Next year’s Graduate Student Organization president says her goals include strengthening the ties between the organization and the rest of the University and fighting for graduate student rights.

Jessie Kabwila Kapasula, who is attending BU’s Graduate School for comparative literature, will be president of the GSO for the 2008-2009 school year.

GSO elections for the upcoming year were held on Monday, April 7 and Tuesday, April 8 in the Graduate Student Lounge. Voting is done through a ballot system on campus, but in future years e-voting through Blackboard will be a possibility.

Kapasula said she intends to build on the strengths of the current GSO E-Board by continuing to tackle issues that concern students, “such as demanding social and economic justice for students in their learning and working environment … by promoting close cooperation between departments, as well as between GSO and GSEU [The Graduate Student Employees Union].”

GSO promotes the educational, political and socio-cultural development of the 3,000 graduate students enrolled at Binghamton University.

As a second-year student at BU, Kapasula spent a lot of time making sure she got her message out to her classmates. The fact that she won the position of president by only 18 votes humbled her a lot.

“When I won I was not that excited because the election was very close,” she said. “I was running against a very good and formidable opponent.”

Kapasula said she ran for the position because she felt she could make a change.

“I want to help make life better for the Binghamton graduate students,” she said. “I feel the issues are very important, and that I could be of service.”

According to outgoing President Wazir Mahomed, graduate students across campus are currently dealing with insufficient resources.

“The primary challenge for graduate students is the lack of benefits and funding,” Mohamed wrote in a recent newsletter to group members. He explained how the main issues affecting students, such as the inequality of TA stipends based on academic department, “are out in the open.”

Graduate students who teach writing and composition have said that their teaching course load — which increased two and a half years ago from two per year to four without an increase in compensation — is too much to bear.

After participating in student government at her school in Malawi, Kapasula said she is prepared to apply her experience.

“My experience as a union president at college and university levels in Malawi, gives me confidence that I would be able to contribute positively to help map ways to improve the learning and teaching environment of the BU grad student,” she said.

For the upcoming school year, Mohamed said “the GSO will … be required to establish a closer working relationship with campus groups and the unions representing students to bring about cohesion,” according to the newsletter.

As the incoming president, Kapasula plans to “prioritize the representation of decisions made by the GSO constituencies,” she wrote in her platform for elections.

She hopes to “ensure the representation of graduate students,” she wrote.

Kapasula is looking to create cooperation between different student organizations, departments, faculty and administrative offices, and believes that “fostering a sense of community also requires the GSO to work with off-campus organizations and strengthen the role that BU plays in the life of the City of Binghamton.”

“I believe in solidarity,” explained Kapasula. “Just moaning about problems without trying to do your best about it is not helpful. If I can be in a place to help and get what is trying to be achieved in a civil manner, then that is what I will do.”

In a resolution passed this semester, GSO asked President Lois B. DeFleur to intervene and halt the Judicial Board proceedings against students who were arrested March 18 during the Iraq war protest until the situation played itself out in the court system. Administration consented.

The organization also pledged to hire an attorney for the students if legal proceedings were to continue.