Candidates are pressed to avoid bullshit at Campus Y's debate

On Thursday night, student body president candidates John Taylor, Wilson Sink and Bradley Opere debated social justice at the Campus Y's "Beyond the Bullshit" forum.

Campus Y Co-Presidents Juliana Ritter and Vishal Reddy moderated the debate, which began with 10 questions that candidates were asked to answer in no more than two words.

All three candidates said they supported free tuition for students, body cameras on UNC police officers and the removal of Margaret Spellings as UNC-system president.

None of the candidates could name the date of the next Board of Governors meeting. Later in the debate, none of the candidates said they would support the separation of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation from student government.

When asked who they were planning to vote for in North Carolina’s primary, both Taylor and Sink said they were planning to vote for Hillary Clinton. Opere, who is from Kenya, said he couldn’t vote.

Candidates were given 60 seconds or 75 seconds to respond to the debate's next set of questions, which were submitted online before the debate.

Student activism

When asked to describe their experience at the most recent protest, rally or march they had attended, Opere and Taylor described the counter-protest against the Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County rally for Silent Sam held in October 2015.

“That was hard for me, because I obviously am Southern,” Taylor said. “I come from the South, but I need to fight for social justice here.”

Opere said he sees anti-blackness as a global issue, which allowed him to bring a unique perspective to the rally.

“I was happy to be there, because it reminded me that no matter where I was in the world, I was able to be a vessel against anti-blackness,” Opere said.

Sink said he hasn't been to a rally, but that he recognizes the potential need to take political stances as student body president.

“I’ll be honest, in my time at Carolina, I have never attended a rally,” Sink said. “I regret that I have not stood with students when they needed me to.”

Campus race relations

Each candidate was asked to name what they feel is the main way UNC participates in racism.

Opere said he was disappointed in the decision to re-name Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall instead of Hurston Hall, as well as the installation of cameras facing the Silent Sam memorial.

“The administration was more concerned with a statue. A statue, not the students protesting around how the statue makes them feel,” Opere said.

Sink named athletics at UNC as a source of racism.

“It’s unfair that we’re using student athletes as revenue generators and not giving them the education they deserve,” Sink said.

Taylor said he thinks Carolina Dining Services exploits Burmese refugees it takes on as employees. 

“This is nothing more than the perpetuation of the same racism that has happened in the South since people first, since the white settlers first came here four or five hundred years ago,” Taylor said.

When the candidates were asked about in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, all three said they supported One State One Rate.

Closing statements

Opere and Sink tailored their closing statements to appeal to the Campus Y audience.

Opere said if it weren’t for the work the Campus Y does, it would be unlikely that he would be able to have the opportunities that he has.

“I am because you are,” Opere said. “I think even my ability to run for student body president is due to a lot of advocacy work because of a lot of student groups in the Y.”

Sink described advice his mother gave him when he was in high school, when he played football. He and his mom drove a teammate home to a North Charlotte neighborhood one night.

“My mom grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Wilson, don’t you ever forget that you started on third base. That you are very fortunate to be where you are today, through no fault, through no choice of your own.’ That’s something I carry with me all the time,” Sink said.

“I’m called to serve because I want to make sure that I’m giving back all that I can. If I’m not working to break down the system, I’m complicit in it.”

Taylor wrapped up his remarks in one sentence. 

“Vote for John Taylor,” he said.

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