New UNC System Student Body President announced; UNCW not involved in the vote

Casey McAnarney | News Editor

At a gathering of the UNC school system’s Association of Student Governments at Appalachian State University this past weekend, the ASG named North Carolina State University sophomore Madeline Finnegan the next president of the association, however UNC Wilmington was not involved in the vote.

“I attended the North Carolina School of Science and Math for 11th and 12th grade, and while I was there I served as an ASG delegate from NCSSM,” said Finnegan on how she first got involved in ASG. “Last year, I was the Associate Vice President of Budget and Finance… and this year am the Vice President of Budget and Finance.”

Finnegan chose to run for the position of president of UNC ASG because she was inspired by the ways in which campuses come together to share similar experiences and utilize ASG as a platform from which to benefit all UNC system students.

“In my three years with ASG, I have seen the potential for our organization as a true force of advocacy on the local, state and federal levels,” said Finnegan.

And this potential for ASG becoming a force for advocacy comes during a time in which students and student governments alike are objecting certain acts of NC political officials.

With not only the recent protests that occurred across the state in objection to Margaret Spellings’ first day in office as president of the UNC system as well as the motions by SGA organizations to contest the now enacted voter ID law, Finnegan and her senior vice president, North Carolina Central University’s Ezzard Pickett, step into a controversial time for the system.

“It’s no secret that this year has been controversial for the Board of Governors, specifically for Margaret Spellings as she has entered her role as our UNC System President,” said Finnegan. “As the lone student representative on the Board of Governors this coming year, I plan to serve as the voice of all students. I represent protestors as much as I represent all of the students in our system.”

Also recognizing the need to communicate effectively with the Board of Governors, Finnegan said this year she intends to work with members of the BOG and President Spellings to discuss common goals for bettering the UNC system.

Some of the issues Finnegan hopes to focus on this year specifically include to be engaged in voter advocacy, mental health, sexual assault prevention, and diversity and inclusion.

Finnegan wants to work with organizations specializing in voter registration, education and mobilization to get our students to the polls this fall as well as work to compile information from each campus about counseling services, mental health resources and judiciary policies regarding sexual assault so that specific areas where the system needs improvements can be addressed.  

She hopes to bring an “assertive student voice” into conversations with Board members about the ways in which the student experience across the UNC campuses in the midst of controversy and budget cuts can be improved.

However, an assertive UNCW student voice was missing from the past two meetings for the UNC system ASG.

“Yes, for the last two months, UNCW did not send a delegation to the meeting,” said UNC ASG Campus Liaison Joseph Herlihy. “It was mainly due to a lack of communication as to who was going to attend, and myself not wanting to make those four and five hour drives respectively alone with no other delegates accompanying me.”

Herlihy’s position was created to be responsible for being at the ASG meetings each month as a part of their school’s delegation, to report to the association about issues their campus is having, and try and work with the representatives from the other campuses to hopefully find solutions to problems on the liaison’s respective campus.

This is a duty that in previous years had fallen to the student body president or vice president, and works for universities like NCSU where the president emails the student body on a weekly basis to share information with them. However, this does not work so well in UNCW’s case.

“Despite requesting similar email privileges with administrators here on the UNCW campus,” said UNCW Nontraditional Senator Steven Núñez, “We don’t have that ability so we simply rely on our senators to relay the information to their constituencies directly, which might result in a breakdown in communication.”

Núñez went on to explain how this break in communication led to the now instituted new campus liaison role.

“I was very disappointed in President Dan McCord and the rest of the UNCW SGA for not sending a delegation to vote on this matter,” said Núñez. “Because I cannot participate in debate or vote, [and because of] their lack of commitment and dedication to ‘represent the voice and vision,’ UNCW had no representation in the selection of the one seat of the Board of Governors that we students control. Even North Carolina School of Science and Math (the only high school in the system) managed to send a 4-person delegation.”

Regardless of the issue of UNCW delegates present at meetings, Finnegan said that UNCW is consistently “great” when they come to ASG meetings and that she looks forward to working with McCord later this year.

President McCord shared this sentiment and said that he trusts Finnegan to do well as president.

And, although Núñez agreed with McCord on the fact that Finnegan will succeed as president, he asked after situations like these that students be vigilant over the actions of those they elect.

“[Because] campuses are the most local form of government in a student’s life, I would recommend that [students] begin holding their elected representation accountable for their action or inaction,” said Núñez.