Resignations mar GAPSA leadership

The surprise departure of its top two leaders over break left the group scrambling.

Cali Owings

Abou Amara will take over as acting president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly for the remainder of the school year, following the simultaneous resignations of the president and executive vice president of GAPSA last week. The executive board appointed Amara, who had previously served as vice president for public affairs. It is the first time in GAPSA history that both officers have resigned at the same time. Ryan Kennedy stepped down as GAPSA president because he will seek full-time employment and no longer attends the University of Minnesota, he announced in an e-mail to the entire assembly. Ordinarily, the executive vice president would step in if the president resigns, but Monica Howell also vacated her position two days before. Neither Kennedy nor Howell returned calls for comment. Multiple sources indicated Howell, a Ph.D. student, stepped down to focus on her academic career. Appointing Amara filled GAPSAâÄôs need for a leader, but with no further chain of command and no precedent for how to move forward without their two highest leaders, some people are concerned that the executive board made a decision without the approval of the entire assembly. Amara could not be immediately reached for comment. Devin Driscoll, Council of Graduate Students President, said he is concerned about the implications of the actions since the decisions made are unprecedented. âÄúIt feels like every week itâÄôs another jam for GAPSA,âÄù he said, worried about the outside perception of the organization. Driscoll said he was confused about whether Amara was appointed executive vice president and then filling in for the vacant presidency or if he was simply appointed president. Despite the seemingly minimal difference, he said the assembly does not have the ability to appoint a president since that office is elected by graduate and professional students through the All Campus Elections Commission. An independent election would have left GAPSA without a leader for a month or longer. Driscoll said he and other assembly presidents plan to meet and discuss the executive boardâÄôs actions because they donâÄôt really have an understanding of what happened. Keeping the fees request, due Friday, on track offered the biggest incentive for a quick appointment. After GAPSA missed the deadline for funding last year, they created a subcommittee to handle the request. âÄúItâÄôs the most essential thing we have to do all year,âÄù said Tyler Price, vice president for finance. Kennedy and Howell stepping down has not really affected the progress, he said. A final draft of the narrative of the request is complete, but Price said he is still putting together budget information to accompany it. Since it will be due before the first assembly meeting on Jan. 26, it will be submitted without assembly approval. Price said the executive board âÄúshot downâÄù the idea of asking for an extension to allow the assembly to discuss and approve the fees request because it would look bad after they submitted a late application last year. It is uncertain whether Amara will be very involved in the fees request process. Price said it was largely the responsibility of the financial vice president. Four people will have the opportunity to present on behalf of GAPSA, and Amara could be one of them. With their fees request due Friday, Amara will have just over a week to jump into his new role before representing GAPSA to the Student Services Fees Committee. Amara was a natural choice because he had already expressed interest in running for GAPSA president next year, Vice President for Student Affairs Bree Dalager said. âÄúItâÄôs very difficult for someone outside of GAPSA to come in as president, even if they start in June,âÄù she said. AmaraâÄôs vacant public affairs position and the executive vice president position are now open to applicants and will face a vote by the general assembly. âÄúWe are lucky to have qualified people within the organization to step up,âÄù Dalager said.