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Monday June 27th

Vicente prioritizes student voices

Andrew, Emilio, Winston, Nikita
Buy Photos Andrew, Emilio, Winston, Nikita

Emilio Vicente got a taste of what it would be like to lead before ever setting foot on UNC’s campus.

During a gap year the candidate for Student Body President took before coming to UNC, he lived and lobbied in Washington, D.C. for four months — an experience he says will give him an edge over his competition.

Meet the candidates

The DTH will feature each candidate this week.

Monday: Nikita Shamdasani
Tuesday: Andrew Powell
Wednesday: Emilio Vicente
Thursday: Winston Howes

“Something that makes me really different from the other candidates is that I do have national, state and local experience in advocacy,” he said.

And to better advocate for students, he plans to listen to them.

In Vicente’s platform, he recommends a series of listening sessions which he would use to gather student input on a variety of issues, including the two he considers most important: combating sexual assault on campus and advocating for UNC-CH students within the UNC system.

“Instead of student government expecting students to come to us with concerns, I think it should always be student government going out into community,” Vicente said.

He said he would like to create liaison positions within student government to take input from students.

Vicente also wants all freshman students to attend sexual assault prevention training during orientation.

“All members of my administration will be One Act trained,” he said. “There isn’t one answer, obviously, to sexual assault but I think it is something that student government itself can do.”

Kelli Raker, sexual violence prevention coordinator for Student Wellness, said members of student government have attended training sessions in the past but incorporating the training into orientation might be difficult.

“Given Student Wellness’s current resources and staff and the New Student Orientation schedule, it would be challenging to provide eight hours of training for all incoming students,” Raker said in an email.

Vicente, a public policy major, said he wants to bring student government and administrators closer.

“There is a problem with the institutional decision-making body at UNC,” he said. “If you look at the Board of Governors, the Board of Trustees, the General Assembly, (that is) something that I believe can be better fixed.”

Student Body Treasurer Matt Farley said working with administrators is instrumental in advocating against tuition increases, something Vicente has vowed to address.

“The most important thing is maintaining as strong and good relationships with administration as you can,” Farley said.

Before his campaign, Vicente was a leading advocate for in-state tuition for immigrants living in North Carolina without documentation, an issue that he stressed does not define his candidacy.

Vicente has been under the national spotlight since his campaign began — he was the subject of a New York Times profile and a tweet written by actress Eva Longoria.

But the junior said he is more interested in affecting change at UNC than making headlines.

“I’m appreciative and kind of still in shock that I’ve received some coverage, but when I decided to run for Student Body President, my focus has always been addressing the needs of students on this campus,” he said.

Maria Pia Rodriguez, a friend of Vicente, said he remains positive and told her just last year that he hasn’t seen his parents, who live in Guatemala, in seven years.

Vicente said it’s his attitude that has helped him have success so far.

“I have had not the easiest life,” he said, chuckling. “But I think the reason I’m at UNC is because I’m really optimistic.”

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