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March Meeting of the UNC Board of Trustees Remarks by Lamar Gregory Richards, Student Body President & Trustee

March 24, 2022

Office of the Student Body President and Undergraduate President

Suite 3109 Frank Porter Graham Student Union

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC 27514


March Meeting of the UNC Board of Trustees
Remarks by Lamar Gregory Richards, Student Body President & Trustee

March 24, 2021

 

Good Morning Colleagues of the Board and those in attendance,

As I reflect on my year as Student Body President there is only one word to describe this experience: blessed. I have been so truly blessed and fortunate to work alongside the most effective and talented colleagues while also having the distinct honor to represent the best student body on the face of the earth. So, yes, despite all of the challenges, adversity, hurdles, and headlines, I have been truly blessed to serve as our University’s 100th Student Body President.

So, today, since we heard a comprehensive and thoughtful presentation from Student Government yesterday, I figured I would deviate from speaking directly about our achievements and areas of improvement over the past year and, instead, speak to you all about my time visiting Stanford University last week.

While at Stanford, speaking about the success of our Richard Epps Emerging Leaders Program here at UNC and talking about ways of collaboration, I spoke to them about a concept that is ingrained in the work I’ve done over the past year of my term and should be ingrained in the work of every institution of higher education across the country – and that is, how do we support the wholeness of a student? How do we aid in the successful admission and retention of every single student, while bolstering our successes and continually addressing areas of weakness in tandem? And, while this sounds daunting, it’s honestly a simple question – how do we support the wholeness of a student?

What does it mean to revolutionize the Carolina experience so that every single student graduating from our university is empowered with the resources to become stewards of goodwill, upholders of democracy, and flamekeepers of our society? To be frank, it’s much easier said than done when you have to navigate the complex systems of shared governance – a term we say and write a million times a week, yet no single person knows the honest definition of what that truly means, including me.

Supporting the wholeness of each and every student means that our University must move away from the one-size-fits-all view on higher education and provide more modern and applicable opportunities for students to engage creatively alongside the University, both in the classroom and out. I have asked myself repeatedly how is it possible for UNC to have gone through periods of politically-charged scandal, extreme partisanship, negative and critical headlines, AND a global pandemic, how is it that this place has withstood all of that and is still remaining that shining beacon of light on the hill? It’s the students.

It’s the heartbeat of the first-year headed across campus for their first time, trying to find their classes; it’s the thrill of rushing Franklin Street for the first, or even second time, or the excitement of attending Fall Fest and registering for student organizations and events. And, yes, it’s the protests and advocacy and activism of this body of students that have also sustained the heartbeat of this great place.

There is so much more to our University than even what most people know; we’re more than a school for sports or a school with a billion-dollar research enterprise; we are the place where dreams are born, life-long friendships and marriages are cultivated, where the hopeless come to be revived and the creative comes to have their thirst quenched. Carolina is a special place for faculty, staff, alum, and the great state of North Carolina, but it is most special for the students that maintain the very flame of this university.

So, for those that didn’t know, I am a proud native of our sister state South Carolina and I figured, since we talk about North Carolina so much, and rightfully so, that I would bring forward something from my home state that has truly gotten through during my times of adversity and that is our state motto: which reads – while I breathe, I hope.

And I think this is how I would like to leave this role, with hope. A hope so everlasting and so sufficient that no matter what, I have faith in this place to focus, critically, on the wholeness of a student. And not just ask how do we get them here? Or even how do we keep them here? We, as a university, should be asking, how do we cultivate dynamic and thriving areas of student wellness, student success, and academic achievement? How do we bolster support for the social sciences and humanities while cementing our leading engagement in STEM? How do we address the critical pipeline and retention issues for graduate students of color by effectively paying them a livable wage? And, How do we create more intentional spaces of collaboration and where do we house these spaces permanently to ensure our university will always be a place where the richness of diversity, equity, and inclusion can flow into every decision we make?

