SGA presidential and vice presidential candidates seek the support of the student body

Laura Browne

News Editor

lbrowne@unca.edu

At the conclusion of the voting period, Isaiah Green and Corey Smith were declared winners of the SGA presidential and vice presidential election for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Thank you to everyone who supported, believed and voted for us!” The Green-Smith Instagram page said. “We are excited for the hard work and collaboration as the new Green-Smith Administration! We will hit the ground running as promised on Monday!”

The other candidates who lost the election made comments about the campaign on their social media accounts.

Congrats to the SGA President and VP Green/Smith!!!” running mates Yen Doan and Yen Nguyen said on their Instagram page. “It was really fun running against everyone. We are gonna have a great administration next year no matter what. We can only go up from here! Thanks everyone for cheering us on. We hope that you find what you’re looking for.”

Doan and Nguyen also mentioned in the same post that they wanted to continue being a resource for students despite their loss.

“Even though we aren’t in SGA, we still want to be resources to y’all so reach out to our personal Instagrams,” the Doan-Nguyen official page said.

Running mates Chase Loudermelt and Claire Boyer additionally congratulated the winners of the election and pledged to keep working.

“Congrats to Corey and Isaiah!” the Loudermelt-Boyer Instagram page said. “Claire and I did not pull out a win tonight, but we will not stop fighting for what we believed in throughout this race. We will continue #chasingchange and continue to help better this campus for its students. Thank you to everybody who voted and everybody that helped us throughout this campaign.”

Isaiah Green and Corey Smith to follow the Davis-Anderson Administration

SGA candidates Isaiah Green, left, and Corey Smith pose for a photo as they prepare for
their campaigns for the Student Government Association. Photo by Dusty Albinger

Green and Smith decided to run together due to their compatible beliefs in addition to their passion for filling the positions of president and vice president respectively.

While holding the position of executive of academic affairs, Green began setting his sights on the presidency after observing and working with current SGA president and vice president Michael Davis and Kimani Anderson.

“The first thing that I did when I joined the student government association, which was earlier this year — September, was have a conversation with Michael about what his job was because I always like to look at the person who’s at the highest, and look, ‘How’d you get there?’” Green said. “And then he was talking about ‘I was an executive, I did this for three years. I networked, I talked to the different people, I learned what the students want.’ I was like, ‘I want to do that, but I want to do it next year.’ So I’ve been spending all year, Michael and Kimani have been helping me just meet people, learn what students actually need and want on campus. By that time that if we get elected president and vice president and we can hit the ground running correctly with all the connections we need.”

Smith, who served as a residential senator and parliamentarian his sophomore year and as a commuter senator during the current spring semester, said his desire was to focus on the legislative branch and lead a proactive senate.

“I’ve actually always had my eyes set on vice president specifically because of how the vice president is able to interact with the senate,” Smith said. “I’m a very big fan of motivational leadership and I’d like to self-define that as encouraging your peers by letting them know what their resources available to them are and essentially setting the bar higher and become the best leaders they can be.”

Green and Smith place a great deal of emphasis on long-term planning, working with a three year plan which could continue even after their administration. Included in the plan is teaming up with the Student Environmental Center, Active Students for a Healthy Environment, UNCA Divest and Reinvent NC to achieve at least a partial divestment from fossil fuels within eighteen months of their election.

“Before people even move about this semester, we’ll already have a plan of what we’re going to do for the next six semesters,” Green said. “So, the next president and vice president after us and then after them will have a base to continue to build off of goals that they can apply and bring to the Board of Trustees and the chancellor and the faculty senate.”

During their administration, Green and Smith plan on making the university more transparent about where student fees go, expanding Rape Aggression Defence training and promoting the accessibility and funding and educational programs from the Title IX office. The candidates additionally want to expand the hours of the Health and Counseling Center.

“I’ve been really focused on making sure students feel like they have the tools to succeed,” Green said. “One of those tools that I believe is the Health and Counseling Center, which I believe is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. When are students busiest all week? 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you have a problem, a mental health issue or something else that you need help with, a lot of times you may not have time until the weekend, but then you don’t have it on campus. Freshmen aren’t allowed to have cars here. Where do you get that help?”

Smith and Green also wish to form a transgender living and learning community in the residence halls due to the fact that NC law states that college campuses cannot allow those assigned at birth as males and females to live together regardless of gender identity.

Diversity and inclusion would be promoted by the Green-Smith administration, Green said.

“I feel like if you look around on campus and if we just walked through Highsmith, it doesn’t look a lot like me and it doesn’t look like a lot like Kimani, right,” Green said. And I feel like that can make a lot of students that look like me or Kimani or other students that are minorities feel a little bit uncomfortable. Making them feel comfortable, making sure they have those spaces where they can just be themselves would be really important.”

