Interview with Tyler Jacon, Candidate for Student Body President

Campus Life, Student Government, Students

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.

Carolina Review Podcast Episode Five: Charlie Hebdo and the Importance of Religious Tolerance

Campus Life, Podcast, Politics, Students

On this week’s episode of the Carolina Review Podcast, Timothy Bame discusses the power of love and tolerance (0:37), the gang dives straight into the terrorist attacks surrounding Charlie Hebdo (4:36) and Alex Thomas catches up with UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Andrew Powell (11:16).

Thumbnail photo by Aisha Anwar

Music used:

“Actionable”
Bensound (bensound.com)

“Electro (Sketch)”, “Unity”
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Case For Andrew Powell

Campus Life, Elections, Politics, Student Government

Hello Tar Heels,

As most are probably aware, Emilio Vicente’s platform writer recently came out against his former candidate in what many Emilio supporters see as a stab in the back.  Fortunately, that whole incident is really irrelevant as to why Emilio is not the ideal candidate for SBP and why Andrew Powell is the candidate we should all support.

What we have garnered so far in this SBP election is that we have two very nice guys, who we would all want to sit down and have a beer with, running to be the head of our Executive Branch of Student Government.  Both Andrew and Emilio have some noble goals that they wholeheartedly want to see implemented at this University, but so far, only Andrew has shown the experience and concrete plans necessary to turn those goals into policies and actions.  Emilio has got some things that Andrew has not.  He got an endorsement from Eva Longoria and two articles, one in the New York Times and one in the Huffington Post about his identity and experiences as an immigration advocate.  Unfortunately for Emilio, being a really nice guy and standing for an ideal are not qualifications to run our University’s Student Government.  In addition, national media and celebrities plugging a candidate for who he is, not what his platform is, do not belong in our Student Body President election. Yet, even after all this, the biggest indicator as to why Andrew Powell simply out qualifies Emilio came during last night’s SBP Run Off Debate.

The differences between Emilio and Andrew came to a sharp contrast throughout the evening.  To every question, both candidates provided some excellent ideas ranging from listening sessions to flipped classrooms, but only Andrew provided hard facts to back up why his ideas are not only feasible, but also effective at tackling some of the biggest issues affecting our University.  However, the most pressing issue of the night was clearly tuition.  Emilio believed that in order to address this, Student Government must listen to students, because as it is currently, they do not.  Andrew stated that this wasn’t the case because Student Government is made up of hundreds of students who clearly understood the issues affecting their friends and themselves.  He countered that the real changes that must be made are streamlining the bureaucracy in Student Government, so that it is manageable, and cutting costs and inefficiency in the classroom.  He has proposed the models of flipped classrooms and a smaller Executive Cabinet to effectively address his goals of cost cutting, efficiency, and a manageable Student Government. Emilio took issue with a flipped classroom format, citing a friend he knew who said she disliked it, but Andrew was able to back up his plans with facts that showed flipped classrooms to be astounding successes when implemented, improving grades by upwards of 11 points and cutting costs by nearly 37%.  In this format the entire debate ensued.

Making sense of this, we find that Andrew simply was able to prove more effectively that his goals will work, whereas Emilio has simply been able to show his good intentions.  In a race as important as this one, we must let our emotions subside and choose the candidate who has laid concrete plans backed with hard facts of their success.  We must choose a candidate who has both the good intentions and the experience necessary to translate those intentions into good results.  We must choose Andrew Powell.

Interview with SBP Candidate Emilio Vicente

Campus Life, CRDaily, Elections, Student Government

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.

 

Interview with SBP Candidate Nikita Shamdasani

Campus Life, CRDaily, Elections, Student Government

Nikita Shamdasani is a Political Science Major and Business Minor running for Student Body President.  CRDaily got the chance to sit down with her this week to speak about her campaign, her goals, and why she loves this University.

(This Interview has been lightly edited).

1. Why are you running for Student Body President?

“So, for the past two years, I have been involved in Student Government, first as Mary Cooper’s Executive Assistant and then as Student Body Secretary for Will Linenstall. I loved learning the ins and outs of the jobs and thought that there were great things that could be done with it, but that we weren’t doing a good job of actually harnessing student input, which is fundamentally what student government should be good at.  Obviously, the biggest job of the Student Body President is advocating for students, and when I realized that I could do that better, I knew I wanted to run for Student Body President.  In addition, when I knew my little sister would be attending UNC next year, my intention to run was further cemented, as I want to keep this University great not just for the time I’m here, but for the future as well.”

