CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of the story stated that Student Congress debated a provision of an amendment which would require the Director of External and State Affairs to stay in Chapel Hill during the summer. This topic was briefly discussed at the meeting but there was never a formal amendment provision presented.An amendment presented by Austin Root which would require the position to maintain their duties over the summer and remain liable to the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance passed.
Student Body President Christy Lambden signed a bill Thursday that makes the new position of Director of State and External Relations permanent.
However, following a unanimous vote by Student Congress to pass the bill Tuesday, not all members were satisfied.
The position was created by Lambden last spring as a way to lobby the N.C. General Assembly and work with community leaders on UNC’s behalf. It is now a yearly executive post in the Student Code.
Finance Committee Vice-Chairman Austin Root proposed an amendment to the bill requiring the director maintain his or her duties during the summer and remain liable to the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance passed. A provision to the amendment that would require the director stay in Chapel Hill during the summer was discussed but ultimately not added.
Shelby Hudspeth, the current director, performed some of her duties while she studied abroad in June.
Root said although Hudspeth was instrumental in removing Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed 18.3 percent tuition increase for out-of-state students, she was not present for the decision to raise out-of-state tuition by 12.3 percent.
“She wasn’t there,” he said. “It hampers everyone at the University because the quality of our education is going to go down. I’m not saying that this person could have prevented all this, but I’m saying the fact that they didn’t even try — that they weren’t even here — is a slap in the face to everybody at this University.”
The legislature cut $65 million from the UNC-system’s 2013-14 budget during the summer.
“The under-allocation of resources and the misallocation of the position could potentially affect many more people in the future, because they need to be taking advocating much more seriously than they have in the past,” Root said.
Jocelyn Burney, the oversight and advocacy chair for District 1, said Student Congress did not add the provision to require staying at UNC during the summer because only student government members with a stipend are required to stay in Chapel Hill for the summer.
“It’s unfair to say, ‘You have to stay here, but we won’t compensate you for it,’” she said.
Burney said Hudspeth was a great pick for the position and had done a great job.
“I don’t think any single one person being in Raleigh for that time would have changed what the legislature did over the summer,” Burney said.
Hudspeth said she met with leaders in Chapel Hill and lobbied in Raleigh several times before going abroad, pushing for gender-neutral housing and affordable tuition.
“Once I was gone, a lot of the decisions had been made,” she said. “I had already scheduled meetings with the people that I thought would be most influential, and they knew what I had to say and what our student government’s stance was.”
While abroad, Hudspeth said she stayed updated on what was happening in Raleigh by checking her email regularly, making phone calls and reading reports.
“I tried to be as present as I could be without being physically present,” she said.
Hudspeth said her position goes beyond lobbying during the summer. Hudspeth is working to meet with leaders on campus and in the community. Her position also entails being a voting member on a UNC Board of Trustees task force.
She said though distance and time difference posed a challenge over the summer, she said being abroad did not affect what she accomplished.
“I have heard the argument that there was no physical presence there advocating for them, but I have done so much advocating,” Hudspeth said.
“I’m not saying that more work could not have been done, because there’s always work to do, even now … But it would have been difficult, I believe, to change their minds.”
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