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Executive Remarks, Student Body President Lamar Richards

Board of Trustees Meeting, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thursday, July 15, 2021


Transcript

Thank you, Chair Boliek. You know — recently, I’ve found myself reflecting quite a bit. And when I think about all that has happened in the short time since the beginning of my tenure as Student Body President — I think of those I was charged to represent — I think of our underrepresented and marginalized communities — I think of our Black, Asian-American, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities — but I also think of the future of the University we all know and love.

I think further about the example that we set for those that come after us. I think about the example that this Board sets. The example that we must set — not only for the UNC System — not only for the State of North Carolina — but for the spirit of higher education — for the spirit of an authentic public education — of, by, and for the people.

In reflecting on all that has happened in the past few weeks, we saw students, faculty, and staff come together — stand together — rally together in securing academic freedom — in securing the freeflow of academic perspective and scholarly thought. We must continue to stand with an even stronger resolve when it comes to the intentional work that remains ahead. The work of ensuring the academic integrity of our community moving forward — understanding that the example we set is defined by our willingness to secure a Carolina that ensures equity.

I often think about the fact that this institution — our institution — the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — was not built for people that look like me — rather, it was built by people that look like me, my family, and peers.

It is clear — now more than ever before — that as a community, we must continuously hold leadership across our state accountable. We can not and must not accept political partisanship, maneuvering, or interference at our home — in our house. External influence must have no place and no say in our sacred framework of shared governance, nor in our mission of securing scholarship, excellence, and innovation at Carolina — our nation’s oldest public university. 

As I learned from my late grandmother: perspective matters. Words matter. But our actions matter more. Doing what is right, however, matters most. We cannot operate nor govern with the guise of “compromise” serving as the solution to the inequities at the core of our institution — or as an excuse for inefficient, meaningless reform. Doing what is right often is not easy — it does not always come with reward — it may actually come with a burden attached — a burden, however, that we must commit to carrying forward.

A central component of our University’s mission is to “foster the success and prosperity of each rising generation.” I say to this Board today that there can be no promise of prosperity — there can be no unrelenting support for my generation or those that follow — without the acknowledgement of the foundation of this university and its past, and a commitment — firm and unyielding — to ensuring a space where all Tar Heels — present and future alike — students, faculty, and staff alike — feel safe and welcome.

It is this commitment that is necessary and required. We must strive not to create a University that students change who they are to fit within, but a Carolina that is worthy of the opportunity in itself to empower its students to be who they aspire to be.

With the start of the new academic year quickly approaching — with thousands of my peers preparing to return to Chapel Hill in a few short weeks — my team and I have been rigorously designing, executing, and implementing initiatives bolstered by our foundational pillars — those of collective belonging, effective governance, public good, expanding resources, and institutional advancement. 

Each and every day, we commit to grappling with our University’s colorful past — centering racial equity and belonging efforts — to uplifting and empowering marginalized campus communities — to developing and supporting the next generation of student leaders. 

We commit to continuously advocating for graduate and professional students here at Carolina. I will say again — as I have said in the past — that it is beyond time for our graduate and professional students to receive their deserved representation within our University community. It is time for our University to invest in raising graduate and professional stipends to livable wages and offering equitable academic and financial support. 

As we look towards the future — our future — we must reflect, however, on the past year. Students have had to change the way we learn — the way we live, adapt, and overcome. In a year where so many community members learned to put the collective good — the safety and wellbeing of others — above our individual needs — this year, I ask our University and this Board to strive to cultivate a Carolina with this in mind — a Carolina that is student-centered. Student-focused. Student-driven.

As Student Body President, I am truly proud of my team’s work and dedication thus far. I’m proud of the vision we have begun to construct of a more equitable Carolina — a more accountable Carolina — one that is truly capable of and is worthy of serving our students, faculty, staff, and community. Upon reflecting on the past few weeks and months, however, I recognize that both my amazing team and I have only just begun the work we aim to do—we have only just begun. I ask that you all — as I approach you all with student initiatives moving forward — support me in reaching out and connecting with students on campus in addressing our campus climate — together — united.

Thank you.

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