Student Body President candidates
vie for GLBT-SA's endorsement
Candidates Seke Ballard,
Leigha Blackwell, Seth Dearmin, and Tom Jensen. Photo by
By Win Chesson
As part of Ally Week, more
than 50 students crammed into a classroom in Murphey Hall as the
four student body president candidates sought the endorsement of the
GLBT-SA Feb. 1. Moderated by former GLBT-SA Treasurer Tommy Rimbach,
students asked candidates questions to determine their dedication to
the LBGTIQ community on campus. Participants were asked to avoid
national LGBTIQ issues and to limit questions to those specifically
relevant to campus LGBTIQ life. Topics ranged from candidates’
opinions on how to handle homophobia in the classroom to the alleged
record of queer-unfriendliness against Aramark, the campus dining
Another pressing question
was whether candidates would require their cabinet to be trained as
Safe Zone allies. Candidate Seth Dearmin, along with 12 of his
campaign staffers, had become Safe Zone certified the night before –
skipping the College Republicans SBP Forum to do so.
“As a result of being Safe
Zone trained and having members of my campaign team Safe Zone
trained as well, I see the need to make sure that more students,
faculty and staff are aware of and a part of this program,” said
Several GLBT-SA members felt
that this action, more than any other candidates’, represented why
Dearmin should have received the GLBT-SA endorsement.
“Seth Dearmin is the most
genuine candidate,” said senior John Hairston. “He proved his
dedication to the LGBTIQ community by forgoing the Young Repulicans
forum for ally training.”
Seke Ballard was the only
other Safe Zone certified candidate, having participated in the
program his first year at the University. While neither Leigha
Blackwell nor Tom Jensen had participated in a Safe Zone training,
both expressed interest in doing so.
“Although Jensen was not
Safe Zone trained at the time of the debate, he nevertheless hoped
to encourage not only student government members but all student
organizational leaders to participate in the program,” said Rimbach.
Blackwell was the only
candidate who said she would not require the entirety of her cabinet
to become trained.
As more and more campus
LGBTIQ issues surfaced throughout the forum, observers learned that
most students came to favor Jensen’s lengthy experience working
within the LGBTIQ community.
“Tom Jensen strongly
advocated for transgender issues, which are often ignored on the UNC
campus,” explained Rimbach after the endorsement. “As a candidate,
he was most supportive of our efforts to include gender identity and
gender expression in our University’s nondiscrimination policy, as
well as to designate gender-neutral bathrooms in campus classroom
buildings and residence halls.”
It became clear by the end
of the forum that votes were split between Jensen and Dearmin.
“Specifically in terms of a
pro-LGBT platform, I thought that Tom was the clear leader,” said
sophomore Patrick Lyons. “However, in terms of the best candidate
overall, I felt that Dearmin possessed the best qualities for a
student body president.”
A majority vote of those
present at the forum went to Jensen, earning him the official
endorsement of the GLBT-SA.
In addition to being an
active member in the Gay-Straight Alliance throughout his high
school career, Jensen spent last summer working to reelect Chris
Kolb, an openly gay Michigan state senator. Rimbach said that GLBT-SA
members recognized Jensen’s experience and background in gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues based upon this dedication.
Others felt that Jensen won
the endorsement with his response to a question about last
semester’s “Flaunt Your Sexuality Kiss-In.” The first to offer his
opinions on the Committee for a Queerer Carolina’s event, Jensen
expressed his approval by offering to kiss a person of the same
gender if a similar event were to occur. Dearmin suggested that he
would kiss Jensen should the opportunity present itself at the next
Kiss-In. Both received personal invitations to the Feb. 14 Kiss-In,
held one day before the run-off election between Ballard and Dearmin.
In the run-off, Dearmin
topped Ballard by a 3.2 percent margin, earning him the title of
student body president for the 2005-2006 school year.
“I’m looking forward to
working with the LGBTQ community to identify areas of particular
interest that are in need of change,” said Dearmin after his win.
“We all have to work together to ensure that every student feels
comfortable at UNC.”