UNC Asheville’s student body president Isaiah Green became the president of all student government associations in the UNC system last week. With his new platform, Green said he plans on setting up an executive board incorporating all student body presidents in the system as his first act in office, but the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging his ability to accomplish this goal.
“The outgoing president and senior vice president of ASG held an orientation for all of the student body presidents and their executive board in Chapel Hill, so we all were able to meet with each other in May and get accustomed to each other and how we would work as a team. It is unlikely that at this time that I will be able to do this due to the circumstances. I will have to come up with new strategies to make sure that in the fall when we can hopefully meet in person, we can all hit the ground running with our goals,” Green said.
Green said the biggest challenge to his campaign was the pandemic. His campaign attempted to visit the 19 campuses in the UNC system prior to their shutting down. Once shut down, Green’s campaign had to explore new avenues while still representing the students on UNCA’s campus during COVID-19 changes.
“I got the call that the UNC System was going into shut-down due to COVID-19 which caused me to have to stay at home, and it required my team and I to come up with an entirely new campaign strategy, while also juggling the work as SGA President,” he said.
According to information from the Student Government Association, Green is against UNCA’s investment in fossil fuels. UNCA Divest is a part of NC Reinvest Coalition, a student-led organization dedicated to fossil fuel divestment campaigns across the UNC system. UNCA Divest said they are extremely proud of Green’s success.
“We are constantly working with other students across the state toward our long term goal of full UNC System divestment. NC Reinvest is an established group and we’ve already gained a lot of traction with working with other UNC institutions. With Isaiah’s new position, we are certainly hoping to continue promoting and furthering this statewide work and outreach,” said UNCA Divest Coordinator Kelsey Hall.
Hall said UNCA Divest is not worried about the future of the organization when Green moves on.
“The students involved with the divestment campaign are really dedicated to the work and passionate about what we do, so we will continue our work with student outreach, statewide organizing and collaborating with the administration on campus until we achieve full divestment at UNC Asheville,” she said.
According to Green, helping UNCA divest some of its endowment from fossil fuels is the accomplishment he is most proud of.
“I know that students have been working hard on this initiative for many years so to be able to help carry it along to the finish felt really nice. Throughout the rest of my term, this has been something that I’ve been able to work with other student leaders on throughout the state and the nation,” Green said.
According to Executive of Community Outreach Elina Morrison, Green helped the university divest 10 percent of its endowment from fossil fuel companies. He also advocated for more student influence over higher education by expanding summer class availability and strengthening communication between student-athletes and the rest of the student body.
“He’ll be the first to tell you that nothing he’s accomplished he’s done alone. He is adamant in letting people within SGA and the student body, in general, know that his success stems directly from student body support and engagement,” Morrison said.
Morrison, who has known Green for a year, said she supports Green because he genuinely cares about those he advocates for. She said Green is solution-oriented and always plans for the long term.
“He is passionate about what he sets out to achieve — the question really is, why wouldn’t you support him?” Morrison said.
The new president of the SGA on campus is London Newton, with Olivia Barnes as vice president. Morrison said she is confident the Newton-Barnes administration will continue the work of the Green administration at UNCA.
“They are both incredible student leaders. Each of them has an extensive background in organizing and advocacy. Of course, like any big leadership change, it will take some time getting used to, but nonetheless, SGA will be in very good hands,” she said.