By: Staff Writer Grace Timothy
The man with a plan. Wilson Sink, a candidate for the 2016 Student Body Presidency, said during our Sunday afternoon interview that he feels called to serve his home and has a specific plan for how to do it.
As a Morehead-Cain Scholar, an Eagle Scout and a student pursuing a double major in Political Science and Peace, War and Defense, with a minor in Environmental Studies, there is no doubt that this Carolina native is up for the challenge and will work hard to reach his goals. As early as ten years of age, Sink was interested in politics, thanks to the influence of his parents. He has exercised this passion through his various involvements in Student Government. His first year at Carolina, he served on the Environmental Affairs committee where he worked to eliminate waste in Greek housing, specifically from Solo cups. Currently, he serves on the State and External Affairs committee, through which Sink was heavily involved in the fall elections for town council and did a large amount of lobbying at the state level as well.
Outside of student government, Sink’s largest involvement has been in Musical Empowerment, a non-profit that teaches Chapel Hill and Carrboro students, who are underserved, free private music lessons. “I teach guitar,” says Sink. “I’ve been teaching the same kid for three years now, and I used to teach his little brother as well. It’s really fun to see how they’ve improved.” During his freshman year, he organized a benefit concert for Musical Empowerment, where they raised $15,000, and well-known musicians like Mipso and the Avett Brothers performed. During the final part of the show, the teachers got together to play Carolina in My Mind, and the kids sang the chorus. “That is definitely one of my Carolina moments,” Sink said while thinking back to that night. Other organizations benefitted by Sink’s involvement are the Young Democrats and Chi Psi Fraternity.
If there is one thing for certain, Sink has passion for his campaign. He has separated his platform into three themes: space, story, and service, and talked about each genuinely and specifically. He says the changes that fall into these three categories are tangible and feasible within the year scope of his term compared to the other candidates. Within the “space” category, Sink plans to create awareness for the racial history of the campus through a mandatory orientation tour. This tour would be intended to help students understand that Carolina’s history is flawed in many ways, but that they can help make a change in that system. Sink is also looking to expand environmental access throughout campus. His campaign is currently working with Tar Heel Bikes to evolve the bike share program from only having one pick up and drop off location to having an additional one. This change will make riding bikes around campus more convenient. Sink also prioritizes the idea of equal access to make sure everyone feels safe on campus. He plans to require all members of Student Government with offices in the Union to be Safe Zone trained. Additionally, he would like to map out gender-neutral bathrooms on campus to expand the idea of a safe space where everyone feels comfortable.
In terms of “story,” Sink wants to make sure every one has the opportunity to express themselves. One way to do that, he suggested, is through public art. Sink wants to talk to Carolina Dining Services and the UNC libraries to look at ways to have public art displayed more prominently in those locations. He even put forth the idea of having an art festival in the spring where students can display their own works. He says that giving students an outlet for their creative work and story-telling allows them to express themselves and can also help with mental health.
According to Sink, the top two reasons that keep people from telling their story are sexual assault and mental health, for which he wants to create awareness and prevention. In his plan, the two ways to go about this are through culture change and preventative measures. By expanding on sexual assault education in LFIT classes, he believes it will give the student body a better understanding of what bystander invention is, and what sexual assault and consent actually mean. Continuing his platform of expanding sexual assault education, Sink hopes to expand on the idea of Delta Advocates. Delta Advocates are sorority sisters in Panhellenic sororities who are trained for over 18 hours on how to promote bystander intervention, what sexual assault is, and where survivors can get resources. They give seminars to their peers, which Sink believes is much more effective than hearing about it from a counselor. He wants to expand this idea into the Interfraternity Council, athletics programs, and other on-campus organizations.
As mentioned above, mental health is a condition that Sink wants to destigmatize. “Counseling and Psychological Services is underfunded and that’s a huge problem,” said Sink. “We want to make that a legislative priority for the university.” In the mean time, he wants to ensure that students are reaching the resources that the University does have. For people who are in-between sessions, he wants to implement telecounseling and work with the Residential Hall Association to get Residential Advisors to be mental health first aid trained. With this training, they would hopefully be able to recognize the signs of mental health problems and give counseling immediately. Additionally, Sink wants to find ways to bring private counselors to campus a couple times a month.
Service is what ties together his platform. He says the Student Government can serve the student body better by being more communicative, providing frequent updates, and releasing a calendar of what he would be doing. He wants to further his service platform by having a specific day where all students on Student Government go out and partner with an organization relevant to their committee to give back to the community.
Sink recognizes the importance of educating students on national issues. He plans to promote this education by creating a think-tank called Carolina Response. The idea is that this committee would recognize the need to educate people on recent national topics. There would be a one-page fact sheet with info graphics, videos, social media, and all different measures being created by students for students explaining the facts of the issue. Another way Sink wants to help students be more informed citizens is by making sure everyone is registered to vote and providing access to debates. Bringing state- and national-level speakers onto campus is a priority of his. He said, “We can bring presidential candidates here. That’s going to happen.” He sees it as a way Student Government can make students better citizens.
Despite the bad reputation Greek life gets, Sink stated that it is actually an extremely positive aspect of Carolina. He backs it up with facts: The Greek community gives half a million dollars to charities annually and participates in 20,000 hours of community service. However, he does believe that Greek organizations can be better. Sink hopes to leverage the resources of the Greek community and collaborate with on-campus organizations. For example, he wants to create a Greek liaison position that would essentially speak with Greek organizations and on-campus organizations and create a partnership between them for charity events. He believes this tactic would promote those charity events better, therefore raising more awareness and donations for the cause. In concluding the points he highlighted on his platform, he said, “These are the types of ideas I’m talking about when I say actionable and tangible. “
Sink knows that not everyone feels welcome at Carolina, and there are a lot of flaws in the University. However, because of his legislative experience, skillset, and leadership experience, he feels capable of creating change on this campus. He feels called to serve his community so that everyone can feel welcome here and define Carolina as their home just as he has. Sink believes his platform is different from other candidates because he lays out actual steps to complete his goals. He said, “It’s not just about talking about the issue; it’s changing the issue. One thing my platform does that my opponents do not is set up a how.”
Toward the end of our interview, Sink told me about a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration that he attended during which a speaker discussed the three main points on how to lead. The first was deep listening—actually listening to people and trying to understand from where they are coming. Sink follows this step by going to groups on campus where he does not have that much experience and listening to their leaders about what they need. The second step is deep analysis, which involves figuring out why problems are problems and figuring out how to fix them. Finally, the last step is brave action—putting himself on the line and being vulnerable in front of an entire student body. Sink said, “That’s a really scary position to be in, but I’m not scared. I’m willing to do that because that is what’s important to this University.” He is willing to be vulnerable and improve this campus, and he’s asking for your vote to allow him to do so.