UNC Asheville’s Student Government Association held presidential and vice presidential elections from Feb. 25-26 , resulting in the victory of President-Elect Demon Thomas and Vice President-Elect Aryelle Jacobsen.
Thomas and Jacobsen are adamant about the use of strong communication between both students and faculty in order to get healthy results in their pursuit toward a stronger community at UNCA.
“Having professors promote events and clubs around their department creates stronger communication for both staff and students,” Thomas said in a joint Zoom interview with his vice president.
“Since most students, with COVID-19, find it hard to interact with other students, I feel like professors have the opportunity to reach out and get more people involved on campus.”
“We want to approach this as a horizontal leadership, not a hierarchical style. We really want our student body to come to us with ideas.” Jacobsen added to her fellow candidate’s words.
They went on to discuss their plans to hold virtual spaces of comfort for students struggling with the pandemic, as they can’t plan ahead for where the COVID-19 situation is going to be in the upcoming school year.
One of Thomas and Jacobsen’s main goals is to forge a connection between SGA and the student body. So far, this includes suggestion boxes around campus as they search for what students want changed.
Regardless of their excitement on the recent win, both candidates faced troubles along the road to victory. The Instagram account @unca.anon caused a recent uproar by posting the anonymous opinions of students on and off campus and displaying the disapproval of certain individuals in regards to the election results. Both Thomas and Jacobsen were under examination for a variety of things, including past images on social media in cultural costumes and recent informal headshots on the SGA website. The two candidates had their own opinions on how they could move on from the critical reviews.
“I’m not going to lie, it has been a lot. I’ve never been cyber-bullied before, but I just want to thank my vice president and the student body who know me personally and who would say it wasn’t true,” Thomas said. “They cared less about what we were trying to do for the school and more about creating conflict, so I just don’t pay any attention. I have to fight for my student body, because they fight for me. That’s what I took from this experience.”
“All Demon and I want to do is truly listen to students and take what they say to implement it. We know this campaign is larger than us and we have to let go of ego to be a stronger leader,” Jacobsen said.
As president and vice president of SGA, the two candidates were required to work together and share their experiences with one another and will continue to do so in the future. Seeing as how they were already coworkers at the Key Center on campus, they had no difficulty getting along.
“I think I’m very blessed and grateful to have Aryelle,” Thomas said.
“I feel the exact same way towards Demon,” Jacobsen said. “We’re a team. We’re doing this together.”
While both candidates are members of SGA for the upcoming school year, they have very different plans for their futures outside of college. Thomas mentioned wishing to pursue a career in entertainment and spreading his word to promote a platform of social justice, but has recently come to the realization that politics may be a great path for him to take as he continues with his role as president.
Jacobsen said she doesn’t quite have a plan for her future career, but is letting her passion point her in the right direction. They both agreed on one thing: the skillsets they take away from these positions will be helpful in their futures and they plan on utilizing them as they continue communicating with the student body.
Thomas emphasized bringing back school spirit, family and community.
“Just come to us, we’re really here to listen. Have faith in us. Be patient with us. We are here to help and we’re gonna get things done,” Thomas said.
“Our job, at the core, is about advocating for students’ voices to be valued. This starts with building relationships that have meaning and impact on the community. Your lived experiences matter, and we want to hear them,” Jacobsen said.
Thomas and Jacobsen aren’t the only ones excited for serving their student body. London Newton, the student body president for the current school year, also expressed her opinion on their win.
“I’m so proud of Demon and Aryelle and am so excited to see what they do in their administration. I trust that UNCA will be in great hands,” Newton said.