GSA Forum leaves 1 position unfilled for next year
(Isabella Lee/Illustrations director)
May 16, 2023 11:46 p.m.
This post was updated May 18 at 6:44 p.m.
Only three of four positions for the Graduate Students Association Forum will be filled during the upcoming academic year.
Each of the three candidates ran unopposed for their seat – president, vice president of external affairs and vice president of academic affairs – and there were no candidates for the position of vice president of internal affairs. Voting occurred between April 18 and 24 on MyUCLA.
Vice presidents tend to run for president the following year, said Noor Nakhaei, a computer science doctoral student and the current and incoming president of GSA. However, this year was different: One vice president took a leave of absence from school, the second is graduating and the third decided the role was too demanding, she added.
Sonya Brooks, the incoming vice president of external affairs, said she thinks the graduate student worker strike in the fall was particularly taxing on graduate students, making them less likely to run for GSA.
Nakhaei said she tried to encourage members of her cabinet to run, but many felt that the role was too much responsibility.
“The work this year was so much and so overwhelming that I think people were like, ‘We’re good. We don’t want to run again,’” she said.
Additionally, many students involved in GSA this year are graduating, so they cannot run for a position, said Emma Landry, the incoming vice president of academic affairs.
Landry, a biostatistics doctoral student who served as the director of discretionary funds for the GSA president’s office this year, said she felt motivated to run for the position after taking on more responsibility as a director and getting more involved in issues related to funding and student fees.
“It was really motivated to make a change for people in my department, all the people around me who I know also have issues,” she said.
Another reason for the lack of candidates this year could be the limited knowledge about GSA, Nakhaei said. She added that she’s currently working to create an email list for all graduate students to raise awareness of what GSA is working on.
Brooks, an urban schooling doctoral student, said she thinks the mid-spring quarter timing of GSA elections also affects the number of applicants for the forum.
“It was around a period of time where graduate students are either gone or they are just depleted from all of their mental and their physical energy from the past two quarters,” she said.
Getting graduate students more involved in GSA and ensuring they understand the issues the forum handles could help to increase the number of candidates who run in future years, Brooks added.
However, Landry said she doesn’t think the incomplete forum will be an issue next year because the officers are working to quickly hire directors and staff.
Ernesto Arciniega, the current vice president of external affairs, said he felt graduate students might not run for student government because they are handling other responsibilities.
“Graduate and professional students are just so overwhelmed with work and research and teaching and writing that sometimes, it’s not about them not being interested in taking a more active role in student leadership and student government, it’s more about their own academic careers and schedules,” he said.
Arciniega, a philosophy doctoral student, also said GSA could do more to reach out to graduate students to inform them about the opportunities that GSA provides. Many graduate students do not know about non-officer positions in GSA such as director and committee member roles, so future forums should work to publicize these roles more, he added.
The officers and their staff will work together to ensure the vacant position does not create problems for the GSA next year, Brooks said, adding that graduate students can still get involved as staffers.
“I believe that if all of the forces rally together, we can still support a position that is not filled by helping one another, by supporting one another, by identifying the issues that may be important to that seat and then filling in those gaps,” Brooks said.