This year’s endorsement was incredibly difficult. Ian Lee’s institutional knowledge was impressive. We also identified strongly with Mary Cooper’s vision and personable nature. But right now, students need an Ian Lee more than they need a Mary Cooper.
Lee’s presentation was one marked by pragmatism. In our endorsement meeting, it was very clear that he has considerable institutional knowledge about the way student government works.
First and foremost, he understands the difficulties that UNC faces in the coming year.
Concerning tuition, he understands looming hikes are largely out of his hands, although he maintains that he hopes to have a little influence “on the margins.” Even that might be optimistic, but he seems genuinely intent on being a strong advocate.
Yet he is not without a vision for tuition — believing the benchmark for rates should be the cost of the services UNC provides, not the rates of institutions scattered around the nation we call our “peers.” We can’t say how far he will get, but it’s an idea worth advocating for.
If you ask Lee what things he is most excited about in this platform, two are certain to get mention: “Fix My Campus” and parking.
Fix My Campus is a promising solution to the inattentiveness to student needs that has plagued student government. Students could easily direct questions and concerns at student government. Done well, Fix My Campus will facilitate a two-way flow of student government’s helpful knowledge and students’ top priorities.
On the parking front, Lee’s plan is three-pronged: half-off parking tickets if paid within a week, carpool parking permits and free parking in the Ram’s Head deck after 5 p.m. The latter proposal has appeared in platforms before, but Lee believes he can satisfy DPS’ desire to collect revenue by requiring One Card access to the deck.
Lee believes students paid to build Ram’s Head, and the student body should have access to as much of the scarce parking as possible. We absolutely agree.
The principal criticism of Lee is that his insider status works against him. He served a whole year in student government as student body secretary — a position we regret he didn’t resign from during the campaign.
Lee may need to incorporate fresh perspectives, even though he seems open to new ideas. He should consider, if elected, bringing individuals into his administration who have worked outside the insular student government suite. Mary Cooper is the first to come to mind. She would make an excellent cabinet addition.
Lee could also stand to improve his wonkish delivery. Being student body president requires exuding competence without being uncomfortably and bewilderingly technical. He will need to be more personable to cultivate cachet with administrators and legislators alike.
Lee was one of the last candidates to decide to run. We can’t be sure if he will be among the first to leave — we won’t know who makes the run-off until next Tuesday. But we believe this is anyone’s election. If it is, then it should be Lee’s.
Why not Cooper?
Mary Cooper is exciting. She is lively, energetic and incredibly passionate. Her vibrancy showed conspicuously throughout our endorsement interview. But enthusiasm does not a student body president make.
Her vision is big on rhetoric. Take the first of her three main platform tenets: a student enrichment fund. The fund would pay for students to attend events outside of Chapel Hill. Theoretically, students would enrich themselves at these events then come back to UNC and enrich other students.
But building a scholarship or grant is no easy process. Cooper pledged to use her stipend as preliminary funding, but her stipend would barely cover a student’s air travel. One wonders where exactly Cooper would find the capital necessary to establish this fund, especially in the midst of massive budget cuts.
The remainder of Cooper’s “big three” ideas are forgettable at best. Every year, many candidates advocate for expanded CCI printing. But broadening the network is expensive. We would have liked to see some semblance of an implementation plan to speak to the project’s feasibility. And the flat-rate taxi is a fine idea, but one wonders why it is one of Cooper’s top platform tenets.
Cooper also emphasized her Triage committee proposal. The Triage is Cooper’s attempt to bridge the perceived communication gap between students’ concerns and student government. But when pressed to explain the process by which students would bring their concerns, Cooper could not provide an answer. The board agreed with the Triage’s broad vision and Cooper’s populist rhetoric, but Cooper could not provide a tangible implementation plan. Ian Lee’s “Fix My Campus” proposal also aims to address student concerns and does so in a much more feasible, efficient manner.
Overall, Mary Cooper presented a fresh attitude and an intangible optimism. She emphatically conveyed her passion to help students. She came across as intelligent, cheerful and energetic. But when we considered the specifics of her platform, an area devoid of personality, Cooper did not match up to Lee’s pragmatic, realistic approach to effective platform implementation.
Why not Ingram?
Rick Ingram is confident and knowledgeable about University issues, and he put time and effort into developing his platform.
However, his platform seems a bit aloof and outdated, and he will have little authority to influence many of the ideas he presents. In one of the largest platform planks, Rick speaks of creating new campus communities to connect like-minded student organizations.
We agree that this approach may be beneficial for working with many different student organizations. But Ingram takes the idea further by advocating for the creation of an organizer position. The organizer would be responsible for overseeing these groups and helping them decide how to allocate funding from Student Congress.
We believe that this organizational system could negatively impact smaller student organizations that have less influence.
And his platform was not our only cause for concern. While Rick is a strong public speaker, he can, at times, seem cocky. The trait could impede his effectiveness in meetings with the Board of Trustees and with administrators.
Although Rick has run a solid campaign, it is our opinion that he is not the best choice to lead our student body.
Why Not Stephens?
Brooklyn Stephens is running a campaign for student body president, but we’re not sure why.
Her platform wasn’t released until this week — and anyone who tries to stand on her platform would fall right through.
Brooklyn’s main planks include ideas that are simply redundant. Her “Carolina Calendar” sounds like a revamped version of Slice, but without a definite plan, there’s no chance for Carolina Calendar to be any more successful than Slice is.
Continuing arts advocacy and fighting for longer opening times at campus dining halls are decent ideas, but they shouldn’t comprise the bulk of her campaign.
She’s been active in a number of diverse campus organizations, but being outside the student government bubble is no replacement for expertise.
During our endorsement meeting, Brooklyn didn’t even know what the Academic Plan or the Innovation Road Map are — two major projects the SBP will be expected to know.
We respect her wide range of contacts and the passion she has for the University. But knowledge of the challenges facing UNC and the aptitude to represent an informed student voice are requisite for the job, and Brooklyn failed to demonstrate her grasp of these things.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.