While I, nor anyone here, has the answers to all of these questions – one thing is for sure, the answers start and stop with you, the trustees of our great University. You have inherited a task that many do not envy and even fewer truly grasp. So few understand the taxing, unpaid, labor that goes into this passion of love. Because I have to believe that’s why you all do this because you truly love this place. For whatever, divinely-ordered reason you ended up here and I have to believe that as a part of God’s larger plan, this is where you belong. You love this place, so in times of disagreement and untenable situations, and trust me there will be more than enough, remember that you all love this place, and no matter your differences or the situation at hand, you must always start and finish on that shared point – of your love for this place. And always renew your commitment to our Chancellor, his team, and the outstanding faculty, staff, and student leaders that support our University to carry out its mission, as they do every single day.

While I breathe, I hope. I hope for each of you, I hope for our students, and I hope that this special place, this shining beacon of light on the hill continues to be a place where dreams are realized. Thank you all for this amazing opportunity and my well-wishes are with each of you.

Student Body President Richards’ Letter to the Governance Committee – February 27, 2022

February 27, 2022

Office of the Student Body President and Undergraduate President

Suite 3109 Frank Porter Graham Student Union

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC 27514


Student Body President Richards’ Letter to the Governance Committee

February 27, 2022

 

Dear President Hans and Chair Powers,

I write to submit for further review and decision, a summary complaint of the actions that occurred at a candidates’ debate for the 2022 Student Body Presidential Election at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To begin, Chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees (hereinafter referenced as “the board”), Dave Boliek, led a discussion at our last meeting of the Board (Wednesday, January 26th – Thursday, January 27th), in which he, as Board Chair, made clear the expectation that trustees were not to get involved in the ongoing Student Body Presidential election. Chair Boliek subsequently reminded the Board of the happenings at our sister school, Eastern Carolina University, and the severe effects of interference from any members of the Board in the student-only election – a fact to which the board agreed, with no dissent from a single member.

Yet, even with this expectation in place and with Trustees being fully versed on prior happenings of interference throughout the UNC System, Trustee Marty Kotis joined the Student Body Presidential Debate on Monday, February 7th and asked questions of the candidates, relating to the Board, and, when candidates answered questions, he entered pointed, professionally inappropriate responses in the chat calling to question the answers provided by the candidates. Following the event, I received several written complaints from attendees, candidates, and moderators regarding the Student Body Presidential election that night, all affirming the fact that Trustee Kotis’ presence made them uncomfortable, was inappropriate, and they felt they could not answer questions truthfully nor interact with their peers because of him being there. Because of Trustee Kotis’ actions, we are now in a place where student engagement in the democratic process of the election of our Student Body President and the sanctity of the role itself are being called into question. His actions must be accounted for and he must be held responsible for this interference in the shared governance process.

I write first, to receive guidance on the appropriateness of the actions of Trustee Kotis. As a Trustee myself, I am expected to be held to a certain standard and to comply with, especially mutually agreed upon, board-wide expectations. While we have seen many actions of politically-motivated interference throughout our state, and certainly, throughout our University, I am not in the business of allowing my peers to feel threatened, unsafe, nor uncomfortable at the hands of a Trustee, who not only served as a Governor on the Board of Governors during the ECU incident, but also, like me, was in the room when we had the Board-wide discussion about not getting involved (in any capacity) in the Student Body Presidential Election.

In particular, I am most disappointed and concerned regarding Trustee Kotis’ flagrant and intentional disregard of the expectations set forward by Board Chair Boliek and his lack of regard for the long-term effects his interference will have on the student body of our great university. If a Trustee feels as though they can flagrantly disregard the foundational pillars of shared governance and attend a student-only debate, ask questions of student candidates, and push back when answers provided are not to his liking, I fear for what the future of our University and System looks like. I have heard, and read, repeatedly, members of the UNC System and Board of Governors deny direct (or associated) interference in the shared governance system at any of our 17 institutions. I wonder, then, how you might perceive the clear evidence of one of your former colleagues, and a current Trustee, directly interfering in the Student Body Presidential election by intimidating students at the debate and making many of my peers uncomfortable — even after being explicitly asked, by the Chair of our Board, to not interfere or involve themselves in the election in any way.

