The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday April 1st

Student Congress talks improvement

With the end of election season, UNC Student Congress is already looking ahead to next year.

Members met outside Bingham Hall Wednesday to discuss improvements they hope will be made in the next congress, which will take office in April. The conversation centered around the need for closer relationships between members.

It was meant to be a public forum for anyone, but only congress members attended. There were about five members there with discussion led by Speaker Pro-Tempore John Guzek. Speaker Connor Brady was not in attendance.

Guzek said he thinks holding an orientation session for incoming members would help new members bond in a way that is not possible most of the time, due to formal procedures during sessions.

“It’s not like a typical student organizations where you can create those relationships outside of congress,” he said.

Guzek said he thinks some members join Student Congress for a resume builder.

“It’s a natural tendency with winning any elected position, it’s easy to get caught up in the winning part of it, not always in the doing part of it,” he said. “And I think that’s natural in any leadership position.”

Guzek said he thinks the 95th Congress has been instrumental in bringing students’ concerns to the University’s largest governing bodies.

“Personally for me, student advocacy is a huge issue,” he said.

“Making sure student voices are heard before the Board of Governors, the Board of Trustees. That’s something we’ve made significant gains in this session. I’d like to see congress continue to do that.”

The members said the turnout of more than 7,000 voters in Tuesday’s runoff election between Andrew Powell and Emilio Vicente was a surprising and encouraging sign of increased interest in student government across campus.

Graduate student Laura Tollini, who represents District 10, said normally graduate students pay little attention to the student body president race, but this year was an exception.

“It became something that was brought to national level press, and I think that makes people more interested, and I talked to graduate students that knew the names of the candidates, which is not always the case,” she said.

Walker Swain, vice-chairman of the oversight and advocacy committee, said he wants to see Student Congress release statements more frequently on key University issues like sexual assault and the athletic scandal.

Swain said he was also surprised at the voter turnout level this year.

“Typically my thinking is that, ‘Yeah a runoff, it’s definitely a more heated race because it’s one-on-one,’” he said.

“But still I would have thought that if turnout increased, it would not have been by more than 10 percent.”

Swain said he wants to know what was behind this trend.

“I’d really like to look at what elements of this election cycle were different,” Swain said.

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