Last week, the Carolina Review had the privilege to sit down with Emilio Vicente, a candidate for Student Body President. During the interview, we had the chance to hear from him about his campaign, his goals, and why he loves Carolina.
(Disclaimer: This interview has been lightly edited for brevity.)
1. Why are you running for Student Body President?
That’s a good question. I’m running for SBP because of my amazing experiences here. Also, I think that we really need more student involvement. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen that much of that, especially in respect to student’s being part of the conversations about issues that affect our school. To remedy that, I have national, state, and local experience in how to be an effective advocate and how to bring people together by talking to them. That really is the essence of my platform; that we should hear from students, not about them.
2. What will be some of your main goals while in office?
One of my main goals is listening to students. Unfortunately, the way the position of SBP has often worked is that someone writes a platform and executes that platform without actively engaging students in the conversation. One of my main ideas is instituting listening sessions throughout campus. I got this idea from the Chancellor who has already instituted these. This is piggybacking off of her innovation and I really want to use it to have all the amazing organizations on campus in one room. They are going to be formatted two different ways, one, the town hall format, will address broad issues and one will be with specific issues out in the community. Apart from that, we will work with students to address the sexual assault, tuition, and immigration issues. An example of this is the 12.3% increase that out of state students face next year. On the surface it doesn’t seem that bad, but when we look at it closely and hear from those affected, we see that it really does negatively affect lives. So we will hear student voices for that which is really in line with my campaign slogan of Carolina for All. If you go to UNC, you should have the same opportunities that anyone else on this campus has.
3. What distinguishes you from the other SBP candidates?
I have national, state, and local experience. Before attending UNC, I took a year off and worked on immigration advocacy. I worked in DC for four months advocating for passage of the DREAM Act, a bill that would give undocumented students, like myself, a pathway to citizenship. During that time, I lobbied Senators and Representatives on a personal basis and I built relationships with them. As far as I’m aware, the other candidates don’t have that experience. In order to engage someone, you need to build relationships and get support behind you and my organizing skills allow me to effectively do this, facilitating a discussion and representing students to the best of my ability. Therefore, I have the ability to engage the Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, and the General Assembly. Apart from that, I know that others say they have Student Government experience, where as I do not, but I believe that even for them there would still be a learning curve. I already have been reaching out and getting to know people, giving me an advantage.
4. What will be your biggest weakness should you be elected Student Body President?
I’m very optimistic. There are things that I want to see enacted while SBP that, realistically, may not get done. Some people say that some things in my platform are unfeasible, but I like challenges. Some said I wouldn’t go to college because I was an illegal immigrant, but here I am. So, I think that when I really put my mind to something, I can get it done and give it my best.
5. What will be your biggest strength?
I think I just basically touched on that.
6. What are your impressions of our new Chancellor Carol Folt, and how are you planning on working with her administration to accomplish your goals as SBP?
I’m fortunate enough to have been able to know her for the past five months. I am on the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor, which is a group of thirteen students across campus that helps her hear the students’ voices. Through this I really have been able to build a relationship with her. So far, I have been impressed by her dedication to students. She has done a great job in standing up against the 12.3% potential tuition increase and I think that it is great that she vocally uses her influence as Chancellor to let the members of the General Assembly know that she does not support that. Moving forward, I look forward to getting to know her better and I want to continue to work with her whether I get this position or not. One of the things that I would like to see done is similar to the way she has been having students come present at the Board of Trustees, but change it so that the student body president can independently choose students to present to the board of trustees.
7. What is the one thing about Carolina that you love most?
I would have to say the students. I’ll tell you a story. So my first few days on campus, (I come from a very small town) I was overwhelmed the first few days and I didn’t know that many people. So I ate alone a lot during the first few weeks. One day I was sitting down for lunch at Rams and across from me there is another student. As I sat down, the person across from me asked if I wanted to sit with him. I said ok (after being apprehensive), but at the time, I didn’t think much of it, kind of like I would never see him again. A few weeks later, I saw him again and we just sat together. Three years later, he is one of my best friends and he is my campaign manager. That is what I love about UNC, you can literally meet someone one day and a year or a week later they can be your best friends. We have a real diversity here in the spectrum of ideologies and even those who disagree are willing to listen and be friendly. So, the students on this campus are the greatest part of the University.
8. Out of all the great people who have contributed to the University over the years, who is your favorite and why?
I would have to say Chancellor Moeser. I’ve known him since High School and I do have to say that he has done amazing work in ensuring that students who qualify to come to UNC can come her without falling into huge amounts of debt. It speaks to his commitment that he was willing to work so hard for this cause. I was lucky because in my first year here, I was in his first year seminar, Music 89, where I was able to really deepen my relationship with him. I count him as a mentor and a friend and overall he has been good at advocating for students.
9. Who is your favorite President and why?
It is kind of hard, but if I have to answer, I would say Abraham Lincoln. I don’t compare myself to him because I don’t come near his level of skills. However, he was really able to work with people of different ideologies, bringing them together and uniting them, which is probably why we are still a Union. So really, I want my administration to be like his in the sense that it really brings people together.
10. UNC has abruptly transformed into Hogwarts. What House are you and why?
I would probably be a Hufflepuff. I love Harry Potter and give credit to those books for implanting in me a love of reading. Going back to the question, I definitely wouldn’t be in Ravenclaw. I think that everyone always wants to be a Gryffindor and I admire Slitheryn, but I think that I would be a Hufflepuff. I like being like any other student, with a normal life, who works hard and does things right. So Hufflepuff it is.