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GPSA candidates debate ahead of elections

Current GPSA President Texanna Martin and challenger Diego Urbina spoke about their accomplishments so far and their visions for the graduate student population in the coming year.

Urbina is a second-year graduate student at the UNM School of Law and a first-generation college student. He said he is driven by the desire to give other UNM students that same success.

“I’d like to take those opportunities that have been given to me here in the University and try to give them to as many students as I can,” Urbina said. “That is my number one goal as GPSA president.”

Urbina said one thing he would focus on is fee increases resulting in tangible benefits for all graduate students. If elected, he said he would partner with UNM policymakers to ensure that everyone is on an even playing field, and make any increase in fees would benefit students directly.

“I believe there is a difference between working with the administration and working under the administration. And I refuse to do that – I won’t work under them,” he said.

Urbina said he will work to adjust how much of that fee money certain areas of UNM receive. He emphasized one University facet in particular.

“Graduate and professional students don’t come to school simply to fund athletics. That’s not what we’re here for. And I plan to tell (Athletic Director Paul) Krebs that every single time I meet with him,” he said.

Other items in Urbina’s platform include creating tenured assistantships for graduate students and upgrading GPSA’s role in the Academic/Student Affairs Committee from advisor to member so that the governing body can actually cast a vote.

Martin said she hopes to be the first incumbent to be re-elected since 2010, and that one of the most important things to her is continuing what her administration has done for UNM’s graduate students so far.

“There’s a lot of things out there that I want to finish. A lot of the issues that Diego brought up and many things that have been brought to our attention in our town hall [forums] are things that we’ve already started working on,” she said.

Martin said one aspect of her time in office that she wants to improve is outreach, citing international students as an example.

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“I learned that home community is important to international students. It was brought to my attention the differences among students we have here. We must work with student groups on campus to help build that home community,” she said.

She also pointed out the growth of GPSA’s role on campus, and said that the governing body had its biggest year for grant applications. She said she advocated her administration’s more effective partnership with the Associated Students of UNM as playing a big part in GPSA’s influence.

“We are now a unified voice with a lot more power here on campus. We’re working as a team, which is great and hasn’t been done in a very long time,” she said.

There were several things that both candidates said were important to them, including budget concerns, increased assistantships and making international students feel comfortable on campus.

However, on multiple topics such as sexual harassment and finance management, Urbina acknowledged that he has little to no familiarity — but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be considered to lead GPSA.

“I have to research some more and learn some more about the issue,” Urbina said when asked what he would do to combat sexual harassment. “I think we’ve seen in politics that experience doesn’t always translate to results.”

Martin built her case for staying in office by promising to build up the summer scholarship, something that had been implemented during her administration.

“We’re in the process of fine-tuning it and creating the guidelines and bylaws. Being able to spend another year in this position will allow me to help make it better,” she said.

Urbina commended what Martin has done in office, and said his candidacy should not be taken as a criticism of her.

“I don’t plan on being some revolutionary,” he said. “I want to continue the work that people have been doing, but with a different approach and different ideas.”

GPSA will host an open forum and debate today and Friday from noon until 2 p.m. in the SUB Atrium. Voting will be open online from April 6 through April 9.

David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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