Sahil Bhandari and Michael Scott compare their campaign’s passion to the likes of Bernie Sanders.
Bhandari, chemical engineering graduate student, and Scott, educational administration graduate student, said they would encourage more graduate student participation if elected GSA president and vice president.
“I likened our campaign to Bernie Sanders because we are trying to give voices to as many students as possible,” Scott said.
Bhandari and Scott said they consider their campaign as the “anti-establishment” campaign. Their platform focuses on being inclusive and increasing graduate student participation.
“At the core of our campaign is participation,” Bhandari said. “Participation links to finances. The GSA budget is about $100,000 a year.”
Bhandari said money budgeted for graduate student organizations often sees some funds left over. The two believe it’s an indication there’s not enough students participating, or that don’t know about the resources available to them.
“I think the focus has always been placed on student organizations asking to come and beg for money,” Bhandari said. “And I think the focus should be the other way around. We should go every week to an organization’s session and tell them we have this budget and to please apply.”
Bhandari and Scott met in the GSA Legislative Affairs Committee. Bhandari said when Campus Carry was being introduced in the legislature, he saw the reporting in local media but felt the issue wasn’t being talked about as much in student organizations. So Bhandari took action, along with the Legislative Affairs Committee, and helped draft the Committee’s open letter expressing opposition to firearms in UT classrooms.
Before transferring to UT’s doctoral education policy administration program, Scott taught Spanish at the high school and college level. Scott said during his time as a teacher, he interacted with marginalized communities and wanted to research the subject in graduate school.
The two said they want to streamline the lengthy process required for students to introduce legislation.
“When you have these systems in place, that’s for silencing the voice,” Scott said. “These systems are stigmatizing. If it takes 15 to 20 hours to even get on the agenda, then how can we expect students to even participate?”
Anthony Martinez, graduate student in School of Education, met Scott through a class and said Scott’s experience in education would be beneficial as GSA vice president.
“I know that a lot of his experiences in his high school teaching taught him there was a lot of voices that are marginalized,” Martinez said. “A lot of times people do see it, but they don’t do anything about it. He isn’t like that.”
Martinez said he is looking for candidates like Bhandari and Scott who are wanting to listen the concerns of graduate students.
“I feel they’re recognizing the gap between GSA and the student body,” Martinez said. “And are wanting to get more students involved.”