Candidates Kathryn Walker, Houston Summers and David Marsh all reacted strongly to the recent ousting of UNC-system President Tom Ross.
Marsh described the decision as ridiculous and said the student body needs to come together and push back.
“Students and the faculty absolutely need to have a voice in who becomes the next system president,” Marsh said.
Walker said students, not politics, need to be at the forefront of board members’ minds when they are making decisions.
“My administration will respond (to Ross’ resignation) with the students’ response because we are a representative of the students,” she said.
Summers said in his platform that he wants to add two voting student members to the Board of Governors. He wants one of the student representatives to be the president of the Association of Student Governments and the other to be a representative from UNC-Chapel Hill.
“The conversation changes when we’re at the table, and when we’re not at the table, they do what they want,” he said.
Richard Lindayen, a member of the UNC Board of Governors Democracy Coalition, said he would like to see his future student body president speak up more about issues such as Ross’ firing and the selection of the next UNC-system president.
“I’d like to see our student government be vocal about those issues when they come into light,” he said.
A common thread throughout the three candidates’ platforms is affordability for all students.
Marsh said interests have diverged between the state and the University since the General Assembly came under Republican control in 2010.
“We’re not in the recession anymore, and they continue to cut education, and I think it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Walker said having the right person in the right place to connect with governing groups is the best way students can advocate to keep their tuition and fees low.
N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said she believes it is important to keep tuition low. But the state has had to rely on raising tuition to have enough money to run the universities.
She said students have no control over whether tuition will be raised or not, but their different generational perspective can have an influence on higher decision making bodies as well as provide important insight.
“I don’t know whether we’d understand it, but I think you can represent your generation better than the administration can,” Insko said.
She also added that the student body president has more influence than any other student, and it helps to have students from different schools advocating for the same issues.
N.C. Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, said that while student body presidents do not have any actual authority with regard to budget decisions, they do have the ability to speak out.
“Without students, the whole tuition and fee debate is one of the numbers,” he said. “The importance of students is to make it real.”
Both Walker and Summers want a student to serve on the Chapel Hill Town Council.
Walker said students often see themselves as separate from the town, but that gap needs to be closed because students make up a significant portion of Chapel Hill’s population.
Summers said a student who is very passionate about the issues is the one who should serve on the council.
“We are one of the key central parts of this community,” Summers said.
“But we also have to understand that there are generations...of people that have lived here...and we want to make sure that we’re both serving each other.”
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he thinks it’s great for the student body president to be concerned about student representation on the council.
“(Students) have an obligation to protect their community and quality of life for students that will come after them,” he said.
Marsh specifically has proposed a Street Light Task Force which would increase the number of blue lights and street lights off campus. He said this would benefit both students and long-term residents.
“Everyone wins in this situation,” he said.
Walker and Summers included the possible opening of a grocery store in downtown Chapel Hill in their platforms.
“We need to move community resources closer to campus,” she said.
Councilman Lee Storrow said the density required to bring a grocery store to this area makes it unlikely that anything will be built in the near future, but that small steps, like supporting Mediterranean Deli’s market can be a first step.
“(This is the) best thing we can do to show there is a market demand for a grocery store in downtown Chapel Hill,” he said.