Kevin Claybren is a Women and Gender studies major with a minor in Sexuality Studies and Education. He is one of five candidates running for Student Body President. CRDaily recently sat down with Kevin to learn more about him, his campaign, and his favorite things about UNC
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
1) Why are you running for Student Body President?
I believe that, after collaborating with many different student organizations last year, I feel that it is important to have someone from outside a student government background. I believe with that perspective that I can add a unique view to what needs to be done in student government. This view, I believe, will have a great impact on the student body.
2) What are three things you want done while in office?
I believe that the most important is handling tuition. I have a different perspective on what tuition looks like, and why we need it. Without tuition or financial aid, students like me would not be here. There is a baseline, which needs to be understood in regards to that.
In addition, we need to confront other issues on campus, like Silent Sam. We also need to collaborate with campus workers to make sure that they fill safe on campus. We usually do not include the community of campus workers when discussing ways to better on school. I want the workers to come here and have a great experience as well. This is a student-focused community, but we need to make sure that everyone has a voice in our Tar Heel community. Everyone should be accepted and welcomed into this community.
Lastly, we need to talk about issues that have been left out of the discussion. For example, one issue is the black male retention rate here on campus. Compared to other major universities it is on average lower here. Right now, I believe the statistic is that 45-50% of black males that come to Carolina actually graduate. I believe that things like that and other issues that are not being talked about, except in those perspective communities. As SBP, I will help give issues like the retention rate a voice, or at least a chance to be discussed.
3) What are your strengths and weaknesses as a potential SBP?
One of my weaknesses is that I am overly optimistic because I do not come from a student government background. My background is activism, advocacy, and helping change policies. I believe that my activism is a strength. It is a strength because I can go to administrators, faculty, and staff and say: here is what we need to get done in this community. I then can continue by saying: this is how it ties to you, through x, y, and z. When it comes to very strict methods of thinking what needs to be done, I think that this is something that I am not very good at. I would rather go ask this community what we can do for you, instead of saying or doing something for them that they may not want or need. I feel like there is a big difference between what I can give you and what you really want from me.
4) What do you bring to the office of Student Body President that the other candidates do not?
I believe that I bring experience in regards to making sure that things happen on campus. This is not meant to be a negative to the other campaigns, but I do not believe many of them have had the experience, as I have, to talk to the Board of Trustees. I have had that personal contact, and made those connections. I know that the other candidates have probably attended them, but they have never actually had to present in front of them, and make then your captive audience. I also do not know of any other candidate’s capacity in working with the Chancellor or vice-Chancellor, but that is something that had to be done in regards to the work that I have done on campus. Also, I am willing to have those hard conversations, and I am not saying that the other candidates have not had those discussions in their organization, but with Gender Non-Specific Housing, not everyone was on board. It was my job to convey to people why Gender Non-Specific Housing was important. I had to take my issue to them and say that I knew they did not agree with me, but the issue was still important to the community as a whole. Just coming to that compromise was difficult, but important. I believe that it is important that you are able to discuss issues that matter to you the most in a very evidence based manner.
5) What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents?
I believe that Will has a major strength in the fact that he has already been to the state House, and I think that is amazing and will be greatly needed next year no matter who is president. Especially, when it comes to tuition and Pat McCrory’s statements, whether you agree with them or no, it is important to have that conversation with these people. They are our stakeholders and that is important. Hetali is everywhere in the fact that she can make a connection with a large group of people with differing backgrounds. Christy has experience from his student government background. His experience from that standpoint is not necessarily a bad thing, or a good thing. He just has that experience as he has demonstrated in previous debates. When Christy listed the fees, it was incredible because it shows how involved he is in student government and the depth of his knowledge. Rob also brings a fresh perspective because he is a transfer student. He view is unique because it brings in another perspective that we need on campus and will need to hear from in the future.
6) What do you want to see in a new Chancellor?
I want a Chancellor who is keyed in to what is going on. For example, Chancellor Thorpe knows the ins and outs of what is going on. He is going to make sure something happens at the right time, not when we want it to happen. I think that that is important, especially when activist like me see something that needs to be changed; we are going to try to change it. That is just how I am. I believe that is how any SBP needs to be, if something needs to be changed, change it. However, I believe that it is important for someone to say: hey, you do not necessarily know what I know from an administrative standpoint. They should want to collaborate and work together, and together we can both understand this from a holistic view. This is extremely important. In addition, it is important for the new Chancellor to advocate for all students. Sometimes the Chancellor and vice-Chancellor do not get a positive view from students because some students do not believe they are doing a good job advocating for student. That is not talking about anything that is going on right now on campus; I just think that, in general, students do not view both the administration and the Trustees positively, but in order to advocate better you need to have that positive image. I think that the administration needs to say that they are here for the students, but are also obligated to other people, and they need to try to compromise on those terms. The Chancellor also needs to stand up for what Carolina believes in. I believe that no matter what our political beliefs are, we all have similar things are idea of what Carolina should look like. I believe that if our Chancellor can do that, then they are in a good spot.
7) Which Hogwarts house would you be sorted into? Why?
I am going to be honest with you, I like Harry Potter, but I am not a follower. I know I would not be Gryffindor. I want to think that I would like Slytherin, but they have a bad reputation. Still, I am not sure.
8) It is the day after you lose the election, how do you plan on continuing to serve Carolina?
I am going to take a nap. Then, I am going to out to eat with some friends, and just relax. My campaign is a lot different from everyone else’s, because we started at the beginning of the semester, unlike everyone else that has prepared for a while. I am going to nap, eat, and congratulate whoever wins. I believe that whoever wins will be an effective leader. I do not like to put people done, but I truly believe that the winner will be effective. If the new SBP needs help and we have similar goals I will help the work on some things, some things that is. If they have an issue that we both feel strongly about then I will be glad to help them.
9) Please rank in order of awesomeness: Reagan, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Coolidge.
I am going to try to be nice because the conservatives I know tend to like Reagan. I am not a fan of Reagan, so I am going to put him at four. For the identities that I have, Reagan has not been the most beneficial. He was not good for people of color or people during the HIV/AIDS breakout. So therefore, I am going him at number four. I am putting Coolidge at number five because I am horrible at history and do not know what he did. Nixon, I will put him at three, but I still do not like the fact that he lied. I am ok with Eisenhower, so he is at number two, and of course Lincoln at number one. Without Lincoln, I would not be where I am today.
10) What is your favorite story at UNC?
I usually do not talk about this story. I had some trouble my first year. It was remarkable how the staff on this campus was able to look past that, and saw that I still had so much potential. Now a friend of mine, Lisa Friedman really helped me out. The fact of the matter is that if I would have gotten the full punishment of my actions, I would not still be here at Carolina. That is one of the things that is great in the Carolina; the ability to see past your errors and mistakes and realize that we are all humans in the end. They understood that I and other students have room to grow, no matter where they are starting from. That idea is fostered here. We value those conversations and discussion. We learn from them. I believe that all students on campus are trying to grow on some level. I believe that Lisa helped me out a lot, and I really appreciate her for doing that.
11) Is there anything in particular you want our readers to know about your campaign?
I think that one thing that differentiates me from the other candidates is that I really want to see this campus change. By change, I mean so that everyone feels that they can have a good, successful opportunity here. It is not just for one community or another community, but I want everyone to feel like this is their home. At the end of the day, when I am SBP, I want everyone to be successful and happy on this campaign.