GAPSA pres. candidates to decide own race

Three candidates agreed that two would drop out before the election.

GAPSA Vice President of Finance Kevin Lang, left, GAPSA President Brittany Edwards, center, and GAPSA Executive Vice President Alfonso Sintjago, right, are the three candidates running for GAPSA President.

Image by Chelsea Gortmaker

GAPSA Vice President of Finance Kevin Lang, left, GAPSA President Brittany Edwards, center, and GAPSA Executive Vice President Alfonso Sintjago, right, are the three candidates running for GAPSA President.

by Tyler Gieseke

Although three University of Minnesota students filed to run for president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly for 2013-14, only one will appear on the ballot in April.

Brittany Edwards, Kevin Lang and Alfonso Sintjago said they would all serve roles within GAPSA next year, but pending their schedules and further discussion, just one will continue to run for president.

“We wanted to make sure that we had all of our options open,” said Edwards, who served as acting GAPSA president beginning in early 2012 and ran as the sole candidate during last year’s election. “I personally am happy serving in multiple roles within GAPSA.”

All three candidates have completed the necessary application to file with the All Campus Elections Commission.

According to ACEC rules, there’s nothing to prevent two of the candidates from dropping out so that a sole candidate remains, said Mallory Kurkoski, an ACEC officer.

She said ACEC plans to question the candidates about this topic during their debate Wednesday.

“This situation doesn’t have any precedent,” Kurkoski said.

George Hauser, president of the School of Dentistry Council of Students, said the situation was “disappointing.”

“Is it very democratic? No,” he said, adding that it’s often difficult to get students to volunteer for leadership positions.

But Hauser said this year’s GAPSA leadership has done a good job trying to turn around an organization that, in the past, wasn’t driven by students’ needs.

“I do think they had good intentions this year,” he said.

Although it’s too late to make any rule changes for this election, Kurkoski said if the student body felt the candidates’ actions were problematic, rule changes could occur in the future.

“We definitely want more people to run,” Edwards said. “No one else filed.”

It’s difficult to get large amounts of student involvement, she said, when graduate students’ schedules are so filled.

“It’s a big time commitment,” she said. Although some members get a stipend, “people don’t really make money off of this,” she said.

The three candidates also don’t want to run against each other, she said. Lang and Sintjago have priorities outside of the president position, she said, but Edwards is still uncertain of whether she will be able to fill the role next year.

Edwards also said with three candidates, the group will be able to have a discussion about GAPSA at the debates, rather than a single person talking and answering questions.

“We’re a team,” she said.

GAPSA presidential candidates will debate  Wednesday, while presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the Minnesota Student Association will debate Tuesday.

Elections will be held April 8-10.

GAPSA’s future platform

GAPSA will likely continue to focus on mental health issues going forward, all three candidates said.

Edwards said GAPSA has partnered with many different organizations in its mental health advocacy, including Boynton Health Service, Active Minds and the Wellstone-Barlow Mental Health Initiative, which seeks to reduce the stigma of mental health care.

The group is co-sponsoring the upcoming Cirque De-Stress event, she said, which aims to give students a break from studies to see a circus show.

GAPSA is also trying to relieve tension between advisers and advisees, Lang said, as well as improve relations between graduate student instructors and their students by partnering with the Council of Graduate Students to recognize outstanding graduate student instructors who are nominated by their undergraduate students.

Lang said GAPSA will also focus on reducing student costs in a “unique” way — through making textbooks and journals open access.

“Tuition has a bunch of different drivers … so it’s very difficult to tackle that problem just by itself,” Lang said.

He said GAPSA will also push for open governance.

“We want GAPSA to be more representative,” Sintjago said, “… [to] be able to bring about changes that are positive for the whole graduate and professional student body.”