Do Student Body Elections Matter?

Students are voting today in this year's student body elections. You can't walk through the main part of campus without being assailed by a horde of shouting, sign-bearing, leaflet-handing campaign workers. But, if you don't spend time on campus or read the DTH, you probably had no idea. While some local elected officials have certainly benefitted from their experience with student government (I'm looking to you, Mark Kleinschmidt), one might wonder just how much influence the student body president and congress has on the larger issues affecting the town and university.  I worked my butt off for Tom Jensen's unsuccessful 2005 student body president campaign, which was the first and only time I recall sitting council members weighing in (Tom was endorsed by Bill Strom and Sally Greene).  Other than that, do town folk care?

Below are excerpts from each Student Body President candidate's town relations platform...

J.J. Raynor:

With gas prices sky high and student services now spread between North and South Campus, Carolina is destined to become more of a biking community. We need to prepare for this now by providing infrastructure to support students who currently use their bikes on campus and in the community and planning the infrastructure to support more bike usage in the future. A great place to start will be adding more bike lanes around campus so that bikers can worry less about getting run over by cars and so that pedestrians can worry less about getting run over by bikers! J.J. will work with the University and the Town of Chapel Hill to develop more bike lanes on Campus and in Chapel Hill proper.

J.J. will create a C2C bus that will run from the Varsity on Franklin to Weaver Street in Carrboro. On weekday evenings, students who live in Carrboro but have late night meetings or classes on campus are stuck waiting a long time for the J bus to come back or taking a solitary bike ride home in the dark. The transportation and safety needs of these students would be greatly helped by a readily available means of transportation between the heart of Carrboro and Franklin Street. Modeled after the P2P and possibly using an expanded P2P route, the C2C would take these students from the Varsity on Franklin Street to Weaver Street in Carrboro.

J.J. will work with the Town of Chapel Hill to preserve and develop affordable student housing close to campus. Many students have expressed concerns over the difficulty of finding affordable student housing close to campus. This will become an even bigger concern when the Townhouse Apartments are closed. Zoning ordinances and the economic development plans put forth by the Town of Chapel Hill have a huge impact on the availability of affordable housing close to campus. Advocating for zoning ordinances favorable to student housing and providing incentives to developers to plan for affordable apartments can attract affordable student housing to the area around the University.

Homelessness is an issue that touches us all – whether as students at UNC or as residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. It will take a concentrated and focused effort from all of us to alleviate homelessness in our communities. This issue is especially pressing in light of the imminent closure of the Dorothea Dix Mental Health Hospital which will remove the main mental healthcare provider for the 16 county region surrounding Orange County. A number of student groups and community groups, including the Partnership to End Homelessness and Project Hope have been working to develop a comprehensive approach to this issue. In addition to working with these groups, J.J. will work with the Town of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to address homelessness in our community. As part of this effort, J.J. will support the implementation of the Orange County 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.

J.J. will work with the Town of Chapel Hill and the University to bring more businesses to Franklin Street. Students, particularly those without cars to take them to commercial areas off campus, would greatly benefit by having more businesses on Franklin Street. There are a number of storefronts on Franklin Street that have been vacant for the past four years. These store fronts could house important venders and businesses including restaurants, drug stores, and clothing retailers. The economic development of Franklin Street would also create more jobs for students close to campus. As part of a push to bring more businesses to Franklin Street, J.J. will work with the Town of Chapel Hill to assess the impact of its economic development planning.

Lighting in Chapel Hill is a perpetual issue that impacts the safety of students and the safety of the streets they live on. J.J. will continue the tradition of holding lighting tours of Chapel Hill in order to pinpoint areas where lights need to be replaced or installed. This effort will factor in to larger efforts to address security concerns highlighted in the Off-Campus Safety Report or areas of persistent criminal incidents identified by mapping incidents in Chapel Hill.

Citizens of Chapel Hill have expressed a number of important concerns about the impact the plans to develop Carolina North will have on the environment of the surrounding community, and on transporting doctors to the hospital in emergency situations. These are important and legitimate concerns. The University has made a concerted effort to address these concerns in its planning for Carolina North. However, this situation still has the potential to put an incredible strain on the relationship between the University and the Town of Chapel Hill. J.J. will work with the Town of Chapel Hill and the University to resolve concerns over the development of Carolina North.


Logan Liles:

With Dormitories, a hospital, athletic facilities, and other amenities, it is easy to go long periods without leaving campus. Despite this, we can never forget that the University is in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill is gracious enough to tolerate a University while the University provides jobs and business to the town. This symbiotic relationship is important to both the town and students. Good relationships between students and the town are important to guarantee that the town offer services like free buses and low priced housing. As Student Body President, I will continue to foster good relationships between Students and local Residents though campaigns like the Good Neighbor Initiative.

