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Student government prepares for transition after decision to split

Katharine Shriver, 19-yo PoliSci and Public Policy Major (Left), Paul Kushner, 21-yo Econ major, Joanna Zhang, 18-yo Psych and PoliSci major. Election and referendum results are in on Thursday Night.
Katharine Shriver, 19-yo PoliSci and Public Policy Major (Left), Paul Kushner, 21-yo Econ major, Joanna Zhang, 18-yo Psych and PoliSci major. Election and referendum results are in on Thursday Night.

Students voted to approve the split in student government to create a new dual structure, but the changes won’t go into place until new members of student government are sworn in on April 4.

“Essentially, every year you will be electing an undergraduate president, graduate president and a student body president," Cole Simons, speaker of UNC Student Congress, said. "There’s no regulation that prevents dual service."

Simons said the position of student body president — different from the undergraduate president and graduate president — can be filled by either of the other presidents, or someone else entirely. 

Since the changes haven’t gone into effect yet, this year will work a little differently.

“So for this specific election, they will be serving as both undergraduate and student body president,” Simons said. “The changes will go into place on April 4 when we inaugurate new people. The only change, and this was written into the bill, this particular year there is only one student body president. Since all of the people running this year are undergraduates, they will also serve as the undergraduate president.”

He specified this was an agreement written into the bill and approved by both graduate and undergraduate students.

“The role of the student body president in this new system is slightly different," Simons said. "They still do all of the Board of Trustees stuff, but they themselves don’t have a staff beyond three or four people to help them manage things. The SBP chairs the joint committee as well as attends the meetings of both senates and cabinets of the undergraduates and graduates.”

With all the changes coming to student government, Simons said he will try and help the incoming government adjust.

“I’m graduating, but in the time after I leave office, I’ll be helping with transition stuff. It’s going to take a little bit of work but the overall structure is set,” he said. “The candidates have all been provided with the documentation they need to know what they’re getting into.”

Madelyn Percy, who will be the president of the graduate student government next year, said graduate student government is making some changes as well.

“The GPSF has sort of reorganized the executive committee, so what was the vice president of internal affairs will now the be the vice president of the joint committee,” she said. “The executive (branch) will be led by the president, the vice president, the chief of staff, the chief of the external relations and advocacy, the chief of the exchequer and the secretary.”

She said she had expressed concerns over the incoming administration's ability to address graduate and professional student issues, as they will be undergraduates, but said the new constitution made her feel a lot better about it.

“That did raise concerns,” Percy said. “But with the new constitution, there are certain levels of protection to ensure that the student body president will pay attention to graduate and professional students. They will be responsible for attending senate meetings, for example.”

Percy said the new Student Constitution has an impeachment process created for the student body president, which will let either branch of student government start proceedings.

Harry Edwards, treasurer of the executive branch, said he's hopeful for the transition period and believes Student Congress will be able to carry on after he and Simons graduate this year.

"I think transitions are always difficult," he said. "It's pretty rare for anyone in leadership to stick around from one year to the next, but I think that it will actually be a good opportunity this year to give whoever comes in a chance to make their own mark on things."

Edwards said student relations are a key factor in making sure the new government works for everyone.

"The most important thing is definitely going to be undergrad-grad student relations just from the get-go," he said. "I really like the plan and how many people voted on it, and I think how well it works is going to depend on how we start."

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