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The Daily Tar Heel

Student Body President candidates tackle CAPS, Silent Sam before Tuesday election

Garima Tomar and Savannah Putnam participated in the first student body presidential debates of the election season on Sunday.

On Monday, Student Body President candidates met for the final time during a debate hosted by the Board of Elections, with questions submitted via email.

Savannah Putnam, a junior majoring in political science, repeatedly stressed the need for a more powerful “student voice” throughout the night. Her platform rests on the idea that some of student government’s inefficiencies have been caused by its inability to connect and reach out to the student body.

Figuring out the role of student government is also a high priority for junior chemistry and mathematics major Garima Tomar. She takes an even more radical stance on reforming parts of the organization than her opponent, arguing for a redesign of the election process and executive branch. 

The first talking point, carried over from Sunday's debate, was mental health. Both candidates agree that the way the University deals with mental health problems within the student body is flawed, but they differ on who is to blame. 

Putnam was highly critical of Counseling and Psychological Services, saying the service is unresponsive to the students it’s supposed to serve. She wants to work with the University’s administration to start directives like improving training for Residential Advisers to make them more aware of mental health resources for students. 

Her criticism is a result of seeing her friend let down by CAPS and stories from other students who haven’t had success in seeking treatment on campus.

“That system has continuously failed them,” Putnam said. 

Tomar said the complications of CAPS can be blamed on high turnover, a young work force and underfunding. She seeks to bolster the service rather than try to extensively change it.

“My platform plans to address the inefficiencies outside of CAPS,” Tomar said.

The candidates also varied on Silent Sam. Although restrictions from the North Carolina General Assembly prevent the University from moving the statue, Tomar ardently supports its removal. She sees compromise as an inexcusable solution and thinks the display of the statue anywhere, even in a museum, would be offensive.

“It's the most direct, present threat to student safety and well being,” she said.

Putnam believes the statue belongs in an exhibit off campus, where it can be given proper historical contextualization. She is also proposing an initiative to transition the Interfraternity Council into more environmentally friendly practices like making sure that Greek houses own compost bins.

Voting starts Feb. 13 and will end at 8:00 p.m. 


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