Of the three campaigns with sights set on taking executive office in SGA in 2020, the Promise campaign consists of two sophomores — an unlikely characteristic which they view as an advantage.
Walker Hoover, sophomore majoring in political science, and Carly Broady, sophomore in the College Scholars program are running for the positions of president and vice president, respectively.
“Both Carly and I are very involved in SGA now, and we’ve just seen a constant disconnect between organizations and SGA,” said Hoover. “The potential for a relationship is there, but we don't think that the current SGA has really connected them as well as they could have. The disconnect between the Senate now and the current administration is just not getting SGA’s name out there like they should, so that’s really what pushed us to run.”
In addition to Hoover and Broady, Christopher Barnes is a junior studying political science and philosophy and is running to be the student services director with the Promise campaign.
Having him on their team has instilled their mission to involve all students in SGA and break down the barriers of entry, making SGA for the people and of the people.
“I want to be a voice for the people who don’t really understand SGA and try to show them that you don’t always have to be in SGA to be a part of SGA,” Barnes said.
One of the main goals the campaign has is to reinvent the role of senators in SGA to be more of an interactive and engaging role — which builds on one of their campaign platforms of engaging students.
“I want to help shape the role of senators to be more on an advocacy side as well as the legislative representation side, and they need to be responsible for encouraging communication from the constituencies they represent so really going back out and building those relationships from the ground up with individuals, with student organizations, with administrators and creating a more cohesive unit within all of SGA,” Broady said.
Hoover describes the mission of the Promise campaign in two ways: holding SGA accountable and being an accurate representation of the students on campus. He also noted the fleeting nature of spring SGA campaign season as Broady points to their youth as a key advantage.
“Walker and I being sophomores comes with a lot more pros than cons. Everything that we’re saying right now and all the goals we want to achieve right now, a year from now, you’ll know exactly where to find us because we’re still going to be on campus, and we’re still going to be around for a whole ‘nother year,” Broady said.
Along with youth, Broady noted the freshness their campaign has with people who might be new to SGA but come with their communities in mind first.
“We think that attitude is really important, having people that are so passionate about these other opportunities on campus that make their experience at UT so much more rich, adding to SGA,” Broady said.
In the SGA Debate on April 2 discussion surrounded the topic of the relationship between the administration and student organizations. To remedy that disconnect, Hoover cited a platform Promise is running on is to establish SGA News — a video series or newsletter to get SGA updates distributed to student organizations on campus.
“We think there’s a lot of potential for good things in SGA, and we’re really excited about them, but those also need to be broadcasted to the students because it would make them feel more engaged, it would make the organizations also feel more engaged,” Hoover said.
Admitting the taboo nature of the campaign name Promise, as many students feel that promises are broken in campaign season, Broady described their campaign as threefold: to protect students, to serve students and to engage students.
As a current senator, she noted that her exposure to policy this year has given her breadth to understand the legislative process in senate, and where it is currently broken.
One issue Promise hopes to tackle is rewriting the UT alcohol policy to change Rocky Top from a dry to wet campus.
“When it comes to protecting students, one thing that we really want to do is work on the alcohol policy. We’re one of two SEC schools that is not wet. In practice we are kind of damp, so we just want the policy that we have to reflect the actions that are being taken on campus,” Broady said.
Along with updating the alcohol policy, Promise also wants to expand the current individual amnesty policy to protect groups of three or more, and organizations.
As it stands, the UT amnesty policy protects a student who calls emergency services if the person they are with needs medical attention. That policy does not protect students in groups larger than two or official student organizations, posing a difficult decision for students: help a Vol in need or risk the status of their organization on campus.
“Organization amnesty is at the forefront of our agenda. … The way it’s written now, we see it as a student health concern that people have to juggle this kind of decision. Right now since the University has the individual policy we think it would only make sense to branch it out to the groups and organizations,” Hoover said.
As a current at-large senator, Broady is eager to use her experience to redesign the role of senators, which falls under the “serving students” platform of their campaign.
“I want to help reassess the constituency hours and make the senators more of a liaison to bring back to their organizations and the organization within their constituencies, about what we’re doing in SGA,” Broady said. “Sometimes SGA feels really untouchable and so by re-shifting the role of senators, it helps us to better serve the students which we are so passionate about.”
Hoover added that relying on students to approach their senators, often in colleges, about their concerns is naive. By going out and engaging with students, “... We can have them truly represented at the table when we talk to these administrators,” Hoover said.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of all in-person contact until at least the end of summer, all SGA campaigns are, too, taking place online and even on Zoom.
While online campaigning is not ideal for any campaign, Broady, Hoover and Barnes each cited their adaptation to the new normal. Despite all three candidates now living in different time zones, their team is still dedicated to serving students and running a successful campaign thanks to modern technology.
“We’re really adapting and recognizing that we’re not alone in this experience, and as crazy as it is for us to try to pivot and figure out how to do a campaign completely online, every student is going through a really hard time right now and SGA may not be at the forefront of their minds, and we understand that,” Broady said.
Hoover added, “I’d argue that students need leadership. This is probably the most pertinent time that students need leadership, and they still need to elect who will represent them next year.”