Despite low GSA voter turnout, Brown-Cicero ready to add excitement to graduate student body

Cassandra Jaramillo

Wills Brown and Francesca Cicero said they are excited to be the newly elected president and vice president of the Graduate Student Assembly on Monday but feel that too many students are uninformed on its resources and purpose.

Based on information provided with the GSA election results, only 402 students out of the 11,331 graduate student body population voted in the GSA executive alliance election, putting voter turnout in the executive alliance election at just above 3.5 percent. Brown and Cicero ran their campaign emphasizing the need to bridge the divide between graduate students and the University.

Incumbent GSA President Brian Wilkey said low voter turnout has been a struggle in GSA elections, where candidates must walk a thin line because of campaigning rules. 

“[GSA] cannot appear to be favorable of any campaign at all,” Wilkey said. “We have to be very careful about that. In doing so, it makes it hard [to advertise].”

The executive alliance race came down to a small difference. The Warner Cook and Ellie Boisjoli executive alliance had 193 votes, just 16 votes short of the 209 votes Brown and Cicero received. Cook said the close race illustrates how every student’s vote matters.  

“I think it goes to show how even one vote counts — at least in this race,” Cook said. “But it is exciting to see that there was a lot of support for both campaigns.”

Brown and Cicero, graduate students in the College of Education, said they want to use their passion for student affairs to make GSA a better-known organization on campus. 

“My hope is once we start accomplishing our platform points, people will start to see it came from the GSA and recognize us,” Brown said.

Their comprehensive platform includes raising awareness on graduate student mental health, increasing hourly wages for graduate assistants who have moved from salary to hourly wages, promoting collaboration with a graduate startup incubator space, adding agencies for women’s and LGBT issues, and creating dialogue on campus carry ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

Wilkey said Brown and Cicero will officially assume their positions on April 11. 

“I think they are going to act wonderfully as president and vice president,” Wilkey said. “They clearly care about [GSA], and they bring a wealth of experience from different areas.” 

In the meantime, Brown and Cicero said they want to meet with individual representatives in GSA, then tackle the outdated information on the GSA website and improve its social media presence.

“I think having more visibility [in GSA] and communicating out what’s happening will affect a larger group of students,” Cicero said. 

Brown said he and Cicero plan on using the summer to meet with administrators to work on achieving platform goals.

“The summer is going to be a very important time to get our work done to knock out platform points,” Brown said. “That’s the time there’s less students on campus, and administrators have more time to meet and talk.”

Both Cook and Boisjoli said they congratulate Brown and Cicero and look forward to working with them in GSA.