Problems with GAPSA leadership

 

This Monday through Wednesday, the graduate and professional students of this university have the opportunity to elect a president of GAPSA to represent them. The slate that will appear on the ballot does not represent any meaningful choice. I am interjecting myself into this process as a write-in candidate to provide a real alternative to the self-identified “team.” I believe in transparency, accountability and democracy. The existing slate has demonstrated no similar commitment.

I am a doctoral candidate in economics. In addition to my involvement with GAPSA, I am currently the vice president of the Council of Graduate Students, an organization representing students seeking Ph.D.s as opposed to M.D.s or MBAs. In my four years of involvement, I have actively worked on issues ranging from reforming the fees process to defending academic freedom to promoting the data-driven evaluation of University of Minnesota services and nearly everything in between. I have put in the hours to learn how to navigate my way through the maze of the administrative bureaucracy to effect change.

In my opponents’ April 4 letter, they criticized the Minnesota Daily, among others, for failing to understand that democracy need not include any element of competition and can be a collaborative process. I am sure that Vladimir Putin would agree with their sentiment. The essence of democracy is precisely competition between competing viewpoints. This is how such things work. However, this warped view of what constitutes democracy is consistent with the leadership style that I have observed.

I am a voting member of their General Assembly and can only describe its leadership as disturbing. I have received virtually no relevant information regarding the running of our organization from the leadership. As a result, I have had to actively search for information elsewhere, and on my own time I’ve tried to be a competent member of the assembly. Only by reading the draft budget they must submit to Student Union and Activities did I discover that they have raised their compensation massively without bothering to inform the assembly and certainly without asking the assembly’s approval. This is not my idea of transparency.

They run an organization in which the leadership has explicit and sole control over its own compensation. This is an outrageously unethical arrangement. The executive board of this kind of an organization should be the servant of the General Assembly. Given the total lack of information sharing, the General Assembly has been utterly usurped and reduced to rubberstamping the private decision-making of the leadership. At one point this year, the assembly voted on a slate of roughly 10 resolutions as a block with a single up or down vote. We were denied the right to separate the items, to amend them or even to discuss them.

 In their letter, my opponents listed their restructuring of the organization as their principle accomplishment even as they never attempted to address the major structural issues and actively opposed efforts by members to do so.

GAPSA controls $400,000 of student fees money, and my opponents believe that they deserve $90,000 of that total in stipends and benefits. If honored with election by my peers, I am confident that I could cut $80,000 from my opponents’ proposed compensation and spend that money for the benefit of all students with the option of reducing fees in the future.

Whatever they say, the candidates’ actions show they are not interested in leading a democratic, transparent or accountable organization. It is that contrast that inspired me to run, and in the spirit of openness and clear communication, I humbly ask my fellow students for their votes. Please make your voices heard at vote.umn.edu.