The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday May 25th

Column: Student leaders need to speak up


Jenny Surane is the 2014-15 Editor-in-Chief. She is a senior business journalism major from Cornelius.

Earlier this month, Student Body Vice President Kyle Villemain asked for The Daily Tar Heel’s feedback on student government’s responsiveness.

In many ways, our relationship with student leaders this academic year was a marked improvement over the past.

We had a strong working relationship with Villemain and Student Body President Andrew Powell that allowed us to get their perspectives quickly and easily on deadline.

We also appreciated the professionalism Powell’s team demonstrated toward our staff writers — our sources will tell you that it takes patience to work with us. In an effort to be as accurate as possible, we often ask our sources to repeat themselves many, many times.

I told Villemain all of this.

But I also told him that I wished we’d heard more opinions from his team this year.

I wish I knew exactly how Andrew Powell, the person we elected into office to represent us before the Board of Trustees, felt about the current proposals to rename Saunders Hall.

I want a quick resolution on the issue, but I wish I had a clue as to how students were being represented to the trustees. Powell hasn’t come out for or against the renaming proposal.

I wish I could hear Powell’s team’s thoughts on the revised sexual assault policy the University released in August. The policy is a living document — meaning the University will update it every year. They’ll likely turn to student leaders for advice on any changes that need to be made. That terrifies me because I have no idea what Powell’s take on the current policy is.

I don’t need a student government that reserves a room for me to have conversations about these topics. I need my student body president to tell me his opinion, which is further informed by the conversations he has during closed session meetings with the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Carol Folt, so I can formulate my own opinion.

On Wednesday, with regards to the proposal to rename Saunders Hall, Villemain tweeted “I think today’s #UNCBOT meeting was the most interesting and authentic policy discussion I’ve seen in public during my time at unc.”

It’s scary to think Villemain has been privy to more productive policy discussions — they were just closed to the public. I would rather student leaders urge administrators to have more conversations under students’ purview.

I fear that too many student organizations worry about how they’ll be perceived by the administration. Folt and the Board of Trustees have to remain professional — student organizations should be allowed to protest with abandon.

Don’t let your organization be neutered by professionalism. Don’t water down your message in an effort to appease administrators.

As a student leader myself, I understand the responsibilities of what we’ve been handed. But those responsibilities also include a duty to speak up to push this University forward.

We won’t get another chance like this.


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