While doing homework with friends late Friday night in the Campus Y workroom, Imani Rankins and Karina Vasudeva received an email that they had been elected as the organization’s new co-presidents.
“It was just like a sigh of relief,” Rankins said. “Like all right, we did it, now let's get to work.”
For both of them, the Campus Y had been a place of community since their first year at the University.
Rankins said she joined the Bonner Leaders Program at the Campus Y after hearing about it during first-year orientation. And Vasudeva said she joined the organization's First-Year Council following her diagnosis with an autoimmune disease that left her struggling to adapt to her new life as a college student and disabled person.
“It was more than just friends to me. It tied me to a community when I felt like I had none,” Vasudeva said.
The two met while serving on the 2021-2022 Campus Y Executive Board and became close friends.
The inspiration for Rankins and Vasudeva's campaign came in November of last year soon after election conversations began. They said they were inspired by discussions about what the Campus Y stood for.
“I was like, 'what if we just ran?'” Vasudeva said.
Rankins admitted that she was hesitant at first because of plans to graduate early and “self-doubt” about whether she could be a leader in the position. She said that she finally convinced herself to stay at UNC for another year to focus on social justice in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro areas.
Both Rankins and Vasudeva felt especially inspired to run following a discussion about UNC’s future at a Campus Y screening of the documentary “Silence Sam.”
“I just felt in my soul there was something that Imani and I had to do — that felt like a very special moment for me,” Vasudeva said.
Current Co-President Megan Murphy said that this year's election had record turnout, signaling a “new era” for the Campus Y. She is excited by the creativity the duo are bringing to already existing and new initiatives.
“Their platform is really comprehensive," she said. "And it really dives into ways that the Y can build its capacity and its influence on campus.”
The future co-presidents said that some of the issues they are most focused on include housekeeper pay, mutual aid and disability justice on campus. Rankins said it is important to honor work that was done in the past while still pushing forward.
“We can be innovative and make sure that the spaces on campus that we cultivate are spaces for community and coalition, and push and strive together for the mission of pursuing social justice,” she said.
They want to emphasize that Campus Y is not the only place for social justice at UNC and hope to continue reaching out to other campus organizations and furthering community relationships.
Vasudeva also said that they want to explore balance between doing the work justice and creating space for rest and joy. She wants the organization to feel more accessible and continue to expand its community.
“We want to continue to push what the Y can stand for,” she said.
Vasudeva said that she sees the Campus Y as a space for coalition building and community. For Rankins, it is a place for growth.
Rankins said that, if she could speak to herself as a first-year student, she would say that making change in the community is going to be difficult.
“This University will make it very difficult and make it feel, sometimes, as though it's impossible to try to seek justice,” she said.
The electees hope to build a culture of “radical rest and joy” during their time as co-presidents.
“The things that will get you through are that community and understanding that you don't know everything,” Vasudeva said. “By leaning on the community you can start to mutually learn from one another, and that's where the real beauty of change happens.”
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