The 2022 Student Government Association’s (SGA) election season has arrived, but this season is unique in the fact that there is no competition. The members of UT’s one and only campaign on the 2022 ballot, Evolve, are by no means taking these circumstances as an opportunity to put in less effort.
Evolve comes during a time of division between SGA and administration, which once had a strong partnership. In recent years, students have become less involved because of COVID-19, and now that campus is returning to normalcy, the members of Evolve have the task of reconstructing the bond between SGA, students and administration.
The campaign’s “top four” executive members include Jordan Brown, a junior psychology major running for student body president, Mark Hancock, a sophomore political science major running for vice-president, Abbey Lawrence, a junior geography major running for student services director and Marshall Summar, a junior business administration and economics major running for executive treasurer.
There will be 25 senators on the ballot representing several divisions of UT, including College of Arts and Sciences, College of Architecture, Haslam College of Business, Herbert College of Agriculture, Tickle College of Engineering, off-campus housing, Sorority Village and Fraternity Park. The full ballot for the campaign can be found on the SGA website.
Brown, who currently serves as an undergraduate student senator, senate parliamentarian and deputy chief of staff for SGA, explained Evolve’s general mission.
“The foundation of SGA and campus we feel has definitely been chipped away at during the pandemic due to a lot of different factors. Our job is hoping to rebuild that foundation and bring back the energy and the fun and the engagement levels that used to be commonplace on UT’s campus,” Brown said.
Brown acknowledges that there has been an increasing divide between SGA and administration in recent years, and SGA is supposed to be the connecting body and voice for students, which is why she and other members of the Evolve campaign hope to mend this split and become unified for the betterment of student experiences.
Evolve members believe that this unification can be achieved through the establishment of better lines of communication between SGA and administration, which Brown aims to achieve as student body president.
Brown explained Evolve’s three main policy pillars, called embrace, engage and energize, and what they mean in terms of the campaign.
“When it comes to embrace, just embracing and building back that sense of community with SGA and on campus, doing things like advocating for diverse course teachings and implicit bias training. Of course, advocating for gender neutral spaces for women and trans students to feel more comfortable on this campus,” Brown said.
“When it comes to engage … just making it so that people from outside of SGA and members of different orgs can feel like SGA is a place for them no matter what identity or organization they are involved in on this campus. Energize just to bring back that energy and fun on campus and in SGA because we all know about that lack of engagement due to the pandemic.”
On Thursday, March 31, Evolve hosted an all-inclusive event entitled “Breaking the Ice (Cream Float),” which invited students to learn more about the campaign while enjoying sweet treats. This event was one of many engagement events that Evolve plans to host in order to reestablish a connection with students and hear often underrepresented voices.
At the event, Summar talked about how it can be uncomfortable to get involved at first, but current members of SGA are there to help along the way.
“If you all are new to SGA, me too,” Summar said.
“What I really want to emphasize is SGA is here for you, it's here for everybody. It can be a little intimidating getting involved in these things, but we’re here to answer questions. We’re a support team … no question is a stupid question, and I’ve definitely asked my fair share.”
As the only campaign currently in the running for the 2022 election season, Evolve hopes to use their position as an opportunity to bring awareness to commonly discussed issues that many students face. Evolve’s members believe that this can be done by getting more students involved, both in SGA and in other organizations on campus.
Brown described the openness of the election process and the opportunities that individuals will have to vote.
“Any student on this campus can vote. These positions are student body positions. My role trying to be student body president is I’m advocating for the beliefs of all students, so any student, graduate or undergraduate, can vote in the election for the top four positions,” Brown said.
On Thursday, April 7, Evolve will participate in the SGA debate, which will differ from previous years in its premise, and it will feature only Evolve candidates, who will use the time to explain their missions and policies.
Elections will take place from April 11-13, and members of SGA’s Evolve urge students who are interested to vote and to have the opportunity to have their voices heard at votesga.utk.edu.
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