Student Body President Christy Lambden said representing student interests is always on his mind — even if that means he has to go up against an administrator.
And in light of federal complaints filed against the University, alleging the underreporting and mishandling of sexual assault cases on campus, he said it is clear that his role is to be an advocate for students.
Lambden has been an active member of the University’s Sexual Assault Task Force, which has been meeting since June to create recommendations on how to improve UNC’s sexual assault policies. The 21-member task force includes administrators, students, professors and sexual assault professionals. Of his role, Lambden said he isn’t worried about having to butt heads with administrators.
“If that requires me to say that the University needs to change something or that I get in a debate with an administrator, then I will step up to that role,” he said.
Former Student Body President Will Leimenstoll said he was in a similar position last year advocating for gender-neutral housing and against out-of-state tuition increases.
He said debates between administrators could get heated — but he found that most administrators are more than willing to speak out on behalf of students.
“Advocacy on most issues is typically warmly welcomed and supported by administrators,” Leimenstoll said in an email.
He said most opposition to advocacy comes from Raleigh, not South Building.
“Unfortunately it’s a little trickier to communicate with folks outside of Chapel Hill — hence the recent shameful BOG decision to ban gender nonspecific housing,” Leimenstoll said.
Former Student Body President Mary Cooper said she had to form partnerships and teams with administrators to reach a compromise that works for everyone.
“It’s more about collaboration and understanding problems holistically,” she said. “You’re able to bring about more change that way.”
Christi Hurt, interim Title IX coordinator and chairwoman of the Sexual Assault Task Force, said she has been working closely with Lambden.
She said Lambden is in tune with UNC’s diverse student body.
“Over and over again he has amazed me with his command of the dynamics of the process and the depth to which he understands the students and his ability to strategize and help us move forward,” she said.
Jacob Morse, student body vice president, said before Lambden joined the task force, he listened to a variety of stakeholders in the issue, including students and members of the community.
Lambden also assembled his own task force last spring to receive student input about the policies.
“The dialogue didn’t end when Christy went to the table, but it didn’t begin there either,” Morse said.
Lambden said students can expect to see real changes this semester, including increased training for faculty and the benefits of having more people employed solely to address sexual violence. Morse said a representative for students is a person who is a sounding box for the status quo — but an advocate for students is someone who takes a position and works for it in the interest of the people and the cause.
“He has done a good job, and every day when he goes to work on things he keeps in mind who he is working for, and that is what an advocate does,” Morse said.
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