WCU Student Government Association gets new leadership

The results are in. Ryan Hermance, last year’s Student Government Association vice president, will be WCU’s new SGA president.

According to preliminary results, 1,482 WCU students (15 percent) voted online or on campus for student body president, vice president and senate on April 8 and 9. The turnout surpassed last year’s 1,300 student votes, with sophomores leading the charge in this election cycle.

Hermence promises to lower tuition, promote SGA advocacy, and keep school safety “at A+ form.”

“My first priority is to keep tuition and fees as low as possible,” said Hermance. “I plan on going to the tuition and fees administration, find out what students want to keep increase as low as possible and make sure the rise goes to where students want.”

Following several recent reports of incidents of assault and attempted robbery on the WCU campus, as reported to the student body by university police via email, Hermance noted that campus safety is one of his concerns.

“As far as the rise on campus violence, generally senators write resolutions for more lighting in dark areas, blue lights,” Hermance said. “I am going to urge administration, the police department, and do master planning about what the school wants to see in the next five years.”

“The election process was very well-organized and put together,” said WCU student Darryl McIntyre, a first-time voter. “After voting it felt like I made a difference.”

To run for president or vice president, students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and 2.5 for the semester. They must hold a position in the senate for at least 2 semesters before running for president or vice president. Senators must have a 2.75 cumulative GPA. All candidates are required to answer a series of essay questions and apply at the SGA office.

Jack Stuart came out with a win over vice-presidential candidates Alex Wright and Daniel Riddell.

This year, candidates running for a seat in the senate were voted upon in a large group, something new that the elections committee is doing to make the process easier. Those who received the most votes then chose their own duties as senators.

Over 30 student candidates were up for a seat in the senate, with five freshmen emerging as winners.

The offices of SGA president, vice president and senate are all paid positions. See the full SGA budget here.

Immigration: What now?

By Ariel Rymer and Marysa Burchett

A controversial topic from the beginning of the election was, and still is, immigration. Now that the results are in and Obama has another four years, the Western North Carolina community gives their opinions on the future demographics and immigration reform.

“Hispanics and the Hispanic population traditionally should vote republican but do not because of the immigration issue, because most of them are socially conservative. They’re not really big into the government involved in their life,” said Jeremiah Mosteller, president of the Economics Club and member of the WCU College Republicans.

Pew Research Center said in a study that president Obama had 71% of Hispanic voters whereas Romney had only 27% of their vote. Due to the Democrats’ stance on immigration and immigration reform, it challenges the Republican Party to capture the Hispanic voters. This seems to be a reoccurring issue for the GOP and will be for the next elections to come.

Todd Collins, Director of WCU's Public Policy Institute. Photo by Ben Haines.

“The demographics of the country are changing. Even on election night, you had some of the Republican Party saying, ‘we can’t be a party of just one particular race. We have to be more open in terms of gender issues and in terms of immigration issues.’ They are going to have to open up some of their policies and be more moderate in some of these stances,” said Dr. Todd Collins, professor at the WCU political science department. “There is some movement in the Republican party which hasn’t been there in the last several years to create some pathways that will help out with this [immigration].” Collins thinks that the GOP will begin to moderate their stances on immigration, because of the results of the election.

“As the demographics are changing, the Republican Party will either change or lose,” said Political Science and Public Affairs department head, Dr. Chris Cooper. He agrees with Collins on the fact that Republicans need to moderate on the issue of immigration.

Lacey Mann, a junior who voted for Obama says that if the person has documentation and a green card she does not mind if they stay. But if they are undocumented they need to leave.

Mary Breaker referenced the movie “A day without Mexicans” as an example of the effects of an exodus of illegal immigrants.

“I do not think that kicking them out is the answer because they are willing to do jobs that Americans do not want. Examples of positions that immigrants are willing to take are cook, maid, or nanny jobs,” she said.

President Obama implemented a new program this summer called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, (DACA) which initiates a temporary authorization for a legal status. If the individual qualifies, they will receive a 2-year grace period that will allow them to possibly obtain a social security number and work in hopes to continue their life in the United States.

