David Villarreal steps down as GSA president

Eleanor Dearman

David Villarreal has stepped down as Graduate Student Assembly president five months into his term, according to an email from the organization Tuesday.

With Villarreal’s decision, Vice President Brian Wilkey was promoted to the presidency. In the email, Wilkey wrote that Villarreal approached him Aug. 21, saying he had made the decision to leave the office.

“[Villarreal] is pursuing his own goals right now, and we totally support this,” Wilkey said in an interview. “None of us come to graduate school at UT-Austin, or anywhere for that matter, to be the president or vice president of the graduate student body. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for our academics.”

Wilkey said he was surprised by Villarreal’s decision. 

“This is always a possibility when you sign up to be vice president,” Wilkey said. “You hope it’s not because, obviously, [Villarreal] and I ran together, and I thought he was doing a wonderful job.”

Wilkey said the platform goals started under Villarreal will remain unchanged, including the creation of an academic database for graduate students, reconstructing GSA’s governing documents and various health initiatives. 

“Better treatment, better housing and a more efficient GSA — those things are all going to happen regardless of me being in charge or [Villarreal] being in charge,” Wilkey said.

Since Villarreal’s decision, Wilkey said he has been learning the duties of the president and getting updated on Villarreal’s work with different committees over the summer.

According to Wilkey, as the vice president, he had little interaction with projects in their beginning stages. He said his job was to review the end product, but now, as president, he is working more directly with
GSA members.

“What is really happening is I’m listening to my executive members talk about what they have been working with [Villarreal] on over the summer,” Wilkey said.

Jennifer Jendrzey, director of the communications committee, said she and other executive members of GSA have been meeting with Wilkey and are confident in his abilities as president.

“The executive committee and the GSA worked together really closely already, so this transition to [Wilkey] taking leadership has been pretty seamless,” Jendrzey said. “We’re confident that the rest of the year will go really well.”

According to the GSA constitution, when a president steps down, the vice president takes over his role and is required to appoint a new vice president, who must then be approved by a two-thirds majority of the assembly. The candidate can be appointed internally or externally from GSA.

“It’s an appointment process, so [the assembly has] all the right to ask the appointee all the questions they want,” Wilkey said. “And if they choose otherwise, I’m back to the drawing board.”

Wilkey said the vice president position will be filled by Sept. 16 — the day of the first GSA meeting — at the earliest. 

“I do not believe there is a shortage of qualified candidates on this campus,” Wilkey said.

Phone calls and emails to Villarreal were not returned.