As SGA presidents are responsible for forming an executive board and hiring individuals to fill executive positions, Green said he would lead executives who would regularly attend SGA meetings alongside the senate and be held accountable to act on tasks and goals. Green also expressed the possibility of adding an executive position if needed.

As the vice president and the leader of the senate, Smith said he would lead proactive senators who would be assigned to committees near the beginning of their term. Smith also said he would work to ensure the SGA was given adequate information and direction moving forward.

“I love my coworkers, do not get me wrong,” Smith said. “I love the senate. I love the people I work with in exec. I think somewhere along with the transition of power, some information was not passed down effectively enough. Somewhere along that line of past administration, this administration, just didn’t add up. So one of the things me and Isaiah want to focus on is having that transition of power working with Michael and Kimani and past SGA presidents who are able to voice their wisdom, um, on to us to help us with that transitional period so that we hit the ground running.”

In addition to serving on the senate, Smith also holds the position of lt. commander for Sigma Nu and is the chief financial officer for the campus inter-Greek council. Furthermore, Smith is a campus recreation supervisor and held the title of president of Mills Hall his freshman year.

As a part of Green’s executive position, he has hosted programs for students with disabilities and served as a delegate for the UNC Association of Student Governments, helping to raise $50,000 for SGA events programs across the UNC system. Additionally, Green has been running his own business, Full Circle Nation, since he was 15 years old helping artists and merchandisers grow online. Green also leads an entrepreneurship class on Saturdays for children of color on behalf of Hood Huggers International.  

The candidates said they stand out from the rest due to Green’s experience as an SGA executive and Smith’s experience as an SGA senator.

“We’re the only people running for president and vice president with experience within student government,” Green said. “We already have those relationships with the chancellor, with the Board of Trustees, with a lot of the administrators to go ahead and hit the ground running without having to build those relationships. In addition to that, we are always open to communication from any and every student.”

Yen Doan and Yen Nguyen seek to represent diverse groups of students

Yen Doan, left, and Yen Nguyen built their platform on diversity, sexual and reproductive health and environmental sustainability. Photo by Laura Browne

In addition to sharing the same first name, Doan and Nguyen hold the same passion to lead SGA. Doan and Nguyen are running for SGA president and vice president respectively, hoping to bring change and action.

“There is a lot to work on here at UNCA,” Doan said. “The things that I personally wanted to move forward with and the changes didn’t seem like they had been happening during my duration here.”

Doan and Nguyen said they will be able to represent many diverse groups on campus that might not always feel seen by SGA.

“I think we represent certain populations of students better than past candidates have,” Nguyen said. “Because they see themselves reflected in us and we see ourselves reflected in them and we are close with certain populations that past candidates and current running candidates are not.”

The two candidates focus their campaign around three central issues: diversity, the environment and sexual and reproductive health.

Doan and Nguyen said they hope to implement educational programs about diversity and injustice in addition to mandatory sensitivity training for professors and administrators. They hope to promote diversity and help minorities feel seen.

“We can empathize a lot with a lot of different diverse populations because we are both people with multiple intersecting identities, both racially and otherwise, obviously,” Nguyen said. “So that puts us on a level where we can empathize with various groups of people with marginalized identities who may not have had a voice in student government previously and our goal is to amplify those voices and really to bring everyone into student government to make it more fair and more just and really reflect who we are as a student body.”

Nguyen said they want the SGA to team up with the SEC as a part of their focus on the environment. They are also interested in fossil fuel divestment and ensuring compost and recycling bins are more abundant and accessible, according to Doan.

“On the quad there’s a bunch of trash cans, but the thing with sustainability and people here is how accessible or how convenient it is for them to get rid of their trash,” Doan said.

In accordance with their attention toward the environment and sustainability, the candidates are dedicated to ensuring accommodations and proper warnings within campus dining for those with any dietary restrictions and presented the possibility of creating a campus food bank.

“Everyone should be able to eat regardless of what they can’t eat,” Nguyen said. “If you’re living on campus you have to get a meal plan, and if you have to get a meal plan that meal plan has to be able to serve you.”

The third and final major component of their platform, sexual and reproductive health, centers on providing free menstrual products and safer sex barriers available both inside and outside of the Health and Counseling Center.

“It’s a human right to have access to the things you need that serves any aspect of health,” Doan said.

Additionally, Doan and Nguyen would work on evaluating how offices such as Title IX actually serve students on campus.

“With evaluating administration, I think it’s really important that we assess what Title IX is doing for students,” Doan said.

As a potential president, Doan said they would assemble an executive board with members representing as many diverse groups as possible. They would make an effort to compromise with executives rather than driving their own agenda and be transparent with the student body.

