The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 3rd

New split constitution plans for increased governance for graduate students

<p>Student Body President Elizabeth Atkins speaks at her inauguration on Tuesday. Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Atkins.</p>
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Student Body President Elizabeth Atkins speaks at her inauguration on Tuesday. Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Atkins.

The principal change under this version is that there are now two student governments, both with their individual structures and chains of command, separately serving both the undergraduate and graduate populations.

Starting next year, either president will be able to run for the position of student body president. This year the role is being served by Elizabeth Adkins.

While the new constitution was being drafted, it was decided to give Adkins the position after her counterpart in the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, Madelyn Percy, turned it down.

“This year was different in that I didn’t have to run for student body president, given that our new constitution was just enacted last night with our inauguration,” Adkins said.

The SBP previously received a stipend, and this practice will continue. The only difference is a new provision stating, “If serving a dual role, the student body president shall not be eligible for multiple stipends.”

Cole Simons, speaker of Student Congress, said the stipend levels won’t change from last year.

“The money is paid from the same student fee money that pays for student organizations and everything else.”

Percy and Adkins have already formed a strong working relationship and have begun to put the theoretical changes in the new constitution into practice.

Sam Green, the student body vice president, was part of the group responsible for crafting the new constitution.

He said having an undergraduate serve the double role while Percy serves as the GPSF president will not pose any issues moving forward, but the two presidents will have to work together to make sure that graduates are represented adequately.

“Madelyn will be making sure that Elizabeth is briefed on graduate issues and that her speeches to the Board of Trustees will pertain to graduates,” Green said.

The role of the student body president on the Board of Trustees is to inform the board of the needs of the students, both undergraduates and graduates.

“The trustees and hired administration want to know what the students are talking about,” Green said. He said he thinks the split will make the SBP’s presence on the board more significant.

A checks and balance system enacted with the new constitution is the establishment of the Joint Governance Council, a body designed to advise both the Undergraduate Student Government and GPSF. The student body president will serve on the Joint Governance Council as a non-voting member.

“It’s a new compromise, hoping that there would be codified conversation between graduates and undergraduates not only in the executive branch, but in the legislative branch as well,” Green said.

Moving forward, the new administration will look to utilize compromise and conversation in making sure the new constitution is implemented with minimal resistance. Adkins said she is excited to be the first person to serve in a dual capacity.

“I think it’s going to be very much a learning year for a lot of us, testing out this new constitution and seeing what works and what doesn’t work.”

university@dailytarheel.com



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