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Lamar Richards sworn in to Board of Trustees by former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley

UNC Student Body President Lamar Richards attends the Board of Trustees meeting at the Carolina Inn on Thursday May 20, 2021.

The UNC Board of Trustees held its final meeting of the academic year on Thursday, where Student Body President Lamar Richards was sworn in as the sole student representative on the Board.

Richards is the University’s first Black, gay student body president. The ceremony was administered by Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, who was the first Black woman to serve as chief justice.

Richards’ address

Richards said he was honored to be sworn in by Beasley and to have the opportunity to represent the UNC community.

“A historic day indeed,” he said. “Not only for those here today or those listening in, but for our Carolina community as a whole. A historic day for us all having navigated unparalleled uncertainty this past year as students, as faculty, as staff, as alumni and as community members.” 

Richards said he wants to support growth and expansion of leadership development opportunities — especially for people from underrepresented communities. 

“The future of this University is not a result of a single person, but rather the collective of many people working together for the good and the betterment of the place we all love and cherish,” he said.

Richards and his team are working to establish an emerging leaders program to introduce new students to student governance, leadership and professional development, he said.

As a trustee, Richards said his role is to represent the unique individuals who make up the UNC student body, recognizing their diverse backgrounds.

“I (step into this role) with grace and humility,” he said. “My job here is not to just be another trustee, but to bring forth the perspectives, ideas and thoughts of 30,000 individual people, because that's what we all are. Our communities are not monolithic, and neither are our identities.” 

What's new?

  • During a statement by Secretary of the Board Teresa Artis Neal, a group of protesters began singing “We Shall Overcome” to express support for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones after she was denied tenure. 
    • Board Chairperson Richard Stevens condemned the protesters, citing the Campus Free Speech Act.
      • “Any person who is too disruptive or interferes with the rights of those in attendance to hear or see the speakers will be asked to leave,” he said. “Anyone who does not leave when asked or does not put down the signs which obstruct the audience view will be removed and may be subject to arrest.”
    • The Board removed the protester who led the song. 
  • Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz discussed last weekend's five in-person Commencement ceremonies and Richards’ induction into the Board.
    • Guskiewicz said it was exciting to see UNC students and families back in a celebratory environment. 
      • “Leading up to Commencement, it was wonderful to see so many of our graduates outside the Old Well, taking photographs in Carolina Blue caps and gowns,” he said. 
    • Richards and Guskiewicz have started to work together, and Guskiewicz said he is excited to see Richards’ passion and energy in action when he represents the student body.
  • Ralph Baric, a distinguished professor of epidemiology, presented an update on COVID-19 to the Board. 
    • Baric said the virus has had a devastating global impact, with nearly 164 million infections worldwide. 
    • His research group has studied coronaviruses for nearly 20 years. Baric said they are interested in identifying strains that exist in nature that could potentially be transmitted to humans. 
    • Baric said he is grateful to the University for being able to provide cutting-edge research in times of global crisis.
      • “Great research universities, like the University of North Carolina, provide major investments in basic science in terms of discovering new things,” he said. “And then providing an atmosphere that allows translation of those ideas into potential products to alter human health or to improve our capacity to deal with the changing world.” 

Who is on the Board? 

  • The Board of Trustees consists of the student body president, eight elected members from the UNC Board of Governors and four appointees by the N.C. General Assembly. 

What’s next? 

  • The Board will hold its next meeting in July. 


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