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UNC Board of Elections hosts first spring student body president debate

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Student Body President candidates Jaleah Taylor and Laura Saavedra Forero speak at the Student Body President Election Debate in New West on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. Jaleah Taylor and Laura Saavedra Forero outlined priorities of their platforms and answered student questions.

The UNC Board of Elections hosted the first student body presidential debate for the prospective candidates on Tuesday in the Student Union.

Jaleah Taylor, current student body secretary, is a junior majoring in political science and media and journalism. Taylor’s campaign statement is “Our Home, Our Future, Our Carolina." She said at the debate that her campaign is focused on solidifying relationships and communication between the student body, administration and faculty.

Laura Saavedra Forero is a junior majoring in neuroscience and minoring in chemistry. Saavedra Forero said her campaign revolves around “Radical Love on Wheels” and works to promote accessibility, community care, collective healing and radical love.

During the debate, candidates were given five questions by moderator Cormac Lynch, the treasurer of the Board of Elections. Lynch's questions covered various topics, including the engagement of the student body and changes the two candidates want to see at UNC. 

Here's the rundown:

New initiatives

  • Taylor said current Student Body President Christopher Everett provided mentorship to first-year students at UNC and she plans to regularly meet with students and different student organizations to bridge the gap between them and student government.
  • When faced with social justice challenges that urge student government to make statements, Taylor also said she would like to meet with the affected groups and get their input on the statement ahead of time.
  • Saavedra Forero said she believes accessibility is lacking at UNC. She discussed her ideas for mutual aid initiatives, including addressing food insecurity, reproductive health access and pursuing overall ADA compliance.
    • "I think moving forward also means making this institution that is student government more accessible to our outside community," she said.

Community engagement

  • Saavedra Forero said the UNC community shows up for itself, especially during tumultuous times on campus. She referenced the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 campus suicides and navigating life as a student in a post-active shooter environment.
  • Saavedra Forero also said that having preventative systems in place, through direct efforts to uplift student work, would allow the community to be prepared rather than waiting for another tragic event to occur to come together.
  • Taylor said the camaraderie of the UNC community is evident after basketball games like the UNC win against Duke on Saturday. She added that student government could increase engagement by giving students information about resources on campus.
  • Taylor also said that lapses in engagement come from a lack of understanding and awareness of mental health services as well as a lack of transparency from administrators. She said that, if elected, she would work to promote knowledge and clarity.
    • "That's why the Taylor administration is excited to announce our pillar of transparency in which we are informing our student body on who our different leaders are, such as University administrators," she said.

Advocacy

  • Taylor said UNC has a diverse student body and the University should welcome a wide range of perspectives and ideas. She said her administration plans to meet with Leah Cox, vice provost of equity and inclusion to provide the student body with diversity, equity and inclusion reports.
    • “The Taylor administration is committed to ensuring that every student feels seen, heard, valued, and safe on this campus,” she said.
  • Saavedra Forero said she believed in denouncing genocide. She added that the current student government administration has not made a statement calling the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza a genocide, which influenced her decision to launch her campaign. She also said she was grateful for the student body and what they have done for her, encouraging her to continue her campaign.
    • “When the systems have failed me time and time again, it's been my community, it’s been you all who have shown up to pick up the slack, support me, to ensure that I get my needs met and so this just seems like a small way to give back some of that radical love that you’ve shown me,” she said.

The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies will host a second debate on Thursday. The UNC BOE announced that early voting will begin on Feb. 8 and 9 and Election Day is Feb. 14. Students can vote online on Heel Life or go to the Student Life and Leadership office for a hard-copy ballot.

@sofiaszostczuk

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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