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Tensions escalate in Undergraduate Senate following failed nomination

unc student senate

Senator Claire Staresinic (center), chair of the Oversight and Advocacy Committee, apologizes to Senator Sosa Evbuomwan (far right) after being implicated in the last meeting of speaking against Evbuomwan Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018 in Gardner Hall.

Arguments broke out in the Undergraduate Senate’s full meeting Tuesday as senators criticized the process that led to the failed bid of a nominee to the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor.

This year brought the Undergraduate Senate's first opportunity to appoint a member to the committee, which advises Chancellor Carol Folt on issues concerning the student body. Following a failed bid for Senator Sosa Evbuomwan, the committee continues to meet despite being short a member. 

There is no current replacement.

Speaker Kennith Echeverria said Evbuomwan passed the Rules and Judiciary Committee favorably and was put on the fast track for approval. However, concerns voiced by unnamed senators meant that Evbuomwan was instead put in front of the full Senate for questioning.

“Two senators reached out to me, and they said, ‘Hey, I want this resolution off the consent calendar,' and so I followed order, and I put them on the general orders calendar," Echeverria said. "Now, that means the entire Senate will have to discuss this nominee."

Evbuomwan was questioned by the full Senate on Oct. 2. After the questioning, the Senate voted. Evbuomwan failed to reach the required two-thirds majority by one vote. All but one member of the Rules and Judiciary Committee voted against her.

At Tuesday’s full Senate meeting, Evbuomwan read a statement addressing what she called an inefficient vetting process by the Rules and Judiciary Committee, overseen by Chairperson Tanner Henson.

“I was not asked any questions (in the committee meeting) despite being ready for them and recall the chair of said committee stating, ‘I can’t think of anybody more qualified,’” she said. “Everything that happened last full Senate could have been stopped at full committees.”

In a text, Henson said he did not praise the senator's qualifications during the Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting. But during this same meeting, he said he told her the committee would not ask too many questions because they know her level of competency.

Evbuomwan said Echeverria sent her an email at 10 p.m. before the Oct. 2 meeting to tell her to prepare for questioning. She said she didn't see the email until the next morning and could not prepare due to her busy schedule. 

“In case you didn’t know, I also go to UNC and attend classes during the day,” she said. “I would have liked to prepare, but my schedule doesn’t allow it.” 

In the full meeting, while questioning Henson's decision not to vote for Evbuomwan, who is Nigerian, Senator Rebecca Ukaegbu mentioned that Henson ran for speaker on a platform of diversity and inclusion.

Henson denied that he voted against Evbuomwan because of her race.

“Nothing that happened in that committee was due to anything lacking in diversity or inclusion,” he said. “I’m more than happy to appoint nominees of any race, any gender, any sexual orientation, and I have done so. If you look at my voting record, there is nothing to show I haven’t supported a diverse range of nominees. I did that, and I will be more than happy to continue doing so.”

Before Tuesday's meeting, Henson said that his and the majority of the committee's concerns with Evbuomwan had to do with her qualifications. 

“I asked the nominee which bill that she had written was the one that she was most proud of, that she thought had made the biggest change, and she made it clear that she had not in fact written a bill,” he said. “When a nominee hasn’t even written a bill, that really goes to the point of, 'Are you really utilizing the office that you have?'”

Evbuomwan said she has not written a bill because she lacks experience.

“I will admit, I have not written any bills in Senate, because first of all, this is only my second year in Senate, and my first year I was still trying to learn how Senate functioned because it’s a lot,” she said. “I didn’t get involved in politics a lot until I got to college.”

Evbuomwan said the Senate needs to learn a lesson from her failed bid so that others are not embarrassed in the future like she was.

“Collectively, we should pursue change within ourselves and as a unit to create the most effective and impactful Undergraduate Senate that we know as a branch of student government and for students at Carolina," she said.


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