Election Review

It’s that time of the year again! Student body president elections are underway and these candidates are looking to carve a spot for themselves at the top of student government. Here, I’ll try and give an overview of the candidates and their platforms so that you can make the most informed vote possible. I can’t fit every point from every candidate, but if you don’t feel like reading 60 page platforms (read: manifestos), this is the article for you.

Ethan Phillips is a junior studying health policy and management with minors in public policy and chemistry. Phillips is from Fairfax, Virginia. His platform is centered around health and wellness, equity and accessibility, academic support and flexibility, and student government reform. He wants to ensure the readiness of CAPS to respond to any situations they may find students in through better training and more employees, also seeking to integrate mental health training into the employment requirements of staff and incorporating more trained professionals into each professional school. Phillips also wants to ensure the implementation of a hybrid format for classes, expand food availability (through things like free meal programs and longer dining hall hours), take “radical change” to ensure the mental and physical safety of BIPOC students around UNC police, and reinforce the importance of sexual assault training and assault response mechanisms for Greek life and the campus writ large. His equity and accessibility tenet calls for a reflection on UNC’s troubled history, an expansion of culturally competent professional resources which promote equity, meeting the basic needs of students of various financial standings (i.e. textbook and course material affordability, easing the requirements for monetary aid from UNC), and encouraging civic participation by measures like canceling classes on election days. Academic support and flexibility seeks to incorporate measures like a pass/fail policy for general education requirements, adding a “RateMyCourse” feature to ConnectCarolina, and creating support pods for incoming graduate and professional students. His student government reform sets out goals such as streamlining the student organization funding processes, establishing lunches with student government leaders, and monthly town halls with members of UNC administration. Overall, Phillips’ campaign attempts to prioritize wellness, ensure “equitable access to quality service,” facilitate “academic flexibility and increased support,” and further the dialogue between student government and body.

Samuel Robinson is a sophomore looking to attend UNC law after completing his undergraduate studies who hails from Monroe, North Carolina. Robinson promises to “stand up to the Administration and injustice everywhere,” labeling key problems throughout the last year such as ongoing institutional racism, ineffective leadership, the pandemic, and a mental health crisis. His platform is built upon the pillars of accessibility, transparency, and equity. These pillars seek to ensure accessibility for all those who call UNC home and increase awareness of organizations which help meet varied student group needs by incorporating a thorough look at the historically “dark and shameful” relationship between Carolina and its marginalized communities. His platform starts with their stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through measures like requiring student organizations and government to use gender-neutral language, recognizing “the intersectional nature of equity and justice” by establishing more support programs for BIPOC students and establishing reflection rooms across campus for students to pray, rest, and meditate in. His focus on student wellness expands to issues like food security, mental health, and generalized student rights. Robinson spends extensive time on his platform articulating how problems of unequal access to resources plague UNC and require action to address them. Overall, Robinson’s campaign seems to be centered around the idea of inclusion and taking measures which can improve the multitudinous groups of UNC students’ ability to utilize campus resources.

Teliajah (nicknamed “Teddy”) Vann is a junior from Durham, North Carolina majoring in political science and film studies with a minor in entrepreneurship. Vann lays out a roadmap for change with 4 phases; critical assessment, forward facing accountability, systemic investigation into issues in UNC, and campus culture and climate research. Phase 1 has goals such as establishing a student voices forum, improving campus emergency management, a campus-wide mental health reform, and measures to improve student agency in the classroom. It overall seeks to address “the most immediately pressing concerns for students… as well as policy changes that we can implement before the start of the Fall 2022 semester.” Phase 2 seeks to improve transparency in leadership and bolster student agency in decision-making. Open lines of communication with leadership are emphasized as is institutionalizing “a mechanism that guarantees regular student involvement in decision-making.” Overall, Phase 2 aims to improve the public image of UNC. Phase 3 looks at issues such as campus accessibility, the tenure process, and educational equity. This “systemic investigation” addresses problems of inclusivity and equality such as those represented by instances like the “disrespect for the contributions of Black academics in their [UNC administration’s] treatment of Nikole Hannah-Jones.” Phase 4 states that a student-informed evaluative report is necessary through the format of “Ted talks” with the student body. These “Ted Talks” essentially entail office hours with student government to ensure open lines of communication. Overall, Vann’s campaign focuses on the suffering inflicted on students thanks to the university’s missteps and believes in great change to rectify these issues.