The Obama administration is attempting to pass a bill by the name of the “DREAM Act.” DREAM stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors and was originally introduced in the early 2000s but it never passed. This piece of legislation offers a permanent residency after 2 years of serving in the military or receiving a college education.

Melanie Mace, an immigration lawyer of Waynesville, NC, has already seen well over 100 people apply for the deferred action. She thinks DACA is a Band-Aid to the real problem of immigration. Mace said the Obama administration would push forward with the DREAM act but would like to see a serious comprehensive immigration reform.

“I think the DREAM act is one the first comprehensive pieces of legislation on immigration that you can get a majority of people to agree to because it is a specific target of people,” said WCU alum, Andy Miller, former member of College Democrats.

Students of Latin American Student Organization (LASO) of WCU feel that the DREAM act should be implemented because it is a more stable option for their friends and family.

Both Collins and Cooper think that Obama will push forward with the DREAM act in hopes to accomplish his goals and to make a lasting legacy.

With contribution from Marquis Emmerson

WCU students: “Why I voted”

Hear what students at Western Carolina University say about why they voted in the 2012 presidential election and how they think President Barack Obama’s re-election will affect them.

Shot by Anthony Bouthillette, Heath Brown, Jenna Englert, Tanner Morris, Pratana Muong, Sherry Rigby, Janson Silvers, Michael Smith, and Jarrett Wilson.  Reporters: Alisha Lambert, Ariel Rymer, Rebbeca Ziglar, and Marquis Emmerson. Edited by Ben Haines. Special thanks to Gabe Nucci.

This story was produced with assistance from the WCU Citizenship and Civility Committee.

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Election Day 2012 in North Carolina
Strong turnout in Cullowhee precinct

Strong turnout in Cullowhee precinct

Today is the day that determines the next four years for our country’s government. The polls of Jackson County have been open since 6:30 a.m. this morning having students, teachers, residents, etc. of the Cullowhee precinct voting.

Outside the recreational center are democrats and republicans helping campaign for each side. First Vice Chairman of the Jackson County GOP, Jim Mueller was out in front hoping to talk to people about their vote.

“We are hoping we’ll hit 1,000 [voters]. At 10 o’clock, we had 214,” said Chief of Justice Robert Shelton on the projected number of people to come in and vote.

At noon there were over 400 people that voted.

Cullowhee precinct has over 6,000 voters this election, and 2,068 voted early according to Shelton.

Volunteer, Jessica Green, helps first time voter. Photo by: Marysa Burchett

Mindy Mudge, a volunteer at the precinct, said she has seen a good turn out and expects to see more voters as the day goes on and people are able to come.

The first voting shuttle van that was giving rides for students to the rec center from the University Center arrived around 9:45 a.m. and dropped off three students. As the shuttle kept coming approximately every 20 minutes, the number of students stayed steady with student voters.  The shuttle will run until 7 p.m.

“I’m doing it (driving) because it is something that needs to be done,” said Kaleb Ticknor, a volunteer shuttle van driver and the head of the Honors College Voter Initiative.

During the ride, he explained the process of voting. “It is an electronic panel to vote. The first one that is up is the president and then you have option of a straight ticket. If you vote for a straight ticket, that does not vote for president.” The straight ticket allows you to vote on the rest of the ballot as Democratic, Republican or Libertarian.

Those that did not vote early and came to the rec center instead were very hesitant to talk about their choices. When asked how they felt after they voted and many were indifferent or impartial. One student said it felt like an accomplishment, getting it done.

Voters in the gym of Jackson County Rec Center. Photo by: Marysa Burchett

“I voted for Romney because of three things: Obama is for abortion, not with Israel and for gay marriage. I didn’t vote for local people and left it blank because I didn’t know who they were,” said Josh Davis, a WCU senior.

Roderick Wilson would not disclose whom he voted for but is excited to hear the results.

Michael To is a campus organizer from Cleveland, Ohio who works for North Carolina Public Interest Research Group(NCPIRG), which has a partnership with the Center for Service Learning. His job is to make sure that students get registered and then out to vote. He joined Ticknor every so often making his way through the rec center and back to the UC to assure students are voting.

