Q&A with Executive Committee Vice President Helen Gray Dunnavant

Dunnavant is a third-year law student serving her second term on the EC


Jillian Gallardo

Q: What should first-year voters consider when selecting their EC representative?

A: “I think the misconception is that elections like this are a popularity contest. When I was running for my officer position, I knew very few people on the undergraduate campus. I’d like to believe that people elected me because I’ve been on the EC, and I had all these other ideas I articulated. I would tell them to listen to what the candidates are saying and to be thoughtful in their selection. I told all of my friends this: don’t vote for someone just because they’re your friend.”

Q: How do you find yourself making the hard decisions within the EC?

A: “I often find myself having this whole roller coaster of different thoughts and opinions until I finally come to my decision. In the end, you have to make the decision that’s right, and sometimes that decision is, you know, kind of painful because no one wants to ask a fellow community member to leave the university, but it’s warranted and you have to be able to carry it out to be on the EC. “Read your White Books so you know what you’re electing people to do. In my year, not a lot of people understood what the EC or SJC were so they all were just kind of voting blindly. I didn’t know for the longest time the EC also does student government stuff.”

Q: What issues exist within the Honor System?

A: “A lot of students don’t fully understand the system or process, which then creates a fear of the system itself. I don’t think students should fear the system. I think it’s a pretty simple ask to ask students to act honorably or, in other words, to not act dishonorably, which I think we as humans should strive to do anyways. The EC is not out to get people. We’re not watching with binoculars trying to find people acting dishonorably.”

Q: What challenges do you foresee in the 2019-2020 school year?

A: “One challenge that we have faced is Mock Con, which is such an incredible event that this university does. But that’s what everyone’s doing so there’s not as many people applying for committee appointments, not as many people applying for SEC appointments, stuff like that. It’s been a challenge to the budget as well because we also have to do all of our normal budgeting and also budget for this huge event that is Mock Con.”

Q: How do you feel that your standing as a law student informs your decision? Do you bring a new perspective that other members of the EC don’t have?

A: “In the past, the law school has felt left out and felt kind of like it’s just the undergraduate campus making all these decisions. I know that they felt that way last year in the elections, and they were super excited that a law student was running for officer and then really excited when I won because they just figured that undergraduates would vote for undergraduates, but I kept telling them we have a bunch of informed voters at this school and a bunch of great candidates.”

Q: Where does the separation between the law school and undergraduates come from?

A: “I think it stems from a lack of understanding of the processes on the undergraduate’s side. So then [law students] don’t understand why there’s undergrads who are controlling all of these different aspects that affect them. They aren’t understanding that there’s also law school representation, and these are some very qualified human beings on the SJC and the EC. I think people get stuck in that mindset of when you’re older and you’re coming back and having someone who’s younger than you kind of telling you what’s what which some of them might have to get used to.

“The law school has all of its own things. We don’t really hear about the GAB concerts or Fancy Dress and stuff like that. That’s why those events aren’t super well attended by law students. I think it would be wonderful if we could create a better channel between the two and have that in perpetuity.”

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.