It is that time of the year again. Students with clipboards line the Pit, chants to vote fill the brisk Chapel Hill air and Facebook profile photos are changing at a ridiculous high rate. This can only mean one thing: it is election season here at UNC-Chapel Hill, and no race has more excitement surrounding it than the race for Student Body President!
This year, four students have thrown their hat into the ring to see who will become the next voice for the student body! As tradition, we have reached out to all of the candidates for an one-on-one interview to discuss their platform and plans upon being elected.
Our first interview is with Tyler Jacon, a junior Peace, War and Defense (PWAD)/Political Science double major from Weaverville, N.C. Before running, Jacon served as the chairman of the Student Safety and Security Committee, a position he resigned from upon deciding to run for Student Body President.
Alex Thomas: What is your motivation for running for Student Body President?
Tyler Jacon: The past couple of years, UNC has gone through a weird transitional period. I think we are kind of at a crossroads in determining our legacy as a public institution, and I think that there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.
AT: What do you think is the biggest issue facing UNC-Chapel Hill currently?
TJ: The biggest issue facing UNC currently is the same issue college campus across the country are facing, and that’s the issue of sexual assault. It has not been managed properly at any institution.
You see cases like UVA which was a situation where the response did way more harm than good. Despite the rare cases where somebody does make up a false accusation, situations like this makes it harder for people who have actually been assaulted to come forward. The current rules and laws regarding sexual assault are some of the most poorly written, confusing and contradicting laws regarding human behavior.
AT: How do you plan on getting students more involved in student affairs?
TJ: We’re going to rely on focus groups and on polling. Polling is beneficial to giving us a gauge on how people feel, but focus groups are really valuable in determining the merits of policies as well as meeting the needs for specific groups of students. We’re going to rely on focus groups for a lot of things.
AT: Will a lot of that be done online or face-to-face?
TJ: Face-to-face. Online is great for e-mail and quick stuff, but politics happens face-to-face.
AT: What distinguishes you from your fellow candidates?
TJ: I believe that I have policies that are a lot more appealing and targeted to every UNC student which are inclusive. I don’t have any, in my opinion, exclusive policies. We are all gaining, even under those that may appear aimed towards a specific group over another. Everyone will receive benefits from the policies I support.
Although all of the candidates are somewhat similar, I think my policies accommodate a greater amount of people on greater viewpoints. For example, with affirmative action, I don’t look at it as a race issue, but rather a socioeconomic issue. I am the only candidate who even has the words affirmative action in my platform.
AT: What other activities have you done on campus?
TJ: I have been very involved with Student Government, yet I do take my academics very seriously. I’m a PWAD/Political Science double major with a history minor. I take my education very seriously, and I put a lot of time into that.
AT: Previously, you served as chairman of the Student Safety and Security Committee. What did you learn while in that position that can help you better serve the Carolina community?
TJ: I learned that it’s very hard to make big impact projects happen in Student Government. There are a lot of roadblocks, a lot of institutional weaknesses that don’t allow us to take on big things and none of the problems we are facing are small problems. If we are going to do anything about these big problems, we got to fix institutions in Student Government so we can tackle these problems.
AT: Do you feel Chancellor Folt understands the issues facing the student body and the university currently?
TJ: I think Chancellor Folt does. I also think Chancellor Folt, as chancellor of this university and as a person appointed by the Board of Trustees, her interests match up with the Board of Trustees more often than they do with those of the student body. Therefore, it’s important to increase other influences on campus. Namely, increasing faculty involvement in the decision-making process, increasing student involvement and increasing the involvement of staff and non-tenured faculty.
These people all have different interests. It’s all about balancing the equation out and balancing different interests. Right now, I think some people have more sway than others. We need to provide more of a voice to these groups, especially faculty, so they can have a lot of say in determining the course of our academic legacy.
Going back to faculty, I think our faculty has been weakened, and as a result we have lost a great amount of professors.
AT: In a hypothetical situation in which you lose this election, what do you plan on doing to serve Carolina?
TJ: I don’t know. I think I have reached the crux of my time in Student Government. If I am not Student Body President, I would definitely like to remain involved in something. I would like to serve in an advisory role and help whoever is elected by offering my thoughts.
I am also considering graduating early in the fall to get a jump on some career opportunities, but regardless of if I graduate or not, I do not plan on taking a large leadership role. I think whoever wins needs to do whatever they need to do without having the distractions of feeling the people who didn’t win need to be involved.
AT: Who is your favorite American president and why?
TJ: Well, it’s a tie between John F. Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt. JFK is just the man. He did what he believed in. “Profiles in Courage” is my favorite book ever written, and I think, as president, he understood what political courage was more than any 20th century American president.
On Teddy Roosevelt, I like someone who is willing to stand-up for their own interests and against their own party to do what’s right. That statement alone describes Roosevelt’s legacy as president pretty well.