“I feel like people don’t really know what’s going on, and I know that other candidates are campaigning for transparency and that’s awesome,” Doan said. “I’d be down to do that, too. If y’all want to know where I’m at or what I’m doing or what I’m working on, I will be transparent.”

In charge of the senate, Nguyen said as the potential vice president they would lead active and driven senators who accurately represent their constituents and pass needed bills. Nguyen additionally wants SGA meetings to be more open and inviting to students.

“I just want to be able to see that they are representing the students and I want legislation that is actually for the students to be able to pass,” Nguyen said. “I know sometimes with the senate, certain things are kind of tossed around and work doesn’t really get done or action isn’t really taken, and I really want action to happen; that’s just the type of person I am. Hopefully I will be able to push certain legislations or certain actions to happen. All based on them, but just action in general, I want things to happen, I want things to move.”

Though neither of the candidates have experience serving on SGA, they both have leadership experience elsewhere. Doan is a PEPAH intern and certified peer educator, Hyannis House volunteer and serves on the Fair Trade Committee, the Lavender committee, the Career Center Advisory Board and the student advisory board working to make SGA more accessible. Nguyen works as the program coordinator for office of community engagement, served as the vice president of ASIA club last school year and this year serves as its president and is responsible for turning the group into an actual Asian students’ association.

“I don’t think you have to have experience in government, you don’t have to have a bunch of titles behind you to be a leader,” Nguyen said.

Chase Loudermelt and Claire Boyer platform and campaign for sexual assault justice

Chase Loudermelt, left, and Claire Boyer are long-time best friends who decided to run for president and vice president together to combat sexual assault on campus.

Loudermelt and Boyer have been best friends ever since they met in a philosophy class their freshman year. After Loudermelt identified issues at UNC Asheville while working at Highsmith Student Union, she decided she would run for SGA president and looked no further for a vice president than her best friend.

“I have started to make very close friends and even very close acquaintances that have brought up to me concerns that they’ve had on this campus,” Loudermelt said. “After hearing these concerns I did what I could, one as a student employee, as a representative and things like that, but no one was responding to my emails, no one would respond to anything I would say. I was like, ‘OK, the only way to get things done is to have some sort of power within the student body.’”

The main problem Loudermelt identified on campus while serving as a Highsmith Building Manager was the amount of sexual assault and misconduct on campus that both she and Boyer said they thought wasn’t being substantially combatted.

“Title IX on this campus is no longer respected, and that is such a dangerous thing to have,” Loudermelt said.

According to Loudermelt, the best way to overcome the problem with perpetrators committing acts of sexual assault or misconduct is the lack of specific punishment or consequence outlined in the the Student Code of Conduct.

“The problem with that is that there is no ‘if you break this rule, this will happen.’ There’s no reprimation or punishments or anything listed out in the Student Code of Conduct,” Loudermelt said, later adding: “If this is in the student code of conduct, and they broke the Student Code of Conduct, it does not have to be without a shadow of a doubt. It has to be more likely than not which will help survivors and people that went through these types of instances have more of a system of justice or more of a realistic sense that something will be done within their case.”

The candidates also emphasize the importance of working towards bigger changes that would allow the university the ability to pay student employees a living wage.

Loudermelt promised the most dependable guarantee of their campaign was that their SGA administration would be transparent and forthcoming. If elected, the pair would also work to be more communicative with students and student organizations, according to Loudermelt.

“If SGA is not contacting students, student organizations, anything else besides administration, Board of Trustees — who are they serving?” Loudermelt questioned.

Responsible for the senate as the potential SGA vice president, Boyer said she would strive to be receptive and frequently be in touch with the senate, and help them to achieve their goals while maintaining an inclusive atmosphere. Boyer said she also hopes to help the senate to act on their goals.

“I know that people in SGA have wonderful, awesome ideas that just need them to come to fruition and I hope I can be that person to see it through,” Boyer said.

Loudermelt said that she would want to choose executives with help from student organizations or groups that would most interact with the particular executive.

“I think leading from the back is one of the most important parts of leadership because you have to say ‘Look at all of the wonderful people on my team,’ and that’s how you lead something,” Loudermelt said.

Though neither of the candidates have experience serving on SGA, they have other leadership experiences. Boyer currently works at the Highsmith guest services desk. Loudermelt spent this school year becoming more active on campus than she had been before. In addition to serving as the Highsmith building manager, Loudermelt is a fellow for a campus vote program, an executive for the political science club and serves as an executive student for the American College Union Institution. Loudermelt doesn’t view their lack of experience in SGA as a negative.

“Also not having experience might be a good thing at this point because a lot of times when you have experience within a role, you are tied to the ideas that the previous administrations have had,” Loudermelt said. “Coming in with a clean slate, not always knowing how things were done before, gives you a really good way to implement things that haven’t been done before but maybe a more streamlined way to do it.”

 

 

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