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Historical SBP campaigns involved horses, narwhals and renaming the town

The idea of a dome covering the entirety of the University’s campus may seem controversial, but one former student body presidential candidate used it to define his platform.

The spring 2017 general election on Feb. 14 will bring about a fresh set of faces looking to represent their fellow students for the next year. Looking back on student presidential elections of the past reveals a few unusual tactics campaigns have used to attract voters.

According to an April 1972 edition of the University Report, a tabloid newspaper that used to circulate in Chapel Hill, student Pitt Dickey ran for the Blue Sky Party with his dog Sage as a running mate. Dickey proposed “the construction of a huge dome over the campus to keep out the rain, the public hanging of a bicycle thief in the Pit ... every week, and a horse for every student in order to rid Chapel Hill of automobile pollution.”

Dickey’s radical reform plans are not alone in terms of unconventional campaigning platforms. A candidate with proposals just as controversial threw his hat in the ring in the election seven years ago.

Nash Keune, a junior economics and history major from Maryland at the time, ran in the 2010 election with a platform that included converting Davis Library’s first floor into a narwhal tank and renaming the town.

“We believe that the name ‘Chapel Hill’ carries too much of a normative connotation of Christianity,” Keune said in a 2010 article in The Daily Tar Heel. “We will correct this by advocating to the city government that the name be changed to ‘Unaffiliated House of Worship and Secular Community Temple Mosque Center Hill.’”

These candidates’ uncommon platforms grabbed the attention of their fellow students. Looking at the regulations campaigns face at UNC today, they may have had the right idea.

“Now, you cannot campaign inside of any University building,” Sam Green, current student body vice president, said. “You can’t go in a library and tell 50 people to go vote for you; you can’t go into a classroom and tell people to go vote for the candidate you want to endorse.”

Despite his unusual tactics, the University Report article said Dickey received 1,458 votes — or 27 percent of the overall student vote.

While these antics entertained voters, they did not translate to actual election victories. University Historian Cecelia Moore recounted one attention-grabbing tactic in the 2011 election, from candidate Brooklyn Stephens.

“She rode her horse through the Pit campaigning,” she said.

Moore said she was impressed by the winner of that election, then-junior Mary Cooper, who took a quieter campaigning approach.

“There was some sniping and some negative things happening, which I don’t really recall really well, but Mary managed to stay out of all of that political fighting,” Moore said. “She really had a very focused platform, and she ended up winning and was, I think, a real effective student body president.”

Despite not winning, peculiar campaigns like Keune’s and Dickey’s won’t soon be forgotten.

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