Saying that this year has taken a drastic turn would be one of the biggest understatements of the decade. Just a few weeks ago, we were all still together and many seniors, like myself, were just beginning to say our goodbyes to the campus we had called home for the last four years.

It would have been unfathomable for any of us to even consider transitioning to the world we currently live in. These changes have brought novel challenges that have had to be conquered. They have also required the University to make decisions that have directly impacted every student at UT.

Our current situation has shown how critical it is that students have a voice in these decisions that the administration is making. SGA has always attempted to be that voice, but it always seems to fall short of what the students need it to be. Student's now more than ever need an SGA that is willing to listen to the concerns of the student body and take every actionable step to solve those concerns.

This is why we named our campaign We Hear You UT. Because we have seen how student’s voices have been ignored not only by administration but by SGA and we agree that enough is enough. Students deserve to be heard and we are going to do everything we can to ensure that happens.

We Hear You UT is a campaign of senators and supporters united by a commitment to reshape SGA in a way that listens to and amplifies student concerns on campus. This campaign was founded because for many, SGA is not a true reflection of the students at this university and has not created the policies that students want to see; it has not reached its full potential as a student-serving organization.

Our executive team, senators and supporters alike come from a range of diverse backgrounds with many different experiences at this university. We Hear You UT is heavily comprised of students who have little or no experience with SGA; this means our campaign brings new, accurate representation and perspective about what it means to be a Vol.

Additionally, many of our senators and supporters belong to communities that have been underserved or underrepresented at this university.

Our campaign has policies and actionable goals not just in the short-term but in the long-term as well because we know that the UT students deserve will not happen overnight. We have five platforms: Unity – Diversity and Inclusion; Accessibility – Health and Wellness; Sustainability – Environment; Efficiency – Student Life; and Affordability – Financial Security.

Created to increase transparency between SGA and the student body, these platforms cover a range of student concerns, especially prioritizing mental health and easing the financial burden. One of our short-term actionable goals (under our Accessibility platform) is to have mental health education at student orientation for parents/guardians in this coming year; both students and parents/guardians must be informed on the importance of mental health and the available resources. One of our long-term actionable goals (under our Affordability platform) is partnering with UT Housing to reexamine the prices of on-campus housing.

Nikki is a first-generation student who understands the distinct concerns of this underrepresented group of students. She has been an advocate for students all three years she has been at UT, having experience in First-Year Council, Senate and Government Affairs. She has personally seen how student's voices have long been ignored by SGA and is the best option to put a stop to the status quo.

Sophia has long been an advocate for students at UT. She has been a dedicated Senator over the past two years, working tirelessly to ensure all students have access to the mental health resources they need. She has outnumbered every other Senator in the amount of legislation she has sponsored and instead of just stopping with a bill, she has instead lobbied administration on her own time to ensure that student's needs are heard. Her dedication to ensuring student's voices are heard is what makes her the best option for revitalizing an organization that has stopped serving students.

Gustavo has had the opportunity to hear the concerns of students in numerous facets across campus. Through his time as an Orientation Leader and as a Resident Assistant he has been able to hear countless students' stories and how the administration has failed them. His experience as a Leadership Knoxville Scholar has also allowed him to be the active listener and the person to make effective change that students need. Though he has never been involved in SGA, his experience of leading UT's Relay for Life has given him the skills needed to reach out to every member of the student body.

Molly has served as the Director of Accounting for Relay for Life UT for the past two years and also served in this position in high school. She has been an Engineering Senator for the past two years and has not felt like SGA has been actively listening to students. She decided to run for Executive Treasurer because of her experiences in these two organizations. She is an experienced, organized and transparent leader. She leads first with kindness. Molly hopes to enact transparency, action, and understanding into the position of Executive Treasurer and into the entire Student Government Association.

We Hear You UT seeks to transform SGA while amplifying student voices on campus. We plan to create meaningful, equitable, and immediate legislation that brings much-desired transformation to the University of Tennessee. We understand many students have not felt recognized by SGA, and plan to be an administration that fully hears & stands for every Vol.

I have been involved with SGA all four years of my time at UT and have witnessed student's voices going unheard numerous times. To revitalize SGA, students need representatives that will go out of their way to listen and who will do everything they can to ensure students' concerns are heard. Nikki, Sophia, Gustavo and Molly are the students to spark this transformation.

Join me this Wednesday through Friday in voting for a campaign that not only hears your concerns but will do everything they can to make SGA an organization that once again serves students. Vote We Hear You UT at votesga.utk.edu.

Ben Chumney is running for the Arts and Sciences senate seat with the We Hear You UT campaign and Garrett Orick is the campaign manager for We Hear You UT. They can be reached at bchumney@vols.utk.edu and gorick1@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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