SGA Presidential candidates hope to improve diversity


Image: Rose Scoggins

Michael Smith, running for Student Government Association (SGA) vice president, speaks at SGA’s debate for president and vice president.

Vanessa Alva, Staff Writer

Student Government Association (SGA) president and vice president candidates running this election all had one thing in common. Each of their campaign platforms pushed for inclusiveness and diversity in SGA.

Last year, the Cluster published an article that highlighted the lack of diversity in SGA.

Candidates Cole Porter and Alexandria Kirschbaum, Olivia Buckner and Oge Onuh, and Catie Byrd and Michael Smith had platforms with strategies on how to make SGA more open to diverse students.

Candidate Porter said diversity was a major focus for him and running mate Kirschbaum during the campaign.

“I think it was beneficial and eye opening for SGA and campus to see how SGA has been siloed in the past,” Porter said. “ For Alex and I, it was really important to look at that and say ‘how can we fix that?’”

According to candidate Byrd and running mate Smith, this is something all of SGA is hoping to do.

“This has been a conversation SGA has had a lot this year. Senators have been discussing how we can get better representation in SGA among our senators and student correspondents and how we can better represent our student body by reaching other groups we may not necessarily have on our senate body,” Byrd said.

The candidates emphasized that the push for diversity wouldn’t affect the SGA democratic process, saying that their diversity platforms were not about who leads SGA, but about being more inclusive in order to better represent the student population.

Candidate Buckner and running mate Onuh said their platform included ways to change the way  Mercer’s student population interacts with SGA.

“I’m very aware of the issues regarding inclusivity and inclusion especially on SGA. The sad thing is we can’t change the election results, and we can’t change who runs,” SGA presidential candidate Olivia Buckner said. “But what we can change is the way senators who are elected take those issues and concerns into consideration and relay them.”

Each candidate went more into detail on their different plans regarding diversity and inclusiveness, if elected.

Porter and Kirschbaum had a two-part plan that included a diversity committee.

“What this committee would do is invite students from around campus who are currently underrepresented on SGA. The idea is we’ll invite cultural leaders on campus, [and] we’ll invite minority leaders on campus. Even academic diversity — we’ll invite more education, music students, international students and commuters,” Porter said.  “Secondly, we hope to have this committee mentor younger students. As they work with these upperclassmen from different areas, we can encourage them to run.”

Byrd and Smith planned on creating advisory councils to represent different organizations throughout campus.

“Michael and I are seeking to create three advisory councils that will go along with our standing committees which are the multicultural, Greek and athlete advisory councils. These are groups that are not necessarily usually represented on SGA,” Byrd said. “This would be much more organized and structured than what we’ve had in the past; the councils would create official roles on SGA for 1-2 people per multicultural organization, per athletic team and per greek organization.”

Buckner and Onuh planned on hosting a “town hall” meeting open to all students in order to allow them to voice their opinions.

“SGA is an association, and there are other associations on campus. We don’t want at any time for SGA to be above any other, that is how I look at SGA. In that regard, we want to work with multicultural organizations especially and help with their events,” Buckner said “We want to have a town hall meeting where we can invite the whole student body to come and tell us their concerns. We want to have each committee chair be on the panel along with their advisors. That way there’s more of a direct contact.”

The runoff election for SGA President and Vice President will occur on Friday, March 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.