Sage Staley is a junior from Salisbury, North Carolina who is majoring in political science with a minor in history. She organizes her platform by issues like accessibility, DEI and belonging, emotional wellness, affordability, student safety and gender based violence, environmental affairs, and civic engagement and outreach. Staley wants UNC to be a more accessible campus, aims to reform the housing process, and “streamline classroom petitioning procedures.” She promises to dedicate funds to student organizations who serve to uplift marginalized communities and expand CAPS funding with guaranteed wellness days to ensure mental health. Staley’s platform wants to assure a meal plan which allows for three meals a day and provides free sanitation supplies, aiming to uplift students who may not have the economic means to access various services and meet basic needs. She calls for more transparency with UNC police, an increased focus on the blue light system, and “bolstering mental health support for survivors” to combat gender based violence. The campaign promises to “continue supporting active grade forgiveness and course repeat efforts” as well. Other notable campaign promises include advocating for no class on major election days, eliminating financial barriers to COVID testing and other necessities, and ensuring clarity between student government and the general population.

There you have it. Four candidates, all looking for their shot at President. All their platforms tend to hit on topics like accessibility, mental health awareness, and inclusion. Lots of the topics they discuss overlap, so I would recommend skimming their platforms if a couple caught your eye. Happy voting!

Christian Phillips is a junior transfer originally from USC majoring in journalism and from Raleigh. He focuses on tenets like improving the first year experience, partnering with Greek life, improving campus safety, academic transparency, affordability, and effectively meeting the needs of transfer students. Some of Phillips’ actionable goals for improving the first year experience are working towards a better food variety for campus dining, increasing research opportunities, and creating a first year advisement subcommittee composed of freshmen who meet with the president to keep them updated on any topical issues. He wants to partner with Greek life to put on events (like philanthropic endeavors), create a Greek subcommittee for student government, and work directly with OFSL to run events. His goals for platform objectives such as campus safety, mental health resources, and academic transparency include initiatives such as partnering with a variety of sexual assault prevention organizations, promoting campus health resources and increasing therapist training, and including additional course costs in class registration so students are aware of all fees. This underscores his other tenet of affordability, seeking to make pricing more transparent in general. Phillips also wants to increase resources for multicultural and diverse student groups and transfer students. Overall, Phillips runs a campaign centered around trying to increase resources available to students and increased university outreach.

Bryson Piscitelli is a junior majoring in contemporary European studies and PWAD who also studies the Russian language. Piscitelli says on his website that “Carolina needs a new kind of leader- one that brings together the many groups and organizations that have been forgotten by our current student leadership,” running against the system of student government which he alleges primarily represents an “isolated, politically-ambitious elite.” This seems to be one of his main selling points, driving home how his campaign aims to incorporate the typically underrepresented students– whether it be Greek life, religious groups, or athletes– into student government representation. This attitude carries onto his platform, arguing that we must stop student government corruption, support, reform, and expand greek life, push administration to clean up our campus, and “work together to Unite Carolina.” He also calls for making student organization funding easier, an assurance of a hybrid learning with the option of in-person classes, and an elimination of mandatory class attendance. Piscitelli’s campaign primarily seeks to target the disconnects and ineptitudes of the university, citing the diminishing library funding, poor mental health resources and responses to student suicides, and crumbling university buildings. Overall, Piscitelli has strong pro-Greek sentiments in his campaign, a focus on ending student government and university corruption and gatekeeping, and reforming the flaws evident in campus class policies and requirements.

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