Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles that will look into GPSA.
This spring semester has been a busy one for the University of New Mexico's Graduate and Professional Student Association. They've experienced conflicts of interests, people in the gallery becoming voting members of GPSA in a matter of minutes, accusations of unethical behavior and presidential impeachment proceedings.
And that was all in one meeting.
That February meeting began with Director of Student Affairs, Ryan Lindquist, explaining to the council what abstaining means. Shortly after, it was announced that three council members had resigned since the last meeting.
Those announcements were followed by a fiery public comment section wherein Council Member Andrea Aberta got into a heated debate with a representative of the World Affairs Delegation (WAD) and Mark Peceny, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Peceny and Associate Dean Philip Ganderton presented their vision for implementing differential tuition for the College of Arts and Sciences. They had given a similar presentation to the Associated Students of UNM a few weeks prior.
ASUNM had heard the presenters, asked a few questions and mulled over the idea before moving on to regular business. Some Senators supported it, others wanted to learn more about it before deciding. GPSA's version began similarly, until Aberta stood up.
“Everyone in this room should be freaking out about this,” Aberta said. “Why should we give you more when we are getting less product?”
Peceny and Aberta went back and forth until time ran out. No motion to extend time was made and the presentation ended.
Just before that, Aberta and Sara Gutierrez, who was there to represent WAD, had an argument about the definition of per diem during public comment.
“It’s a technical definition versus intent,” said Finance Chair Kyla Charlee during the meeting.
Shortly after these exchanges, Gutierrez was voted on to the council unanimously. Gutierrez said her experience with GPSA up to that point had been “sitting and viewing the last week's processes.”
Unlike ASUNM, council members are appointed from their academic department, such as Organization, Information and Learning Sciences and College of Education. That means this method, while perhaps unconventional, was perfectly legitimate by the standards of GPSA’s Constitution and By-Laws.
During Finance business, seven appropriations were to be heard. Three were doomed to fail, since its representatives failed to show up to the finance meeting, according to Charlee.
Women in Computing, Speech and Hearing Science Graduate Student Association, Latino Medical Student Association, GPSA Elections Committee and Association of Women Surgeons were all passed without discussion. The vote was 6 to 1, according to the GPSA minutes.
Two other appropriations, WAD and Philosophy Graduate Student Association, were passed via block vote. Some discussion was had about those appropriations, although much of it was out of turn and not in compliance with GPSA’s parliamentary procedure.
The final appropriation was for the Student Veterans of UNM.
Multiple council members are also members of Student Veterans of UNM, including Eliberto Calderan and Council Chair James Kaminski.
This discussion began with the reading of an email sent to the finance committee:
“It’s is unclear whether the students attending NASPA (a national conference for student government officials held in Los Angeles this year) from the Graduate Student Coalition for Organization, Information and Learning Sciences are the same students who the Student Veterans Association is requesting funding for.”
The email also said, “If they are the same students, it seems unethical and inequitable that these two organizations are submitting separate appropriations for the same students to receive funding to attend this one conference.”
The email was written by GPSA Chief of Staff BriAnne Amador, who also sits on the Finance Committee.
That first appropriation was vetoed by President Boney Mutabazi, which was subsequently overruled by the council.
This second appropriation ultimately passed. However, a source close to the matter revealed that Kaminski had withdrawn the appropriation and would be resigning from SVUNM.
After all of that, Calderan introduced a document for discussion he titled, “Evidence to Begin the Impeachment: GPSA President Boney Mutabazi.”
The two-page document accuses Mutabazi of neglect of office, dereliction of duty and wrongdoing.
“This is bulls***,” Aberta said during the discussion. “Every time we have a disagreement we impeach.”
The previous president of GPSA, Alaa Elmaoued, resigned after impeachment was being pursued.
Despite theturmoil, GPSA is still fulfilling its most basic responsibility — doling out money to student organizations.
When asked about whether GPSA was functioning as it should, neither Kaminski nor Mutabazi would say it was. Kaminski declined to comment, while Mutabazi said, “No.”
Justin Garcia is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers student government. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Just516garc.