Out of Touch SBP? Sounds Right to me!

Elizabeth Merritt

I’m editor for CRDaily. I don’t speak for anyone on this campus except for myself. I am an average student. What if I were Student Body President?As SBP I would represent the student body (Section 3 Park H). If I wrote an editorial and signed it with my title as SBP, I would be speaking as the main representative of 29,136 of my fellow students.

On April 17, Student Body President Will Leimenstoll wrote a letter to the Editor in the Daily Tar Heel where he urged the student body to vote against Amendment One.  Personally, I am against the Amendment, but this isn’t about the Amendment. This is about the Student Body President, who represents 29,136 students.

As Student Body President, you speak for the student body. When you write a letter to the editor imploring students to vote in a certain manner on an issue, you disregard the opinions of students you claim to represent. There are students on this campus who are in favor of Amendment One, and this means that you must respect that. It is easy to claim that this is a personal belief, and that would have been fine, it if had been signed without the title “Student Body President.”

The same applies for appearing on campaign websites. It’s fine to agree with a politician on an issue, but to appear as the spokesman for the Obama campaign on student loans, means that as Student Body President, the representative of the student body, you have successfully ignored the political views of a strong minority of students.

When I met with Will Leimenstoll, he informed me that he wanted to make sure that all voices were being heard on campus, even conservatives. I find that hard to believe now. His Executive Board, full of Young Democrats and Moreheads, is obviously out of touch with any student who holds differing opinions. He needs to stop pretending to listen to those that disagree with his beliefs, and actually do so.

I sincerely hope that President Leimenstoll does not abuse his position as Student Body President further by urging us to vote for President Obama or Walter Dalton for Governor. I hope that he realizes that once he puts his title on anything that he says, he speaks for 29,136 students, not just himself. It’s a tough lesson, but it’s time to learn it.

5 thoughts on “Out of Touch SBP? Sounds Right to me!

  1. Erik Davies Reply

    Elizabeth, the logical soundness of this article is rudimentary at best. I’m not trying to disrespect you, but if in your heart of hearts you really believe that persistently twisting the campaign against Amendment 1 into a war against conservatives is the best use of the CR Daily’s time (personally, I don’t), then you might as well make your argument with style.

    Of course nobody believes that the campus speaks in unison behind the SBP. The basis of your argument is that an elected official must represent a constituency in consensus, but because no sizable constituency can possibly reach consensus, we have republican government instead. Nobody believed that when Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act into law he spoke for a unified chorus of American opinion.

    Your argument would be better served by the angle that weighing in on issues of state or national policy is not the province of a university SBP. Of course, that one is a bit flimsy, too, because Amendment One will have effects for members of Will’s constituency, but at least this approach doesn’t contain a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of republican government.

    • Elizabeth Merritt Reply

      Hey Erik,
      In no way is this about a war on conservatives. I’m not a conservative, and I don’t believe in petty wars on the internet about nothing.
      I think it’s a bit disingenuous to compare the SBP at UNC to the President of the United States. The President has to appease his base, flirt with swing voters, and vilify the opposition, and win 270 electoral votes. I don’t think that we can compare what Obama has to do to win, and what an SBP has to do to win, which is make sure that people even remember to vote and then to vote for him/her.
      This is in no way a personal attack against Will. It’s about my frustration with him stemming from a conversation that we had. We discussed the importance of reaching out to republicans on campus and how I was willing to help him as much as possible reach out to those in charge. It wasn’t until yesterday, after we met with the Campus Y leadership to discuss their position within the University, did I receive an email from him asking for a meeting with my editors and the CRs Chairman.
      I’m not saying he broke any law, or that he is the worst SBP ever. I’m saying that he needs to be more considerate of all voices on campus. I think Mary Cooper did a good job of that, and he should look to her for inspiration.

  2. Erik Davies Reply

    So because Will doesn’t have to court the electoral college, therefore he cannot take stances on matters of policy on which his constituency is divided? I agree that the POTUS may not be an apt comparison, but comparing the role of SBP to the mayor of a town of 30k is. And surely the mayor can weigh in on salient issues affecting his constituency, even if they are beyond the scope of the town council. Some in the town may disagree with the mayor’s position, but we could hardly conclude that he’s being inconsiderate of those voices.

    Suppose that a bill came before Student Congress with the purpose of dislodging ourselves from participation in ASG. Recent history shows that some people disagree with this bill. Is it your position that the SBP cannot participate in the discussion of the bill? And to the point raised in your article, would any reasonable observer actually believe that all 29,136 students agree with him? If yes to either, what, then, is the role of the SBP in student governance?

  3. Constitutionalist Reply

    The role of the SBP, and Student Government as a whole, for that matter, is to be a voice for students. An entire E-Branch Committee is devoted to advocating to the legislature. Given the mal-effects this could have on students (especially grad students, who are often forgotten, but still represented by Student Government) and the precedent of having such a committee, I see a letter from the SBP (meant for students consumption) as legitimate. If he were making a statement that the University as a whole opposed the amendment, that would be a different matter, but to urge students (who were intelligent enough to get into Chapel Hill, and who are certainly intelligent enough to make there own decision on the issue) to cast a vote that avoids harming fellow students is acceptable in my book.

  4. Trilby Reply

    What does that allow the president to say exactly? Only things that every UNC student agrees with? Did you (or any single student out of our 29,136 students) disagree with any part of the Mary Cooper’s platform that she advocated? If so, should we criticize her for not considering those who disagree with her?

    This is absurd. Did you also condemn UNC student congress for voting for a resolution against Amendment One? That resolution certainly did not speak for every UNC student (I doubt any resolution does).

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