Former GAPSA president resigned after letter from board members

A previous Minnesota Daily article misreported facts surrounding GAPSA resignations.

Nicole Conti, a first year graduate student in the art history department, explains her qualifications for the GAPSA position of Vice President of Student Affairs.  Nicole Conti was elected during GAPSA's Wednesday night meeting.

Nicole Conti, a first year graduate student in the art history department, explains her qualifications for the GAPSA position of Vice President of Student Affairs. Nicole Conti was elected during GAPSA's Wednesday night meeting.

Jenna Wilcox

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly held its first meeting of spring semester last week and discussed restructuring.

Since January, several members of GAPSA’s executive committee have resigned, including its president, Abou Amara.

The executive board sent Amara a letter on Feb. 10 with what he called “constructive criticism” pointing out areas of job neglect. The Daily previously misstated the content of the letter — the board did not ask Amara to step down in the letter.

Amara emailed his official resignation the next day. He said he resigned to focus on his position with the Minnesota House of Representatives as a legislative staffer. Following his resignation, he was also in Washington D.C. working with the U.S. Department of Education’s committee on student loans. His resignation was effective Feb. 17.

Amara said he requested funding for his trips to D.C. but once he found out that the Department of Education was paying for it, he withdrew his request.

Acting president Brittany Edwards said the executive board did not vote to support Amara’s flights. She said the voting went through several motions, until finally all of the executive board, except Edwards, voted to support a per diem stipend based on the standard University of Minnesota rate for D.C. 

When he resigned, he also said he would not accept the per diem, as he was no longer president or representing GAPSA, Edwards said.

GAPSA filled the vice president of public affairs and vice president of student affairs positions, but the vice president of finance position remains open.

Since Brittany Edwards took over as acting president in Amara’s absence, her executive vice president spot is also open, but the assembly did not come up with any nominations.

Matt Little resigned from his position as vice president for public affairs to pursue his race for mayor of Lakeville, Minn., where he is currently on the city council.

Amara appointed Chet Bodin to fill the spot, and he was formally elected at last week’s meeting.

“This is an opportunity to really make some changes,” Bodin said. “It’s been a little hairy with the resignation, but I really enjoy [the position].”

The assembly elected Nicole Conti as the new vice president of student affairs after Adair Rounthwaite resigned last week.

Flora He, former vice president of finance, resigned for personal reasons at the end of January.

Tyler Price, who preceded He as vice president for finance, said he thought He seemed overwhelmed with the position because of the time commitment.

“She was very talented, but there’s a level of scrutiny that’s placed on that position more than the others in the organization,” Price said.

In light of the turnover, Council of Graduate Student President Emily Combs assisted GAPSA with its student services fees request.

“I was interested in helping out with the fees request and I did assist which is a pretty standard thing for the president of the largest council to do,” Combs said.

The Daily also misreported the reason behind the organization’s lack of access to its website.

The website was inaccessible over the winter break and the beginning of the semester, due to an issue with the site’s host.

Dana Meade, vice president for grants said the website was fixed temporarily by contacting the site’s host. But because no current GAPSA executive board member set up the account, members were not able to provide the host with the information needed in order to set up a more permanent change.

It slowed down the grants process because most people submit applications online, Meade said. People requesting grants from GAPSA were directed to turn in their materials to the GAPSA office.

The assembly also discussed restructuring GAPSA at its meeting last week.

Edwards brought up restructuring resolutions written by a former GAPSA member last year. They will continue to discuss restructuring throughout the semester.

She said the goal is to better engage students with a governance structure that better reflects their needs.

“We want to be proud of GAPSA, and we want it to be something that we’re all a part of,” she said.

The changes include a smaller executive board with the majority consisting of council presidents from the different schools and programs. There would still be a president to oversee the organization, but the change would mean a more consistent representation, Edwards said.

“The presidents could better communicate to the councils because right now there is a disconnect in GAPSA,” Edwards said

The programming budget would also be redistributed to the councils, and most of the grants budget would go to colleges that have grant programs.

The executive board created a survey for both the assembly and the graduate and professional student body and is working with a class in the Humphrey School for Public Affairs to evaluate the organization.

“There are a lot of ideas and energy around how we can work together to make our organization increasingly streamlined, responsive and efficient,” she said.

After the meeting Scott Asbach, the School of Public Health representative, told Edwards that restructuring is a good idea.

“We have a clean slate to rebuild an organization,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”