Revving up for Election Day

American and North Carolina state flags outside the Jackson County Justice Center. Photo by Ben Haines.

Tomorrow is finally the day.

After a contentious campaign season marked by a whirlwind of advertising and controversy, the 2012 United States presidential election is this Tuesday, Nov. 6.

A CNN national poll released today shows a statistical dead heat between incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

WCU’s CatTran shuttle service will transport voters to the Jackson County Recreation Center, Cullowhee’s polling location. The shuttles will collect passengers at the CatTran stop behind the A.K. Hinds University Center on Memorial Drive and will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

As of Oct. 30, there are 27,847 registered voters in Jackson County. Of those, 11,290 are registered Democrats, 9,370 are unaffiliated, 7,101 are Republicans, and 86 are registered as Libertarians.

Women outnumber men among registered Jackson County voters, 14,241 to 12,296.

Early voting in North Carolina ran from Oct. 18 to Nov. 3. According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, 9,056 Jackson County voters cast early ballots this year, a 10 percent decrease from the county’s early voting numbers in 2008.

Carolina Public Press: WNC early voters fail to surpass 2008 level

If you’re registered to vote, make your voice heard tomorrow.

Third party presidential debate offers unheard voices, other choices

More than two candidates are running for President of the United States in 2012. Photo by Ben Haines.

The day after Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney debated for the third and final time, four lesser-known third-party presidential candidates convened in Chicago for a debate at the Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

The four candidates included Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.

The debate was sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation and broadcast on C-SPAN. Larry King and Christina Tobin served as moderators.

“I think these people deserve all the credit for coming forward,” King said of the four candidates in the beginning of the debate. “It’s easy to sit back and watch. These people stand up.”

“They may not be counted on November 6, but they’re counting today and they deserve to be heard,” King added.

Six questions were gathered from public submissions through social media. Every candidate had two minutes to answer each question followed by optional one-minute rebuttals.

The debate covered familiar issues like education and foreign policy as well as topics not often addressed by the Romney and Obama campaigns, including the war on drugs, the implications of a two-party government system, and the National Defense Authorization Act.

Our electoral system

The first question sought the candidates’ positions on Top Two primary systems, in which candidates choose their own party labels on ballots instead of being nominated and only the two candidates that receive the most votes in a primary appear on the ballot in the November election. Louisiana, Washington, and California currently use this system and it is now a ballot measure in Arizona, Prop 121.

Stein denounced Top Two as obscuring the meaning of independent political parties that “aren’t bought and sold to the highest bidder.” She recalled an Oct. 16 incident outside Hofstra University, just hours before the second debate between Obama and Romney, in which she and running mate Cheri Honkala attempted to enter the debate hall and were arrested by police after sitting in the street and refusing to move.

“We were tightly bound with plastic restraints and tied to chairs for eight hours for daring to stand up and demand open debates,” Stein said.

Long Island Report: Green Party protesters led away by police at Hofstra Debate

Goode agreed with Stein about the Top Two system enhancing those with the most money. He added that he is against political action committees as well as public financing in elections.

Goode criticized “$100 million of taxpayer money” funding the Democratic and Republican national conventions this year. The Washington Post reported after the debate that each convention actually received $68 million in taxpayer money – $50 million for security and $18 million for additional costs including food, hotel rooms, confetti, and liquor.

Though Johnson opposed Top Two primary systems, he cautioned that they should be removed at the local or state level, not the federal level. “I’ve always been pro-choice regarding everything,” he said.

On the subject of campaign contributions, Johnson asserted that political candidates should be required to wear “NASCAR-like jackets” with patches representing their sponsors.

Anderson said it is already difficult to get on the ballot and Top Two systems continue “the degradation of our democracy by this duopoly of the Republican and Democratic parties.”

“We need public financing of elections for our democracy,” said Anderson. “We need free and equal access to our airwaves.”

War on drugs

Three of the four candidates sharply criticized the war on drugs.

