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After two failed referendums, GPSF separation decision will go to administration

The Graduate Student and Professional Student Federation still wants to separate from student government soon.

Students voted on the split in a ballot with two referendums — "Two for Two" or "Better Together" — on Oct. 28. The October referendum failed by 41 votes after a previous vote in February 2016 that fell short by 3 percentage points.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said he plans to meet with Student Body President Bradley Opere, Speaker of Student Congress Cole Simons and Dylan Russell, president of GPSF, in the coming weeks to propose a solution. A plan should be presented to Opere, Russell and Simons by Dec. 16 and should be released to the public in the spring. 

“Undergraduates don’t necessarily have to deal with issues that are solely of interests to graduate and professional students and vice versa,” Crisp said. "But obviously there are plenty of issues that are of interest to both so we have to figure out for the first set of stuff I’m talking about (the separation) and figure out how to have them come together on things which are of joint interests." 

Russell said other undergraduate students were in support of separation, but because GPSF does not have enough representation within student government, they are unable to leave.

"We have a crystal clear mandate from the University — not just graduate and professional students but the entire student body because undergraduates have to vote on this too — that the University wants us to separate from the student government," Russell said. 

"The route that administration is currently pursuing is a split from student government and a split of the student fees GPSF students have to pay to student government because right now graduate and professional students pay to Congress but they only have 15 seats in the student body government.”

Simons said he is against GPSF's plan to split from student government.

“Congress and executive branch have been against the idea for the past two years,” Simons said. “As far as my personal perspective I think it’s harmful if the split occurs. The GPSF is the only advocacy agency here at UNC which means they’re the only group of students which represents a specific group of students. When GPSF was created it was noted that they did have differences from undergraduates, so it was created to give graduate schools a voice.”

He said the administration will have to intervene. 

“At this point it's gonna come down to the administration making the decision where they decide how we move forward,” Simons said. “In the past UNC has operated under self-governance and it’s unfortunate that now it’s going to come down to where the administration is going to decide how student government looks moving forward and what will happen in the future.”

Crisp said he does not believe the administration's decision will diminish self-governance.

“The truth of the matter is, we let this go all the way to the end, being the referendum that occurred last year out of respect for the student’s self-governance process,” Crisp said. “So we have in fact given the student government every possible opportunity to engage and deal with this in a satisfactory way without the administration stepping in."

Russell said the split is something students support.

“I want to reiterate the fact that this is not a failure of student self-governance,” Russell said. “The students have prevailed despite the structure of the system. That is because students voted for this separation. This is a large fraction of the student body that is saying this is not a proper representation of graduate and professional students and they are pushing for change.”

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