that we need to make sure are heard,” Russell said.

Russell said GPSF is establishing a task force to help ensure graduate and professional students’ needs are met.

“This task force will be responsible for laying the groundwork for the campaign. But more importantly, regardless of what happens with the campaign, this task force is going to look at the future of our organization and launch a strategic plan and a five-year plan as far as where this organization should go in the future,” Russell said. “So we’re really excited to have the election over with so we can start really focusing in on representing graduate and professional students and incorporating their voices more at Carolina.”

Cole Simons, speaker of Student Congress, said he is interested in seeing all parts of student government work together.

“It’s an ongoing process and we’re all interested in what’s best for students. While there might be some differing opinions on what that is, the underlying fact that we all want what’s best for students allows us to still work together well,” Simons said.

Simons said Student Congress is planning on having outreach events for undergraduate and graduate students to be able to meet one-on-one with representatives.

“GPSF came to us with very real concerns that their voices weren’t being heard enough and we recognize that some of their concerns are very valid,” Simons said.

Currently there are 22 undergraduate students and five graduate students serving on Student Congress. There are 10 vacant seats reserved for graduate students.

“We know that we are more than confident and capable of representing ourselves and we really want to make this a positive thing about really representing graduate and professional students to the best of our abilities and making sure their voices are truly heard and represented on this campus,” Russell said.

Opere said he hopes student government can make steps toward building positive relationships this year across student government.

“I’m really hoping we can kind of diplomatically build together our relationships just because I know it hasn’t been the case in previous years and I definitely do understand with the entire election and how everything played out last year,” he said.

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