Cheers rang out Tuesday night in Chapel Hill and Roxboro as Ashton Martin and her friends learned she was elected the next student body president of the University of North Carolina.
Martin will serve the nearly 30,000 study body on UNC’s campus from April 2019-April 2020.
“On election day at some point all of us cried so the pressure was kind of high, I think. We all agree it was definitely worth it for that moment of relief when we found out that we had won,” said Martin.
Martin assumes the role at a time of significant upheaval on the Chapel Hill campus. Protesters tore down the Silent Sam statue on campus, citing its racist history and former Chancellor Carol Folt’s plan to build a new building on campus to house the statue drew both praise and scorn. She later had the pedestal that the Silent Sam statue stood upon removed without telling trustees. She announced its move at the same time she announced her resignation. The university’s board of trustees is charged with nominating a successor. As student body president, Martin will serve as an ex officio member of that board.
Martin, a junior, beat another junior, Jane Tullis, with 51.8 percent of the vote.
According to reports in the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, it was a contentious race in which one candidate was disqualified and the other two faced accusations of inappropriate behavior.
However, through it all, Martin stayed grounded in her foundation and came out on top.
“My time in Roxboro really helped me more than anything. It helped me knowing that people in Roxboro and my family were supporting me more than anything. That really helped me stay afloat,” said Martin.
In September, Martin made a snap decision to run for student body president.
“I hadn’t thought about it until the third week of September when someone suggested that maybe I should run. I started thinking about it and I really made the decision to run I think on September 29 and then on the first started reaching out to a couple of people that I knew I wanted on my team, so we started there,” said Martin.
On Oct. 1 Martin began privately campaigning, reaching out to individuals to start building her team meeting and reaching out to organizations to build her network.
On Jan. 29, she made an official announcement about her candidacy.
“I gathered my team in a room in what we called a launch party and then we all started posting on social media,” said Martin.
Martin and her team’ campaign strategy was to focus on making UNC feel like home again for students. Her campaign slogan, “For Our Home” reflected that blueprint.
“We talked about what we wanted to focus our campaign on and we decided to focus on this idea of home so Carolina is a place that I really felt at home but I realized that there were institutions and policies and cultural things in place that were keeping a lot of students from making their home here, so I wanted to reach out to those people to make sure that their concerns were being heard figure out what it was that was keeping them from making this place their home because everyone deserves to have their voice heard,” said Martin.
Martin pulled from her own experience when she arrived to UNC campus as a freshman.
“I was really used to being a big fish in a small pond over at (Roxboro Community School) and then I came to the biggest pond I ever seen and I was a really small fish so to get to this place in three years is honestly incredible but I think that I can do a really good job at representing the student body here,” said Martin.
Martin offers advice to those who are hesitant to take that leap of faith and run for elective office.
“I would say just take the leap and do it. I was definitely very afraid and still afraid in moving forward but if you believe in your abilities to help someone else I think you just need to do it. The fear will always be there. It never goes away, but the opportunity is so much greater than any fear,” said Martin.