2. What will be some of your main goals while in office?

“I think we need to do a much better job about being proactive at getting student feedback and being transparent about what we do with that feedback.  We have introduced an online idea generator called Neighborland, which students are already using.  This generator allows students, faculty, administrators, and townspeople (the mayor is already on it) to submit ideas and it allows Student Government to turn those ideas into actions.  In addition, it creates a conversation between students and Student Government where updates can be provided about what is going on within Student Government and where students can engage in the process.  I think that would be a fundamental shift in the role of Student Government, so that information can be more available to all students.  This can play a role in helping big issues (like tuition and sexual assault) which need more student input get that feedback from students to give them a proactive voice.”

3. What distinguishes you from the other SBP candidates?

“No other Student Body President candidate has had the years of experience that I have in student Government.  It’s one thing to be able to identify problems from the outside, but it’s another to have been able to look at it objectively and fix it from the inside.  I have worked with the Student Body President and Vice President literally every day for the last year and I got a behind the scenes look at every issue that has come up in the past two years.  I think with other candidates there would be more of a learning curve, but for me I would be ready to work from day one.”

4. What will be your biggest weakness should you be elected Student Body President?

“I think that sometimes people in Student Government expect others to know how Student Government works.  I have occasionally caught myself using an acronym for a committee and just assuming that others know what it stands for.  Throughout this campaign, I have tried to have others tell me if I am assuming what others know too often and to run my campaign in a manner that explains Student Government to students.  I would definitely be very deliberate in approaching issues from the lens of someone who hasn’t had two years of experience when I try to get information out to students.”

5. What will be your biggest strength?

“I think that a huge thing that helps people in this job is having previous relationships with members of Student Government and knowledge about how it works.  A lot of people that become SBP’s have to learn that over the period of a few months.  At a time when our University is going through so much change, we need a smooth transition and someone who knows the job and how to make adjustments to team structure and leadership style.  From my two years in Student Government, I know how to do these things.”

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 have been a big fan of Chancellor Folt and I think that, with the way she has allowed student organizations to present to the Board of Trustees, she has done a great job at meeting people and hearing as many opinions as possible.  As to working with her moving forward, I think that administrators like the Chancellor need to be on Neighborland, too.  By engaging with students through that medium, she can keep student voices heard without having to take up too much time and without having to only hear it from me.  I still would want to meet with her often, but I think that having that open channel of communication would allow her to hear student voices at all times, and not just when big issues pop up.”

7. What is the one thing about Carolina that you love most?

“Cliché answer, but I think it is the people.  The reason I got involved with Student Government is because of a Junior I met while I was a First Year.  I told him I had no idea what to do here and he helped me.  He was working for Mary Cooper, the Student Body President at the time, and got me an interview with her to be her Executive Assistant.  I think that in other places, there can be a very competitive environment among classmates, but at Carolina, there is a very collaborative and warm environment that really defines the Carolina Way.”

8. Out of all the great people who have contributed to the University over the years, who is your favorite and why?

“I’m not saying this person has made the greatest contributions, but I would say that Michael Jordan is my favorite.  When I was abroad in Australia, I was frequently asked what school I go to and my reply would always be that I go to Michael Jordan’s school.  Everyone knew what that was and they all thought it was really cool.  I think that he is a big part of people from far away places impressions of Carolina and a reason for us to be proud.  As an example, he is also admirable as he came back to finish his Bachelor’s degree even after making it into the NBA, prioritizing the intersection of athletics and academics.”

9. Who is your favorite President and why?

“I’m going to say James K. Polk, not simply because he was a Tarheel, which is important, but also because he was one of the few Presidents who went in with a set agenda, finished it, and then decided not to run for reelection.  So, I admire he because he went to a pretty good school and knew how to get things done, even when those necessary things were unpopular.”

10. UNC has abruptly transformed into Hogwarts.  What House are you and why?

“I’m going to have to say Gryffindor.  It’s something that I’ve really thought a lot about since the Harry Potter books were such an integral part of my childhood.   Gryffindor’s have the courage to know when things aren’t going right and to change them, even when unpopular.  Proposing an untraditional platform this year was something that we knew would get a lot of pushback.  What we are trying to do is more difficult, but we think it needs to get done, so we are going to do it no matter what.  We are like Gryffindor, but don’t worry, we will be accepting of all Houses.”

Official SBP Candidates

CRDaily

The grace period in order to get signatures in for SBP has officially passed. Out of the 5 declared candidates, only 4 reached the 1250 signature threshold, and will officially be on the ballot this year. The four candidates and their total signatures are:

Andrew Powell -1283 signatures

Emilio Vicente – 1932 signatures

Nikita Shamdasani-  1618 signatures

Winston Howes- 1255 signatures

 

According to Robert Windsor, head of the Board of Elections, Manoj Mirchandani received only 930 votes, well short of the 1250 signatures needed and will not be on this year’s ballot.

Stay tuned as the Carolina Review continues its election coverage. We be having interviews with each candidate. We wish them all good luck!