UNC students elected sophomore Lamar Richards on Feb. 23 as the 2021-2022 student body president. Richards received 59.7 percent of the 3,219 votes cast in the election — defeating his opponent, junior Keshav Javvadi.
Assistant University Desk Editor Evely Forte spoke with Richards about what he hopes he’ll accomplish through his role as SBP, how his administration will be different from previous ones and what his legacy will be at the University beyond his role in Student Government.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. You can listen to the full interview on The Daily Tar Heel's podcast, Heel Talk.
The Daily Tar Heel: What went through your mind as you found out the results?
Lamar Richards: We didn't really receive our results until about 2:45 a.m. or 3 a.m. (on Feb. 24). My team and I were waiting around. I did have a few, maybe a couple, of close friends over, socially distanced around in my apartment, waiting on results.
The rest of my team, because we are so large, was hanging back virtually. Some did (and) others fell asleep by the time the results came in. But either way … when I got the call, I was excited. It was still — I don't think I ever processed it fully, but it was exciting to the say the least. It was, I think, a great end to a month-long campaign process.
DTH: As you look forward to the transition period, when you finally do transition into the role, what is your top priority as student body president?
LR: I will say that the transition process has already begun out on the 24th of February (when executive board) applications did go live … Those applications will be open for about a week from the 24th of February. We can expect cabinet positions to be available toward the end of March and/or beginning of April.
So part of this has already kind of started because my platform was very, very clear on my goals and intentions to restructure Student Government. That will be clear in the cabinet applications — we will see many roles we've never seen before. We will see some restructuring of how roles report and who they report to, I think an overall expansion of the number of roles that are available in Student Government. I think that’s kind of my priority for the transition, to make sure we have a well-structured and effectively structured Student Government to be able to serve beginning April ...
But we have a lot to prepare for. I have my platform, which outlines very clearly what I want to do as student body president in a normal, typical year, and then we have a pandemic that’s happening.
So as we prepare for the fall, I’m looking at what the Chancellor is outlining as his hopes to have as normal as possible return in the fall. I’m looking at what role students might play in that — whether it’s advocating for or against the plan — and what role I might play as student body president, ensuring that students are represented in the decision-making process for the fall.
DTH: You mentioned this restructuring of Student Government. Is there anything else that you hope to do differently in your role as student body president that hasn’t been done in the past — in previous administrations or Student Government, in general?
LR: Me being elected as a sophomore, as a Black student, as an openly gay student, I obviously don't define all the norms. I haven’t checked any normal boxes. I want to continue with that mantra — not the normal. And so that restructuring (of Student Government) will definitely happen.
But additionally, I'm just looking at how we communicate with the population that hasn't been done before. So I think we we may hear from SBP through email once a semester, if that. There will be more widespread campuswide communication coming from me beginning of April.
There will also be on social media. We'll be doing weekly and/or biweekly check-ins for me, kind of like a week-in-review type thing, to do two things. One is to keep people informed in the loop — what's happening in Student Government. The next thing is to allow individuals to hold me accountable and ensure that I’m staying true to my commitment of being a well rounded and effective advocate.
I also think that in in the past, the student body president hasn't been as visible outside of Student Government … I'm definitely going to change that. I've already started changing that. I want to be at as many meetings and things of such nature that my schedule will reasonably allow.
DTH: You mentioned you're a sophomore, and so that means you're going to serve as student body president during your junior year. Do you have plans after junior year as far as running for reelection?
LR: I have no plans. I can assure you that I will not run for reelection … That is probably the only typical thing that I will check the box on is that I will be a one-term like my predecessors.
I will still, of course, during my senior year give to back to my community of Winnsboro, South Carolina, and also to the larger UNC and Carolina community — wherever that may take me, whether that’s a role in Student Government or whether it’s just to do service to the community.
Once again, it is atypical — there is no rulebook for what a person should do if they serve earlier than their senior year. I’m just playing it by ear. I generally believe that, in whatever capacity, as long as I’m able to work on behalf of the Carolina community, I’m in a good place.
DTH: Lamar, what do you hope your legacy will be on campus — even beyond your time as student body president next year?
LR: I think I would like when people speak about me, in relation to themselves, (for them) to be able to say, "Because Lamar did x, y and z, I am able to do this or I am able to do that." So not, "Oh Lamar did all these grand things, and he has his name on buildings.” That’s not who I am.
I spoke about this in my platform. We want to be the administration of transition, and we want to establish a foundation for future generations of students — especially marginalized and underrepresented students. So I think I would like my legacy to be lived through other people succeeding. So when they say, "Past student body president Lamar was able to do these things, which has allowed me do this," then I think that I did my job well.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.