Executive Remarks, Student Body President Lamar Richards
Board of Trustees Meeting, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Thank you, Chair Boliek. I am continuously grateful to be leading a student body of over 30,000 talented, curious, and passion-driven students – undergraduate, graduate, and professional alike. As we continue to navigate an ongoing global pandemic, I remain constantly invested in ensuring our students have equitable advocacy and fair representation in all spaces critical to the quality function of our University. As we sat and discussed Delegated Authorities yesterday and heard from University Counsel, Finance and Operations, Academics, I could not help but think about the authorities delegated to the self-governing students of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We have a student conduct system that is completely student-run, a Student Fee Audit Committee that oversees student fee raises, decreases, and implementation, over 145 different governing committees and groups with student representation, and two legislative bodies that appropriate over five hundred thousand dollars to hundreds of student groups on campus each year — all overseen by a Student Body President that is a full-voting member of the Board of Trustees. This is the true idea of self-governing students who, in the face of adversity, continue to persevere and remain resilient.
Both the Undergraduate and Graduate & Professional Student Governments have been hard at work with ensuring students have quality, effective advocacy through new exciting and innovative ideas. I’ll briefly speak on a few today, the Richard Epps Emerging Leaders Program, named after the first Black Student Body President of UNC, is a new emerging leaders program dedicated to providing first-year and transfer students from historically marginalized communities with leadership development, professional development, career counseling, access to service-learning projects across the state of North Carolina, and a paid Summer internship experience.
Through support of the Office of the Provost and Chancellor’s Office, the Student Government will be, for the first time, sponsoring the Distinguished Lectureship on Racial Equity and Belonging — inviting a talented, renown scholar to Carolina each year to help us in confronting and grappling with our colorful past and racial history. And most importantly, offering the Carolina community bold and exciting ideas about how to these pressing issues.
The Graduate and Professional Student Government, hosted a successful Town Hall on COVID-19 policies with Dr’s Amir Barzin and Audrey Pettifor last week and their gracious President, Neel, led a dedicated team of students from across campus in presenting a proposal to Vice Chancellor Knuffman and Chancellor Guskiewicz on the Campus Safety and Security Student Fee increase handed down by the BOG.
And finally, I’d like to mention and acknowledge that for the first time in recent history UNC’s Student Government was asked to host the 2021 ACC Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, featuring the best student leaders from across the ACC’s schools. This is something we are excited to do alongside NC State.
With all of this, one thing is for sure — the 300+ students in all of the student government, much like all of our campus, are hard at work, each day, on behalf of the students of Carolina. But, I want to be clear, in that our mandate, as student leaders, while often complex, is clear — we serve and protect the interests of the students of the university and by extension, the University at-large. We are vital and crucial members of the shared governance system at UNC, as are faculty, staff, community members and this very body.
I want to take my final moments to speak about me and the Chancellor’s relationship. As I mentioned earlier, things are often very complex and this is one of those very things. While our mission is in alignment, we often have different constituencies and governing bodies to which we are responsible. This is not atypical for a Student Body President and the Chancellor of a University. While he and I may not always agree, I think I speak for the both of us when I say we do our best to work in tandem on behalf of all of the students of this University and navigate complex situations together. And when we cannot, there is a respect for the process of which we must take to move forward productively.
It is in this spirit of productivity, inclusion, belonging, and forging new, dynamic relationships that I commit for the remainder of my term and time at Carolina. And I hope that this body will join me in uplifting and empowering this very important and timely work.