But this was the first time students saw the candidates publicly confronting one another since campaign season kicked off Tuesday. The debate, held in Bingham Hall, was sponsored by the College Republicans and the Young Democrats.
The Young Democrats declared their endorsement of Justin Young following the forum. The College Republicans typically do not endorse candidates.
Candidates were given two minutes to introduce themselves and present the issues most important to them. A panel of four members, two from both sponsoring groups, posed questions to the candidates on several topics.
One of the main points of contention was Young's idea for the Student Empowerment Endowment, in which he vowed to take the $2,000 stipend offered to the student body president and redirect the money toward students. In his plan, any group that needs funds to create a new campus organization can apply.
Several candidates openly attacked this plan, stating that such a financial sacrifice would set an unfair precedent for future elections. They argued that candidates unable to sacrifice the pay because of financial needs would be unable to run for office.
Following the forum, controversy arose about a flier by Young's campaign, which insinuates that Eric Johnson's platform is identical to Young's, whose was released several days before Johnson's.
Tim Nelson, Johnson's campaign manager, responded to the allegations. "Our campaign is trying to stay positive throughout this election season, and it's disappointing that the Young campaign would resort to negativity," he said.
Nelson added that the issues in question, such as opposition to tuition increases and increasing safety on campus, are topics included in almost every other candidate's campaign.
Another important issue was affirmative action. All candidates supported this issue, and several challenged University officials to expand upon the definition of minority. Dustyn Baker stated that she would actively encourage the University to not only diversify the student body but to also pursue a more diverse faculty, something she says she has been working on for three years.
Correy Campbell said his proposal to promote diversity would increase funding for Project Uplift, a program in which minority high school juniors visit UNC to observe classes and learn about the University's admissions policies.
One issue that divided the candidates into two camps was whether UNC should be involved in the USSA, a lobbying organization that fights for student needs.
Those candidates who support the measure include Baker, Johnson, Larry Harper and Warren Watts. Against USSA are Campbell, Young, Annie Peirce and Caleb Ritter, all stating that there are more important issues on campus that need attention besides USSA. Charlie Trakas said he would put the vote to the students.
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