Gary Johnson served as Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003.
Photo source: garyjohnson2012.com

Johnson claimed that 90 percent of the drug problem in America is prohibition-related, not use-related, and called for the sale of marijuana to be regulated and taxed.

“I am not a hypocrite on this issue. I have drank alcohol. I’ve smoked marijuana,” Johnson said, clarifying that he no longer partakes in either substance. “In no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol.”

Johnson decried the U.S. having the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world with more annual arrests for drug-related crime than any other violation.

Anderson called the war on drugs catastrophic and insane. He pledged to entertain pardons for anyone in federal prison convicted of drug offenses with no other criminal history.

Anderson referred to the case of Weldon Angelos, a Utah man currently serving a 55-year federal prison sentence for selling marijuana on three occasions, despite having no prior criminal record. Though Judge Paul Cassell disagreed with the sentence and called for President George W. Bush to pardon Angelos, federal code mandated the minimum sentence because the police informant in the case testified that Angelos possessed a firearm during the drug transaction, even though he never brandished it.

Stein cited her 25 years as a practicing medical doctor. She described marijuana as “not dangerous at all” and called for its legalization.

“Marijuana is a substance that is dangerous because it’s illegal,” Stein said, contending that the biggest health risks related to marijuana are the public health and safety impacts associated with prohibition.

Goode made it a point to clearly contrast himself with the other three candidates.

“Let’s be clear about my position on this,” Goode said. “I’m not for legalizing drugs. If you want that, vote for one of them, don’t vote for me.”

Goode pledged to cut federal spending in the war on drugs but argued that it is currently a minor part of the overall federal budget. He maintained that drug use is a state issue rather than a federal issue.

Foreign policy

Asked what role the U.S. military should play worldwide and if an annual budget of nearly $1 trillion is necessary to keep America safe, Goode made it clear that he supports a strong defense but said the United States should not try to be the overseer of the world.

Virgil Goode served as U.S. Representative of Virginia's 5th District from 1997 to 2009.
Photo source: gcva.us

“Our bases need to be reduced around the world, not increased,” Goode said. “That will save us billions and billions of dollars.”

Goode vowed to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan and not send the military into any country, including Syria, unless Congress issues a formal declaration of war.

Stein called for the U.S. to lead the development of an international treaty and convention to ban the use of drones as a weapon of war and a means of spying on the American public.

“Dropping bombs on weddings and funerals, which is what drones do with an incredibly high civilian casualty rate,” said Stein, “is not a good way to win the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East.”

Anderson noted two fundamentals of military engagement that he would abide by: no wars without first being attacked or having an imminent threat of attack, and the decision to go to war must belong to Congress. “To attack and occupy another country like we did Iraq is an illegal war of aggression,” he said.

Anderson slammed congressional Republicans and Democrats who approve wasteful defense spending under the influence of private military contractors and subcontractors.

Johnson pledged to submit a balanced budget to Congress in 2013 with a 43 percent cut in military spending that would include an end to military intervention and drone strikes.

Explaining his opposition to bombing Iran, Johnson claimed “the largest demonstration in the world in support of the United States after 9/11 was in Iran by over one million citizens that showed up in support of the United States.”

The Washington Post reported that no media record of such a pro-American demonstration by over one million Iranians exists and that the Johnson campaign did not provide them with an example.

Higher education

The four candidates were split evenly regarding what the government should do to provide more people with access to higher education.

Rocky Anderson served as Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, from 2000 to 2008. Photo source: voterocky.org

Anderson noted that free secondary education was enough when the country was founded but argued that free and equal educational opportunity in colleges and technical schools is necessary today.

“This is not a radical idea,” Anderson said. “It’s done in many parts of the world and it pays off huge dividends.”

Stein called the younger generation America’s greatest resource and said a college education is essential for economic security in the 21st century. She argued that the economy must be rebooted by fresh genius with every generation.

“That doesn’t happen when a generation is locked into being indentured servants,” Stein contended. “That’s what our students are now. We need to bail them out and create free public higher education.”

Conversely, Johnson claimed that college tuition is high because of guaranteed government student loans.

