GAPSA election begins Monday

Ryan Kennedy and Devin Driscoll are competing to lead GAPSA through its financial troubles.

GAPSA presidential candidate Devin Driscoll is in his first year at the University after receiving an undergraduate degree from Providence College in Providence, R.I.

GAPSA presidential candidate Devin Driscoll is in his first year at the University after receiving an undergraduate degree from Providence College in Providence, R.I.

Two candidates are running for president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and the chance to represent roughly 20,000 graduate and professional students, but they must do so with the looming possibility of operating without student service fees. This year’s election, held online April 5-7, will be between first-year graduate students Ryan Kennedy and Devin Driscoll. Elections will be open roughly one week before Vice Provost of Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart decides if the $0 funding recommendation by the Student Organizations Fees Committee will stand or if GAPSA will get closer to their $380,000 request, which was submitted three days past the deadline. Kennedy received his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, and Driscoll is in his first year at the University after receiving an undergraduate degree from Providence College in Providence, R.I. Both candidates are currently seeking Master of Public Policy degrees and acknowledge a political preference, but they say their beliefs play no role in a GAPSA presidency. Both candidates come into the election boasting vast records of student representation and both feel they are well equipped to deal with GAPSA’s looming funding problems, no matter how severe. “I’ve prepared fees proposals the last three years for two different organizations,” Kennedy said. “I don’t feel like there is anyone at this University better equipped to handle GAPSA’s fee process the year after a huge cut or no funding than myself.” Driscoll said he needs to be prepared to cut down programs at GAPSA but said he will not cut grants, which are primarily reserved for graduate student travel expenses, or funds that go directly to the nine graduate and professional councils GAPSA oversees. Last year, Kennedy was student senate chairman, and he is currently chairman for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group board of directors. He serves as the legislative certificate program coordinator for the Minnesota Student Association and is a public affairs committee member for GAPSA. Driscoll is currently treasurer of the Public Affairs Student Association and secretary of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s Senate District 66. He also serves as vice president of University relations and senator on the Council of Graduate Students, where he represents the group to GAPSA. “I’ve been doing this for longer,” Kennedy said. “I mean, Devin’s only been doing this for five months. He started serving in October. I started serving in September 2007. I have a much more intricate knowledge of this University.” Driscoll said that although he is newer to the University, he was deeply involved in student representation at Providence College and said his experience at the University this year qualifies him for the job. “I don’t mean to disparage Ryan’s experience,” Driscoll said, “but I’m the only one to have won a general election in which only graduate or professional students voted.” At a presidential debate last week, Kennedy challenged Driscoll’s attendance record on the student senate committee of finance and planning. “I show up,” Kennedy said. “We can’t have a president who doesn’t show up, and he’s only shown up to 60 percent of the meetings. I served an entire year on senate and didn’t miss a meeting.” Driscoll said his actual attendance record is about 82 percent since being appointed Oct. 5. He has pledged to resign all his currently held elected positions if elected GAPSA president. Both candidates acknowledged having strong political beliefs, but in contrast to Driscoll, Kennedy would not publicly attach himself to any party. “I want to make sure everyone’s voice is heard in an equitable manner, and I believe in no wasteful spending,” Kennedy said. “If you consider those political beliefs, I guess yeah, that’s how they’ll affect my presidency.” Driscoll was more overt. “I am an unabashed Democrat and I have a history with the Democratic Party,” Driscoll said, “but I don’t know if that has any place at GAPSA. I will say my strong belief that equitable, accessible and affordable education is one thing that has roots in my beliefs.”