Executive Remarks, Student Body President Lamar Richards
Board of Trustees Meeting, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Thank you, Chair Stevens, and thank you all. It’s an honor to serve Carolina as its new Student Body President and to have been sworn in to serve as the sole student member of this Board of Trustees — charged with representing the interests and beliefs of more than 30,000 of this University’s most central stakeholders — its students: undergraduate, graduate, and professional alike.
Furthermore, I am truly honored to have been sworn in this morning by former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley. I give my sincere thanks to Chief Justice Beasley for being a part of the ceremony, on this historic day as the first African American woman to serve our great state as Chief Justice.
A historic day, indeed. A historic day 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. This past year has challenged us to continue learning, grappling, leading, looking, and innovating towards tomorrow. Towards our collective tomorrow. A tomorrow that intentionally recognizes our shared past. That reckons with our shared history. But realizes tomorrow’s potential.
Walking into this new phase of my life, my wonderful team and I established several foundational pillars that will hopefully guide the work of Student Governance and the University at-large over the next century: those of collective belonging, effective governance, public good, expanding resources, and institutional advancement. It is my sincere hope to secure a Carolina that supports and enriches each and every one of its students — not just some. Not as an option, but rather as a mandate. A Carolina that is just, equitable, and inclusive in thought, yes, but also in intentional action.
It is this very spirit of action not of words, that I look forward to embodying and expecting this coming year. As we continue to blaze ahead into unknown territory, one thing remains certain now more than ever: the future of our University is not the result of any single person but rather the collective of many people working together for the good and betterment of the place we all love and cherish. The time has come to envision all that we can and should be.
It is time to grow and expand our professional and leadership development opportunities for our community members, especially my peers from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities. It is as such that my team and I look forward to finalizing the institution of our emerging leaders program to expose incoming first year students to the foundations of student governance, leadership, and professional development via cohort-style programming and engagement.
As a research university, it is time to improve and enhance student access to research opportunities. It is for this very reason that our administration will finalize implementation of a research scholars program, allowing underrepresented students access to paid research opportunities with UNC faculty mentors throughout the academic year.
It is also time to institute and forge forward in pursuing bold Academic Exclusion and Forgiveness Policies for students here at UNC Chapel Hill. No longer should UNC aim to “catch up” to its peer institutions when it comes to ensuring equitable academic forgiveness policies for its students, when peer institutions (even here in the UNC system) already have a successful version of an academic exclusion or forgiveness policy in place.
It is time for our graduate and professional students to not only receive their deserved representation on this very Board of Trustees, but also deserve a University that invests in raising graduate and professional stipends to livable wages. It’s why I am proud to be working alongside Neel Swamy, UNC’s Graduate and Professional Student Government President this year, to ensure that all graduate and professional students—regardless of what they are studying, what social identities they hold, or where they call home—are appropriately and equitably compensated for their scholarly contributions to our institution. Neel and I will also advocate to ensure that graduate and professional student voices are clearly and holistically represented in our institution’s decision-making spaces.
If there is one thing that we have learned from the past year, it is that flexibility, patience, and understanding are all virtues that one must hold, especially in navigating events as historic and inequitable as a global pandemic, as well as the ongoing hatred and bigotry in our state and across the country towards Black individuals, towards individuals in the Asian American community, towards our transgender friends and community members.
In stepping into this role, this task — I do so with grace and humility, recognizing that my job here is to not just be another Trustee, but to bring forward the perspectives, ideals, and thoughts of 30,000 individual people. Because that’s what we all are, individuals. Our communities are not monolithic and neither are our identities.
So, as I address you all today, I do so with a sense of pride in my peers who are so very intelligent and worthy of good and quality representation in both me and in their leadership.
In the midst of adversity upon adversity, it is time for our University to rise to the challenge. To lead by example. To be flexible, patient, understanding, and compassionate as students, faculty, and staff continue to navigate the far reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic into the summer, and during the next academic year.
As you can probably tell, I have a lot to say. In a world filled with uncertainty, I assure you that will remain constant as I attempt to do my best as the only student in this space. I hope we are able to work together to secure a better, brighter, tomorrow for all Tar Heels!
Thank you all once again. It is truly an honor to represent Carolina’s student body on this Board of Trustees. I pray for a promising and prosperous year ahead.