“If kids would take a harder look at it, ’Gee, I don’t think I can afford $15 thousand a semester, I think I’ll just sit this one out,’” Johnson said, “when that happens en masse, I guarantee you the cost of college tuition will drop dramatically.”

Johnson cited his establishment of lottery scholarships in New Mexico as an equal-access alternative to government-funded education.

“We can’t afford more federally subsidized student loans and we can’t afford more Pell grants,” Goode stated. He maintained that balancing the federal budget and reducing debt is the most important thing for the economy.

Goode likened Stein and Anderson to Obama and Romney, referring to the Democratic and Republican candidates’ promises during previous debates to expand federal student loans and Pell grants.

“You’ve got four candidates you can look to if that’s your big issue,” Goode said to the audience during his rebuttal.

Civil rights

The candidates discussed their stances on Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, the ability to indefinitely detain any person, including American citizens, who is deemed part of or working with terrorist organizations. The provision is a reaffirmation of presidential authority outlined in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists that was passed by Congress in 2001 three days after 9/11.

Jill Stein graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1979.
Photo source: jillstein.org

This topic had the candidates in such agreement that none of them followed up with a rebuttal.

“This is unallowable and is a basic offense against the very foundation of American liberty and it should be repealed,” declared Stein. She also called for a repeal of the 2001 Patriot Act which was extended by President Obama in 2011.

“We need to stop the persecution of whistleblowers who blow the whistle on crimes by our government,” Stein added.

Anderson criticized then-Sen. Obama’s 2008 decision to reverse his opposition to legislation supported by President Bush that provided legal immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration’s domestic wiretapping program.

The New York Times: Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity

“What we have seen through the Bush years and now with President Obama has been absolutely subversive and anti-American,” said Anderson. “If one person can determine against whom and under what conditions laws passed by Congress and our Constitution are going to be applied, that spells tyranny.”

Goode kept his answer short and simple. “If I were president, I would have vetoed NDAA,” he said.

Johnson also said he would have vetoed the bill. He proceeded to cite a 2011 report by the American Civil Liberties Union that rated presidential candidates on a scale of 0 to 24 “liberty torches,” in which Johnson received the highest score with 21. Stein, Anderson, and Goode were not featured in the report.

Your own constitutional amendment

The final question challenged the candidates to consider a hypothetical situation in which they could write one amendment to the U.S. Constitution, absolutely guaranteed to be ratified by Congress and three-quarters of the state legislatures.

“I’ve already written it,” Anderson answered. “It’s the new equal rights amendment promising that equal rights under the law will never be abridged on account of gender or sexual orientation.”

“I do think it would pass if the people made it clear that we insist upon it and there will be a heavy political price paid by anybody in Congress or in the White House who opposes it,” said Anderson.

Goode stressed the importance of an amendment mandating term limits for senators and representatives. He cited his 12 years of experience as a U.S. representative and argued that term limits would change “a Congress that is always worried about the next election instead of what’s best for the country.”

“If we could get it through the House and the Senate, it would go like a knife through hot butter of the state legislatures,” Goode said.

Johnson also called for outlining term limits in the Constitution. He described politicians who say and do whatever it takes to get re-elected as “the root of all evil.”

Johnson expressed regret over not pushing the envelope more during his first term as New Mexico’s governor but said having a two-term limit motivated him to do whatever he could to help the state during his second term. “Politicians would get elected and do the right thing,” according to Johnson, if they knew their time in office could not go beyond one term.

Stein cautioned that term limits would not stop corporations from buying candidates and swaying election outcomes in the first place. She called for a constitutional amendment clarifying that money is not speech and corporations are not people.

“In stealing our rights of personhood, corporations have done exactly that,” Stein said. She pledged to support an amendment “to get our constitutional rights back from the corporations that have seized them.”

The entire 2012 third party presidential debate is viewable on YouTube, presented by Ora TV.

The next debate between Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will take place Monday, November 5 at 9 p.m. in Washington, D.C. The event was scheduled for Tuesday, October 30 but was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy, according to The Washington Times. The debate will be streamed live on the Free and Equal organization website.