The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Prospective student body president candidates discuss platforms in town hall

5124E5D7-A05D-4FDA-BEAB-8AD423EB7B9D.jpeg
Student Body President candidates TJ Edwards, Chris Everett and Sam Robinson listen to the moderator of UNC-CH's Young Democrat's SBP Town Hall in Chapel Hill, N.C., Feb. 7, 2023.

The UNC Young Democrats hosted a town hall panel on Tuesday for prospective student body president candidates.  TJ Edwards, Chris Everett and Sam Robinson presented their platforms and answered student questions. 

The event was moderated by UNC Young Democrats' Communications Director Mary Margaret Barbee and featured five predetermined questions followed by 30 minutes of open forum, in which students in the audience posed questions to individual or multiple candidates.

Accessibility

Edwards 

Edwards stressed their commitment to accessibility with an emphasis on mental disabilities, citing that their recent autism diagnosis has reframed their life perspective. 

“There’s a lot of roadblocks that we have that are preventing our mentally disabled students from receiving the help that they need,” they said. 

The cost of receiving a formal diagnosis for mental disabilities, such as ADHD and autism, is a barrier to accessibility on campus, Edwards said. They said a formal diagnosis of a mental disability should not be a requirement to receive accommodations.  

Further, Edwards said UNC Athletics should dedicate tickets with necessary accommodations to disabled students, and that working elevators and wheelchair ramps should be in all buildings. 

Everett

Everett emphasized his slogan “Carolina for Everyone” and said an accessible campus is a part of this mission. 

He said he will advocate for more first-floor wheelchair-accessible classrooms and residence halls, as well as motion-sensor lights in hallways.

Implementation of a University stepped care model — a tiered support structure — would give students with mental disabilities more options to better their mental health, Everett said.

“Accessibility, again, is so important to everything that I vote in this campaign, everything that I stand for,” he said.

Robinson

Robinson said he was with a disabled friend on campus when he discovered that South Building, a facility crucial to University administration, is not accessible. 

In terms of action, Robinson shared a system that has been tried out this year — a disability advocacy hotline. 

“Let’s say an elevator is down, push-button is not working on a door, one of the folks on that team calls me, and then I call an administrator,” he said. “That administrator calls the maintenance people, and we are in a consistent loop until that issue is fixed.”

Robinson said he would also advocate for a specific position in Carolina Housing, acting as a “direct liaison” responsible for understanding and helping students with physical accessibility challenges.

With the millions of dollars in deferred campus maintenance, accessibility needs to be prioritized, Robinson said.

Faculty Pay

Edwards

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Due to his experience working at the Student Union, Edwards said they are familiar with wages on campus and the struggle to pay for necessities. 

“There are still so many campus workers right now who are getting paid under $10 an hour and to me, that is unacceptable,” they said.

Edwards believes that there should be a $15 minimum wage for student workers and that the only way to achieve such a pay raise would be through student activism. 

“We are the oil and the gears that make almost every single aspect of Carolina work,” they said. “Without that, Carolina will have to listen to us.”

Everett

Everett reiterated the idea of a $15 minimum wage while adding that he is advocating for compensation for undergraduate learning assistants (ULAs). 

Everett also revisited the idea of legislation for an inflation-based budget increase.

“Our graduate and professional students bring in $5 billion to our University, the least we can do is provide them with a livable wage every single year,” he said.

With connections and advocacy, Everett also said he hoped to push state legislature and elected officials to work toward bills that increase housekeeper salaries across the board.

Robinson 

Robinson said that, at his first trustee meeting, he plans to introduce legislation regarding staff pay that does two things:

“Number one: it sets goals that salaries and positions shall be increased to combat inflation at a minimum. That's the bare minimum,” he said. “Number two is work with our folks at Finance and Operations, our folks at the Board of Governors and in state legislature to understand what reasonable goals we can meet over a 5-, 10- and 15-year period.”

Robinson said the recent increase in housekeeper pay after campus-wide demand was disrespectful and that UNC has to do better.

Reproductive Justice 

Edwards

“First off, I want to say I am unequivocally pro-choice,” Edwards said in response to the question of reproductive justice on campus. “I support any (person) assigned female at birth’s right to choose.”

Edwards said they are nonbinary, but as an individual assigned male at birth, they understand that it is difficult to hear them speak on the subject.  

Edwards said, if elected, they plan to make contraceptives accessible across campus and ask students for their takes on what ways they would like to see reproductive justice on campus.

Everett 

“Protecting the right to choose is something that is very important to me,” Everett said.

He said he has recently been advocating for the implementation of various programs to advocate against gender-based violence on campus.

In the future, he would push for implementing a measure in student government where individuals can report sexual violence in a clear, confidential and easy way, be heard and receive “immediate justice.”

Robinson

Robinson said the student government should “put our money where our mouth is,” and sign an executive order that will prohibit them from contracting with groups, individuals or companies that are anti-choice.

Although funding is not always easy to access, Robinson said he hopes to follow University policy and state law while providing resources for pregnant people on campus. 

“When our student body comes together behind issues that we all agree are important, speaks with a unified voice, with confident leadership, with buy-in from the grassroots level, there are very few things we can’t accomplish and very few things we can’t make progress on,” Robinson said. 

What’s next? 

The UNC Young Democrats voted after the town hall on who they will endorse for SBP and the results of this vote are to be released in the coming days.

The Board of Elections released an initial list of certified candidates on Wednesday night.

@dailytarheel

university@dailytarheel.com