Students for a Just University asserts itself as the anti-SGA establishment party.
Brian May, the party’s presidential candidate, said he thinks that SGA does not represent students’ needs.
“I feel that the university is pretty undemocratic and, thus, unjust,” May said. “The SGA is largely to blame. It’s a failed system that doesn’t serve students or the community, which should be its top two priorities.”
Vice Presidential candidate Katie Williams agrees SGA has failed in its duty to represent students.
“We believe SGA needs to use the power they have and do something. If students are electing us, we believe we need to represent students’ needs,” Williams said.
May and Williams said that discrimination, environmental issues and campus safety are the big issues students need SGA to address.
On discrimination, they propose forming an oversight committee so students of color can turn to SGA when concerned about racism on campus. Williams said they will lobby the administration to recruit and hire more black professors and support re-instituting the African-American Achievers Scholarship, the product of a program that was previously funded by the state up to the Geier lawsuit’s dismissal in September 2006.
Williams said 20 percent of University of Tennessee employees do not receive a living wage. Candidates said they want fair raises and pay for such employees.
On environmental issues, May and Williams said they will pressure the chancellor to follow through on his promise for a carbon-free campus, have a commitment to reduce the college’s greenhouse gas emissions, and propose placing outside recycling bins throughout campus.
May said he wanted to reduce the number of commuter parking passes given to students who live in Fort Sanders.
“This would relieve some of the difficulty in finding spaces and decrease the number of cars on campus,” he said.
In turn, they would add bike lanes and racks to encourage Fort Sanders students to pedal to campus.
May said he would form a police oversight committee so that students have a way to communicate with UT Police. Williams said such a committee would keep the police accountable and keep them from abusing students’ rights.
May said he doesn’t think SGA has the power right now to implement such change because it doesn’t communicate outside of its own bureaucracy.
“SGA hasn’t done a good job of being political, in that they accept it when the administration says ‘no.’ They have not been willing to go over the administration’s head to the Board of Trustees or the Tennessee legislature. I would be willing to do that,” May said.
He also said he questions whether his opponents in the race would be willing to challenge the administration.
“I don’t feel that the other candidates are going to be effective in addressing students’ problems, judging by their past history in SGA,” he said.
May and Williams agreed that being regular students who were involved in campus issues qualified them for office.
“I’m an analytical guy—being a chemistry major—but I feel I have the ability to understand not just what the problems are but how to fix them. I care about what goes on in this campus. That’s probably the most important thing,” May said.
Williams cited her leadership experience outside SGA as part of the reason she is qualified for office.
“I have a unique perspective of not being bogged down with the way SGA has been run in the past. I feel like leadership can carry over from any field. We have a really fresh look at things,” Williams said.
May is a member of the Progressive Student Alliance and will be the head resident at the Governor’s School for the Sciences and Engineering this summer. Williams is the lead student for Teach for America at UT and is a member of the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.
May said campaigning techniques in past SGA elections have been a problem and added his campaign would try to avoid gimmicks.
“We’re not going to plaster the campus with flyers or give out hot dogs or handouts. We feel it is important to stay on top of the issues, not just to woo students with campaign material.”
SGA Election Preview:Students for a just University
Published: Tue Mar 20, 2007 | Modified: Tue Mar 20, 2007 03:37 p.m.