Andrew Powell and Emilio Vicente face off in debate for last time before runoff vote
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misattributed a quote to Andrew Powell. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
No publicity is bad publicity, so the phrase goes.
Yet in the race for student body president, publicity has put candidate Emilio Vicente on the defensive against critics who say he is more concerned with making national headlines than working on UNC-specific issues.
“I just want to reiterate that I’m not running to get national media attention or boost my resume, I’m running because I want to hear from you, Carolina students,” Vicente said at Monday’s rare runoff election debate with opponent Andrew Powell.
Just hours before polls opened at midnight, the two publicly challenged each other’s platforms and philosophies in an overflowing room in Carroll Hall Monday night. The debate was organized by the Coalition of Carolina Voters, an unofficial collection of recognized student groups.
Moderators Hetali Lodaya, a 2013 student body president candidate, and Anna Sturkey, undergraduate student attorney general, encouraged the candidates to speak informally and respond to each other directly.
The candidates also clashed over the current effectiveness of student government.
Vicente said that his plan for listening sessions would lead to greater student involvement and more effective advocacy.
“The problem with student government is that it works in a silo,” said Vicente. “That’s what my listening sessions are about.”
Powell said student government officials already know their peers’ key concerns, but they need to restructure the executive branch to better address them.
“It’s not really a lack of awareness of student issues, but a lack of getting students involved in a structure that supports them,” he said.
Powell said he would use the office to effect change for UNC students.
“Under my administration, student government will be about effectiveness, not resume-padding,” he said.
Both candidates spent significant time emphasizing their central platform themes — Vicente pushing active listening by student government officials and Powell criticizing the current executive branch structure.
Moderators asked how candidates with limited experience in the executive branch of the student government will learn how to work with the legislative branch to implement policy.
“I think that student government is not rocket science — it’s learnable,” Vicente said. “Even rocket science is learnable.”
Ever-increasing tuition also pitted the candidates against each other.
Powell said while advocating against tuition hikes is important, student government ultimately needs to address the root issue — the classic lecture-based classroom model, which he called outdated and ineffective.
“The lecture model was created when we lived in a world of information scarcity. Now we live in a world of information overload,” he said.
Vicente expressed concern that moving towards a more cost-efficient classroom format would allow the N.C. General Assembly to cut funding even further.
The debate came hours after Vicente’s former platform editor, Ishmael Bishop, publicly withdrew his support, claiming he focused on national media attention and identity rather than platform issues, asking students to vote for Powell.
“I feel as if the UNC body is preparing to vote for an identity. They are not voting necessarily for a strong candidate, they are voting for an identity,” Bishop said in an interview.
Vicente repeatedly addressed criticism of his motives during the debate.
“I’m running because I want to hear from you, Carolina students,” Vicente said.
Following the one-hour debate, digital screens displayed discussion questions for students to ask each other after the candidates left the room. Most audience members did not remain for more than a few minutes.