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Graduate and Professional Student Federation to vote for 2021-2022 president

Dylan Russell, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, updates members on their proposed separation from Student Congress on Tuesday in Rosenau Hall at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.
In 2016, Dylan Russell, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation at the time, updates members on their proposed separation from Student Congress on Tuesday in Rosenau Hall at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

UNC graduate students will be voting to choose their 2021-2022 Graduate and Professional Student Federation president on Tuesday. On the ballot will also be a vote regarding whether or not to change the organization’s name. 

GPSF Chief of External Relations and Advocacy Maian Adams and GPSF Director of Student Affairs Neel Swamy are the two certified candidates running for the presidential position. 

Here’s a rundown of the presidential candidates and their positions from last Wednesday’s GPSF presidential forum: 

What are the candidate's visions for the GPSF? 

Maian Adams

  • “I believe that we can together foster an equal opportunity, racially diverse, gender-fluid UNC," she said. "An environment that is inclusive of all.”
  • Adams said her three main visions as GPSF president would be:
    • Diversifying representation within the GPSF
    • Amplifying graduate and professional student voices
    • Strengthening the GPSF’s relationship with the University administration

Neel Swamy

  • “Student government, perhaps more than ever, has the need to lean into four values that I believe unites all students on our campus," Swamy said. "Those four values, as I’ve defined them, are agency, belonging, excellence and wellness.” 
  • The four issues that Swamy wants to focus on as GPSF president are:
    • Interpersonal violence and harassment prevention
    • Graduate worker rights
    • Protections for students who identify as international students
    • Student mental wellness

What are the candidates' top three priorities if elected? 

Maian Adams

  • She said she wants to get as many students involved in GPSF as possible by reallocating external appointments to cabinet directors. 
  • Foster a working relationship between students and the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office, she said, so as to address issues with those who have faced sexual violence and discriminatory practices.
  • Strengthen the relationship between students and the administration.
  • “It would be pointless for us to be in student government and bring our needs to the administration and they say, 'Hey, we hear you,' but not actually work on fixing those problems," Adams said. "We tend to see that quite a bit — but their responses fall short of actually getting a resolution or getting the problem fixed." 

Neel Swamy

  • Strengthening outreach efforts to make graduate and professional students aware about leadership opportunities in the GPSF.
  • Ensure issues like interpersonal violence and student mental wellness are structurally prioritized in the GPSF. 
  • Making sure the GPSF reaches out to student organizations.
  • “It becomes a question of how are we not only practicing kindness with one another and compassion, but also how are we creating an organization structure that’s accountable, that’s actively listening and helping students understand how GPSF can serve them,” Swamy said.

How do the candidates plan on helping students of color feel safer on campus? 

Maian Adams

  • Adams said she plans on working with the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office to build a transparent process for students to report discriminatory acts, as well as forming a committee that reports on unresolved issues to the administration. 
  • She said she wants to petition the UNC medical school to have a mandatory racial equity class.
    • “I think it’s really imperative that we don’t do a disservice to our students and educate them properly,” Adams said. 

Neel Swamy

  • He said he wants to work with student organizations like Student Health Action Coalition who do work on racial equity training and bystander intervention and help to spread their work to more people. 
  • He wants to focus on what departments are doing on an individual level and hold specific departments accountable to ensure they are supporting marginalized students, he said. 
    • “As someone who has hopped across the pond from the School of Pharmacy to the School of Public Health, I know what it feels like to be in two different academic cultures,” Swamy said. “That experience is so dependent on the faculty that you’re engaging with and the culture that your school has.” 

For students who are unsure if they will vote or not, current GPSF president Ryan Collins encouraged maintaining a hopeful attitude. 

“I know a lot of folks get discouraged or don’t necessarily think student government or GPSF stuff matters, but you really can make a difference," Collins said. "When more folks are engaged, it makes it easier to do what we need to do. This is your opportunity to have a say in who’s going to represent you.” 

Alongside voting for the new 2021-2022 GPSF president, students will also be voting on whether to change the GPSF’s name from “Graduate and Professional Student Federation” to “Graduate and Professional Student Government."

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Editor's note: Maian Adams is the Vice President of The Daily Tar Heel's Board of Directors.