The path to the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly presidency is heating up as candidates hurl accusations at one another.
Current GAPSA President Abou Amara has been criticized for using email listservs and his Twitter page to call out his opponent Paul Freeman on statements Freeman made during a GAPSA Public Affairs Committee meeting.
Amara sent the email at issue on April 3 to members of the Law School Democrats. It reads:
“My opponent has made some troubling comments. He believes GAPSA should advocate for the same Anti-Collective Bargaining/Union Busting Bill that passed in Wisconsin in our Legislature here in Minnesota. My opponent is wrong.”
Though his message matches the unofficial minutes for the Feb. 23 Public Affairs Committee meeting, Freeman argued in a response on his Facebook page that the statements were taken out of context. He said he made the statements as a joke to point out how a few GAPSA executives were using the “GAPSA brand” to promote personal views or achieve certain outcomes in issues that had little to do with graduate students or the University of Minnesota.
The meeting minutes have not been officially approved, so there is some question whether Freeman was being serious, as Amara contended, or as a humorous example to get at a larger point.
Freeman said he used the union bill example to illustrate how GAPSA could easily justify promoting the legislation with a slight University benefit and to make the point that it was not GAPSA’s role to pursue such matters.
Based off his experience with Freeman and knowledge of his opponent’s personal views, Amara said he thinks Freeman is lying to backtrack because he realized anti-unionization is an unpopular idea.
Though Amara said he believes legislation like the bill in Wisconsin is not within GAPSA’s scope, he said making sure students are aware of where candidates stand on political issues is important because it could affect how they advocate for graduate students and University issues.
However, GAPSA executives are concerned with Amara’s tactics, and one called his messages deceitful.
Tyler Price, GAPSA vice president for finance, said if Amara thought relaying Freeman’s comments was necessary for students to decide on their vote, the comments should have been touched on during the debates and not distributed via email and Twitter.
Price also said Amara made the claims based on unofficial meeting minutes that have not yet been approved by the committee. He said Amara received the minutes from GAPSA Public Affairs Vice President Terrance Paape, who has been helping Amara with the campaign.
However, Price, who wasn’t in attendance at the meeting where Freeman made his remark about union legislation, said it was a joke.
The election has left the executive board divided, more so than in years past, he said.
“Their visions of what GAPSA does and how to best serve the students is wildly different,” Price said. “When both of those people are wildly different and on the exec board, you are going to have divided loyalties.”
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