SBP race picks up as debates dominate the week

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A week from today, UNC could know who its next student body president is — or they could be looking at a runoff.

But either way, elections are in full swing, which means this week is bursting with debates.

In the second debate of the season, the University’s oldest student organization voted to endorse Andrew Powell Tuesday night after holding its annual presidential candidate debate.

UNC’s Dialectic and Philanthropic Society invited Powell, Winston Howes, Nikita Shamdasani and Emilio Vicente to discuss their platforms and answer questions posed by the moderator to a crowd of more than 70 students.

In a cordial debate, candidates discussed several issues that hit students the hardest —tuition, housing and overflowing class enrollments.

But there was one question that stumped all the candidates — “Who would you endorse if you are not elected?”

No candidate was willing to give a name.

“Regardless of who wins, I hope the best of each individual will help make a positive impact at UNC,” Powell said, which was echoed by the other three candidates as well.

Though Shamdasani is the only candidate who has held a position in student government, participants stressed their relationships with administrators and experiences with student government as factors that would give them an edge.

“What student government does is that it connects students and issues with the right people, and I would hopefully know who the right people are,” Shamdasani said, adding that she wouldn’t have a learning curve.

Vicente said he has formed relationships with three UNC chancellors, adding that he spoke to former Chancellor James Moeser while he was still in high school.

“I am willing to go above and beyond to show that I am learning the ins and outs of student government,” he said.

When asked what was the greatest challenge facing UNC, Powell, Shamdasani and Howes cited tuition and affordability.

Powell said tuition is 10 times what it was 30 years ago.

“UNC was chartered with providing a high-quality and affordable education for all, and that reputation is in jeopardy,” he said.

Powell said a way to solve this problem lies in his platform, which promotes blended learning models as a cost-cutting mechanism.

Vicente said there is not just one issue that needs to be addressed.

Instead, he said the biggest issue was that students were missing from the conversation.

“If we actually ask and engage students, then we can address tuition, sexual assault and other really important issues,” he said.

Shamdasani said she thinks it is vital to take ideas to the correct people, something she said could happen through the website Neighborland.

“We need to be taking more ideas to the administrators who will be able to carry them out,” she said.

The candidates were also asked what makes them unique.

Howes said his experience with technology will be helpful for this position. He said certain functions within academic advising could be streamlined by being automated.

“In a lot of ways, (technology) allows me to bypass the bureaucracy,” he said.

When the moderator posed the question of overcrowding in classrooms, Howes said Massive Online Open Courses could be a solution.

Powell spoke about a course registration system he helped bring to the economics department, Smart Registration. It works on the premise that full courses on the first day of class later have empty seats, and that data should be analyzed to take full advantage of them.

He said he would work to use this University-wide.

Vicente said he was not fully equipped to answer the question about overcrowding, but he would attempt to learn as part of his adjustment to the position — an approach he’s taking to most issues.

“We want to sit down with (students) and make sure they are engaged in their part of the system,” he said.

Powell said, if elected, he plans to get to work on the first day of his presidency.

“This University is facing some really big challenges — we know that these issues exist, and the challenge is trying to figure out how to do something about these issues,” he said.

“On day one, I will do everything I can to make that a reality.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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