Graduate and professional students at the University of New Mexico now have a new president.
Muhammad Afzaal was elected as President of the Graduate and Professional Student Association.
Afzaal swept opponent Sara Gutierrez, collecting 72 percent of the vote. Gutierrez received 136 votes, while Afzaal picked up 391 votes. Including eight write-in votes, 537 people voted in the election — about 8.8 percent of all graduate and professional students at UNM.
Vote totals are unofficial until April 12.
Afzaal is studying community outreach and planning. His previous experience with GPSA is limited, serving as a volunteer for a few days under the administration of Glenda Lewis, whose term ended in 2017. Afzaal told the Daily Lobo that he was involved in student government while obtaining his undergraduate degree.
On the campaign trail, both candidates said engagement — within GPSA and among UNM graduate and professional students, especially those on north campus — is among their top priorities. Afzaal said he wanted to set up “meet and greets” between various academic departments and GPSA.
As indicated by this elections turnout, student engagement has been a struggle for GPSA. The problem exists internally as well. For example, in the March meeting, Kyla Charlee, acting as council chair, said the former Legislative Steering Committee Chair Texanna Martin had stepped down. Sara Samani was unanimously appointed to fill the position. However, only one council member volunteered to be on the committee. Without a quorum, the committee can’t meet and pass legislation, per state law.
In a previous interview with the Daily Lobo, Afzaal also highlighted the president's role on the Student Fee Review Board. Afzaal will not only be the chair of the board, but will also sit on the Budget Leadership Team, another major step in deciding how tuition and students fees are spent.
“We would like to make sure that there (is) transparency in those resources and fair and equal distribution,” Afzaal said. He added that he wants to make sure students knew how much each department received.
In the April meeting at the end of the month, GPSA council members are set to vote on a new council chair.
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.