Election may split GAPSA

by Charlie Bartlett

Polls opened for the 2015 all-campus elections Wednesday with a ballot item that could change the structure of graduate and professional student government at the University of Minnesota.
Along with selecting the 2015-16 president, voters can decide to split the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly into two organizations. If the referendum passes, graduate students would be placed under the existing Council of Graduate Students, and professional students would make up a new, separate group.
Law student Kyle Kroll, who is running unopposed for GAPSA president, said he’s a supporter of the referendum. If he wins and it passes, he’ll become president of the professional student organization.
He said the conflicting interests between graduate and professional students have led to problems within GAPSA, which the referendum will hopefully remedy.
“[Graduate and professional students] are almost like separate political parties,” Kroll said.
If he becomes president, he said, he’d like to put more focus on the individual interests of the professional councils GAPSA represents.
Professional students have diverse interests, Kroll said, and a professional student government should play more of an intermediary role between councils than what is happening now.
He said if the referendum doesn’t pass, he would take a similar approach for graduate students represented under COGS.
GAPSA President Alfonso Sintjago said while GAPSA and COGS have worked well together for a long time, there has been increasing conflict between the two over the past few years.
Seeing the referendum pass would end the conflicts and allow the individual governances to take their own paths, he said.
GAPSA Student Representative to the Board of Regents Damien Carriere said although it’s a sad situation that the two organizations may have to split, right now neither are putting themselves in a position to communicate with the other effectively.
And as a result, he said, GAPSA hasn’t worked as efficiently as it could have.
“I think separating is the best for both organizations,” Sintjago said. 
COGS President Andrew McNally said he’s heard overwhelming support for the referendum from both graduate and professional students, and he has yet to encounter anyone who opposes it.
McNally said COGS will hold internal presidential elections at the end of April. The candidates have yet to be announced.
Kroll said ultimately, GAPSA needs to work on reforming its structure before it can give the necessary attention to larger campus issues.
“We’ve got great people in GAPSA,” he said. “But I think the fruits of their labor haven’t been as great as they should be.”