Per University-System Policy 200.7, upon receipt of this formal complaint, the Chair of the Committee on University Governance shall determine the next steps. I am asking, on the record, that you consider my words strongly as Trustee Kotis’ actions amount to a material violation of the responsibilities and expectations of Board members when interacting with students and representing this University – and therefore should result in his removal as a Trustee of our great University.

You will find attached, the official summary of what took place on the evening of Monday, February 7th, from the complaints submitted by students in attendance. I write this after having discussions regarding this matter with Chancellor Guskiewicz, Chair Boliek, and Trustee Kotis.

I look forward to your response.

Lamar

 

Download Letter to Governance here:

Letter to Governance Committee

The Commitment to Carolina is Live! – February 8, 2022

February 22, 2022

Office of the Student Body President and Undergraduate President

Suite 3109 Frank Porter Graham Student Union

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC 27514


The Commitment to Carolina is Live!

February 8, 2022

 

The Undergraduate Executive Branch of Student Government is proud to announce the launch of the Commitment to Carolina, a campaign that celebrates 100 years of the Executive function of student self-governance at UNC-Chapel Hill. The campaign will include a series of high profile events to raise funds for student-led initiatives, including but not limited to: the Richard Epps Emerging Leadership Program, the Distinguished Lectureship on Racial Equity and Belonging, and the UNC Center for Creative Leadership and Innovation. The Commitment to Carolina is supported by the UNC administration, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, UNC System President Peter Hans, former UNC Student Body Presidents, and UNC Student Government Alumni. 

The Richards Administration is committed to creating student-centered, student-focused, and student-driven programs, and the Commitment to Carolina will lay the foundation for the 100 years to come. Contributions made to student government allow for student leaders to creatively make changes on campus, and represent the voices of all who have attended our nation’s oldest public university. The funds raised by the campaign will grow and expand the opportunities available to UNC students, especially those who are historically marginalized and underrepresented. For more information, visit commitment.unc.edu.

Student Body President Richards’s Remarks at the Executive Branch Orientation – September 18, 2021

October 13, 2021

Executive Remarks, Student Body President Lamar Richards

Executive Branch Orientation

September 18, 2021


Transcript

Good Morning Everyone:

I wanted to quickly welcome everyone to our Fall 2021 Orientation and acknowledge the hard work of the Chief of Staff’s Office and Event Services that went into planning and coordinating today’s activities. 

As you all continue to navigate your roles, classes, internships and jobs, and any other extra-curricular and passion-driven activities, I encourage you to remember these words: real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determinations. John Garns said these exact words at the Annual Meeting of the Minds many years ago and I can’t help but to think these words are perfect for the events you will embrace today.

People often think when we inherit these large and public-facing roles that something about our DNA, our genetic-makeup, has predestined us to be a leader. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our ability to lead is not based upon who we are but rather who we aspire to be, collectively. 

Being a leader at this University comes with its own set of challenges. Complex issues everyday, in the classroom, on the job, and in simple interactions. These complex issues were not created by us, but it has become our duty to address them as best we know how. And there will be times where we fail, but understand that with everything, even failure, there is a lesson to be learned, plans to be amended, and a vision to be maintained.

As you all dedicate yourselves to doing the very important and timely work of this branch, understand that you each play a very crucial role in who we are as an organization. We move coherently together, to support each other, lift each other up, or simply to just be there for each other. It can seem intimidating to approach someone in a (“higher role”) than you, but trust me no such dynamic exists nor should it ever. 

I try my best to be approachable and I think the entire Executive Board will tell you that I am just as comical and goofy as the next guy. So, in saying this, I want to stress that while my obligation is to the 30,000 students of this University, my commitment to sound, principled leadership is to all of you. Please let me know if there is anything I can ever do to support you, professionally or personally. 

Finally, today is about forging a dynamic community and resilient network of like-minded, passion-driven, and equitable-leaders much like yourself, to aid and support each other in the large visions and dreams of this branch. There is not much we can do alone, and I’d have to argue that even if I could do it alone, its less fun. You are the living, breathing vision of this University and every day all of you inspire me to be and do better. Looking out at all of you one thing is very clear — You are the vision, you are the dream, and you are Carolina! 

Good morning and, again, welcome to Orientation!