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The Daily Tar Heel

BCC Hosts Election Discussion

While the Pit buzzed outside at lunchtime Wednesday, more than 15 students gathered in the Sonja H. Stone Black Cultural Center to discuss minorities' concerns and the upcoming presidential election.

The UNC chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People invited members of the Young Democrats as well as the College Republicans to voice each candidate's goals.

But representatives from the College Republicans did not attend the event.

"The purpose of the discussion is basically to address the concerns that people have about this year's election and to see where candidates stand (on specific issues)," said junior Stacie J. Graves, co-chairwoman of protection of civil rights for UNC's NAACP chapter.

The open forum discussed such issues as affirmative action, racial profiling, monetary reparations for minorities, health care and the death penalty.

Organizers also provided the NAACP's top 10 list of election issues and the top 10 reasons to vote.

Some students voiced their disenchantment with the presidential campaigns. But Erica Smiley, a junior from Jamestown, responded to this concern by saying students should vote even if they are unhappy, but they should still find ways to express their displeasure.

"You should be disenchanted, and you should be mad because the system is messed up," she said. "It is a choice between the lesser of two evils - who can accomplish the things we want to accomplish in the next four to eight years?"

Young Democrat Dan Harrison, a freshman from Fayetteville, brought up the topic of race relations, saying individual action was crucial to making a difference. "Government can provide the means for dialogue," he said. "Government can bring us together, but once we are together, it is up to us to make the connection."

Another major concern raised by some students at the discussion was the issue of voter apathy.

"I just feel like the whole mind-set of the American people right now is to not care," said Mala Evans, ambassador chairwoman for the BCC.

Some students said they were concerned about the increasing inaccessibility of government. "When we speak of government as this great distant being, that is really scary because it is supposed to be a part of us," said Linnet Sull, a junior from Hillsborough.

But other students saw the upcoming election as essential for the American society. "This election is quite possibly the most important election for minorities," said Sasha Bernier, a sophomore from Maplewood, N.J.

The circle discussion allowed students to voice their opinions about the election and receive some immediate feedback from other students.

"Hopefully, people walked out of here with a broadened understanding of the candidates' topics," Graves said.

"I hope they understand that this is a critical election, and I hope that everyone knows that their vote does count."

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