Student body president candidate Dustyn Baker picked up a key endorsement Wednesday night as the Black Student Movement lent its support to her after a question-and-answer session addressing racial tensions at UNC and the need for increased minority representation.
Baker, an active member of the BSM, said, "The most important thing I can do for everyone in this room is to be your voice."
When asked what the most pressing minority concerns are, she said "admission, retention, recognition."
Candidate Caleb Ritter offered to use his more limited experience with minority groups as a strength.
"When I face these minority issues, I will be looking toward the BSM for input," he said. "The BSM will be represented on my Cabinet."
Candidate Eric Johnson emphasized his founding role in the Student Ambassadors program, which sends students to rural N.C. counties that are underrepresented in UNC's student body.
"I know how to take a great idea and turn it into tangible reality," he said.
Candidate Annie Peirce promised to aggressively seek minority group input when making policy decisions and to increase minority representation in student government.
"We're not drawing the number of minorities that we need in key decision-making departments," she said.
Candidate Warren Watts offered to host a statewide race relations conference on campus.
"It is one of my goals as student body president to get everyone's voice heard and everyone's needs met," he said.
Candidate Justin Young discussed his prior experience in encouraging healthy campus diversity in Freshman Camp and preorientation.
"I don't have to talk about bridging our diversity, I've lived it," he said.
Candidate Correy Campbell did not attend.
Every candidate lamented the self-segregation on campus and offered plans to address the problem.
The mostly cordial atmosphere was briefly shattered by an audience member's bitter attack of Johnson's portrayal of his Student Ambassadors program.
Alleging that the program didn't seek to attract minorities to the extent to which Johnson claimed, she said, "You're feeding us a pack of lies."
In response, Johnson said the program is expanding this year and will include counties with more minority representation.
Addressing why the group hosted the forum, BSM President Tyra Moore said, "Minorities in general always struggle with having their voices heard because they're never the louder voice," she said.
"I hope we're political because we can help to bring a lot of minority political issues to the forefront."
Moore also expects the BSM's endorsement to be a major boon to Baker. "I think that in percentages, we do tend to vote more (than most UNC students)," she said. "In the past, we have tended to vote as a bloc, and that has come out in the result."
The BSM also endorsed Michael Songer for Carolina Athletic Association president, David Cooper for Residence Hall Association president, and Neera Makwana and Shawn Brooks for senior class officers.
The University Editor can be reached at udesk @unc.edu.
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