Insults were shouted, tempers ran high and several officers quit during a heated debate between members of the UNC Association of Student Governments Saturday.
Members of the association met at UNC-CH for their last meeting of the year, where they debated and voted on the organization’s future leadership.
Incumbent candidate Atul Bhula was re-elected as president with 32 votes. His challenger, Kevin Kimball, from UNC-CH, had 29.
Before the votes were cast, several members questioned the association’s effectiveness during the past year under Bhula’s leadership. And many executive officers came under fire for their role in the organization.
The association, which is funded by an annual $1 fee from all students in the UNC system, is made up of delegates from all 17 system schools. Delegates meet monthly at different campuses to discuss issues affecting the student body.
Bhula and Kimball both faced criticism during the debate, which lasted more than 30 minutes.
Many delegates expressed concern that Kimball and his senior vice-president nominee Ethan Harrelson from N.C. State University might not be the best choice because they come from the two highest-funded universities in the system.
“I’m highly concerned about putting candidates from UNC-CH and State into ASG’s main leadership positions,” said Jenna Roney, a delegate for UNC-Wilmington. “I don’t think they have my best interest in mind.”
Kimball said he will not return to ASG next year because he is disappointed in the association’s lack of student advocacy under Bhula.
“The results are going to come out in a few months when funds and financial aid is cut, and ASG hasn’t done anything about it,” he said.
Members blamed both Bhula and Senior Vice President Dakota Williams for not holding executive officers accountable for their job.
“The president is the one to take the bullet whenever something happens,” Bhula said. “And that is exactly what happened.”
Next year’s goal is to improve how the association works internally, he said.
Josh Cotton, a graduate student from Western Carolina University, quit his position as vice president of the legislative public affairs committee after the election.
“The way things turned out yesterday besides the election was very disheartening to me,” Cotton said. “I think the officers in general were thrown under the bus. While none of us are perfect, there were a lot of things where we were limited.”
Cotton said he does not like the direction in which ASG is heading because he thinks Bhula is more concerned about the objectives of the UNC-system Board of Governors than students.
“I will not do the bidding of the BOG anymore. It is not what the students need,” Cotton said. “I don’t believe in the prostitution of ASG. That is why Atul and I have drifted apart.”
After the election was over, Williams, who was not happy with the results, proposed a 27 percent cut to the stipends of executive officers, including a $1,500 cut to Bhula’s annual stipend of $7,000.
His amendment reduced officer stipends overall by $9,625, which will be reallocated to fund legislative activities.
Williams, who will not be returning to ASG next year either, said he hopes the money will be used to help transport students to Raleigh to lobby.
“I think that is appropriate considering how much work is done,” he said. “I didn’t want that money to be there. It is better spent trying to get students to Raleigh than in student pockets.”
Contact the State and National Editor at email@example.com
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.