The importance of civic involvement is unquestionable. As new participants in civic society, it is important that students are encouraged and participate. With such a large, significant, and captivating election in 2008, it is necessary to do everything to get students to vote. Logan Liles will work with Steve Allred, Special Assistant to the Provost, and student groups to Reinstitute polling place on Campus in 2008 as part of a large voter initiative.

Local elections have more immediate ramifications on Students then national elections. With this in mind, Logan Liles will Promote Voter Registration in Orange County to encourage student to vote and promote interest in local issues.

For all students, internships and training in their desired career field are ideal to sharpen the skills they will need after graduation. Currently, the Town of Chapel Hill offers various internships and positions for students to learn about government, policy making, and management at an intimate level. As Student Body President, I will Expand and Encourage participation in the Town Mentoring Program.

As our State, County and City struggle with a severe drought, it is important that we conserve water to reduce our environmental impact while conserving this vital resource. Logan Liles will Work with OWASA, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro to promote water conservation on and off campus to reduce the effects of the drought and plan for future droughts.

It is easy for the businesses on Franklin Street at the time of a student’s graduation to be very different from those when you first had orientation. Every semester new businesses replace failed companies. Often student patronage makes the difference between success and collapse. With students the lifeblood of most Franklin businesses, Logan Liles will Start a Student Development Council to promote a more vibrant Franklin Street. This is an exciting chance to bring together the Town, the Entrepreneurship Minor, the Business School, the Franklin Street Development Council, and others to more economically sustainable.

With over 28,000 students at UNC, and only room for 9,000 in campus housing, 3 out of every 4 students have to find a place off campus to live. Students are on shoestring budgets. Graduate and Professional Students along with some undergraduates have families to support. Therefore, it is difficult to ask students to pay exorbitant rents. With this in mind, Logan Liles will Advocate for affordable student housing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

With more students living off campus, Safety, especially at night is increasingly important. Last year, in a partnership with the town of Chapel Hill, we erected four new blue lights off campus. Blue lights though are not worth anything if they are not in proper working order. This year Logan Liles will Increase the number of blue lights while checking the current blue lights to make sure they work.

With 19,000 students off campus, our environmental impact goes greatly beyond campus. As a step to assure that we focus environmental efforts accordingly, Logan Liles will Guarantee that student housing complexes have recycling to diminish our impact on the environment.

Kristen Hill:

(Note: Kristen's platform does not explicitly mention town affairs, but the following two points from her environmental platform might be of interest...) 

Advocate for an Environmentally Friendly Carolina North
The development of Carolina North, opens up many opportunities to hit the ground running with green building and design. The Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee and Environmental Affairs Committee are already working to ensure a green Carolina North. Kristin will advocate for Carolina North construction practices that consider surrounding ecosystems, use natural resources responsibly, and implement green technology where feasible.

Green Ties with the Triangle Community
The Research Triangle Park is an area booming with green development and technology.  Kristin will promote campus collaboration with community businesses, co-ops, and local food providers.  She plans to work closely with Carolina Dining Services to continue and enlarge the on-campus farmer’s market, establish relationships with local businesses and food providers, and familiarize students with environmental organizations off campus.  She will encourage students and staff to visit local industrial and agricultural sites and to volunteer with government agencies and nonprofit organizations nearby.



Consecutive student elections gave us Brad Mathews, a key advocate of a fare-free bus system, and a student fee increase to help pay for a fare-free system. But in general, no, they don't matter.

Thanks for compiling this info, Jason. You're right I had no idea the SBP election was today, which is strange, I feel like I have been more aware of it in the past through mentions on facebook, other blogs, the DTH, etc.

It's great to see some of these candidate show so much concern for the surrounding community. I'm curious whether any of them have served on local advisory boards, attended meetings at town hall, or voted in municipal elections.

is very encouraging. Especially liked Kristen Hill's recognition of local agriculture as an important issue to UNC.

I just went to the DTH to see what the results were, and not only did I learn that J.J. Raynor was victorious, I learned that J.J. is a woman. How funny that from the name, that I pictured the candidate as a man.

I hope she'll let me ride the new C2C bus, even though I'm not a student anymore. And I look forward to hearing how she will "bring more business to Franklin Street" and "resolve concerns over the development of Carolina North." Sometimes an old problem needs new eyes I guess...



UNC Student Body elections are newsworthy not only to the DTH but throughout the local population. Elected student officials have the potential and the license to influence a larger constituency than the population of Carrboro! And their constituency includes University officials including the Chancellor, President, Faculty Council, and deans. Then these young leaders build careers on effective leadership. I feel optimistic reading this year's candidates' campaign platforms. I could name a few past UNC Student Body Presidents who continue to make a difference right here in the Triangle.

since it's been a LONG UNC student elections have

super-delegates or electoral colleges or anything other than

most-votes-win? do they vote online? use paper ballots?

back in the day, cuneiform was slow but reliable.

Your Vote Is Cast In Stone was a popular hieroglyphic phrase.


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