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The candidates for the 2021 GPSA presidential election. Photos courtesy of GPSA.

GPSA presidential election looms amid grad union litigation

Just weeks after the ASUNM election, the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) will hold their own election for a new president. Beginning March 29, students will be able to cast their vote for one of the two candidates vying for the seat.

Aaron Cowan, an organization, information and learning sciences Ph.D student, and David C. Saavedra, a public administration master student, have announced their candidacies for GPSA president. Saavedra currently serves as the chief of staff for the executive branch of GPSA, while Cowan currently chairs the Legislative Steering Committee.

The GPSA is the student body government charged with representing graduate and professional students at the University of New Mexico. Its executive branch contains a multitude of committees including the Lobby Committee, which petitions the University and the New Mexico Legislature to advance the interests of graduate and professional students on campus.

According to his statement on the GPSA general election webpage, Saavedra’s platform is built upon supporting graduate and professional students by “serving as a mode of communication between students and UNM administration.” 

Cowan, meanwhile, expressed his support for unionization and “fight(ing) for opportunity for all students, including the undocumented, while holding UNM administration accountable.”

The election comes at a critical point in student-administration relations as the United Grad Workers of UNM, a union organized by graduate students working for the University, have been embroiled in a fight to be recognized as legitimate by the state’s Public Employees Labor Relations Board. At the same time, the University has actively sought to delegitimize the union, going so far as to file a motion in December to block the union’s right to organize.

Another key role of the new GPSA president is to serve as chair of the 2022 Student Fee Review Board (SFRB), a committee of undergraduate and graduate students in charge of recommending student fee funding allocations. 

An influential organization with the power of a multi-million dollar purse, the SFRB is widely understood as one of the most practically relevant facets of student government. Last year, the board recommended the approximately $72,000 in funding necessary for the establishment of the Asian Pacific American Culture Center (APACC). Notably, the SFRB also declined to reduce student fees amid calls for relief from students struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The GPSA president is also tasked with interviewing and recommending potential applicants to the governor of New Mexico for the student regent position on the UNM Board of Regents. The student regent, alongside other members of the Board, works closely with executive leadership to manage the University as a whole.

Students can log in to to vote for either candidate between March 29 and April 2. Election results will be announced on April 5.

Liam DeBonis is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @LiamDebonis

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