Having taken office in April, all three of the top SGA leaders have hefty SGA leadership experience. They've all worked with student government during their entire tenure as undergraduates. I've both served with and run against them, and I can honestly say they have several good ideas to mend some of the inefficiencies and broken gears of the current SGA system.
Though it should have been done years ago, SGA seems to have finally begun to take its social media presence seriously. UT SGA has had a Facebook page and Twitter account for some time now, but they've been more for show than anything else the past couple of years. Over the summer, though, SGA's social media presence saw some progress: SGA updates are now being issued on a reliable basis.
Of particular significance was a post in which SGA leaders noted their involvement with the Board of Trustees in June regarding UTK tuition raises. What's more, the SGA seems to be offering a text service for updates. Students can register their cell phone numbers on the SGA Facebook site.
Event and programming publications are indispensable to student life, but I think students would like to see and hear more about the efforts their SGA representatives are taking to address student concerns. At least at first blush, these efforts seem to be a responsible step in the right direction. Students now have some reason to believe that SGA will continue to reliably deliver updates of substance.
The fact that leaders are taking the time and effort to develop an SGA recruitment video, which is now posted on the SGA website and social media outlets, is a bright spot. The content of the video, on the other hand, does raise some concerns.
Most of the video is comprised of students dancing, singing, partying, etc., which certainly has its place. A recruitment video without something catchy and fun like this wouldn't be a good tool for recruitment. Still, it is void of more substantial, insightful content. At least half of the footage, if not more, is taken from SGA election week. This perpetuates the myth that SGA only exists during a single week in March.
At least one interpretation of the video leaves the viewer with a sense that the current SGA administration is nothing more than "FUEL," post-election (FUEL is the party platform on which the current administration ran). It highlights the past winning SGA party logos, with particular emphasis on FUEL. SGA parties serve an important function: they allow a collective of students to dynamically develop ideas for the betterment of UT student governance, and they are requisites for democracy to do its bidding.
But student governance is not a system of party politics. It is intended to be a system of utmost inclusivity. SGA leaders are no longer FUEL leaders, but, rather, leaders of the UT Student Government Association. SGA is most effective when it drops party identities and adopts a common identity. Obviously, a recruitment video isn't the end-all, be-all on such a matter, but symbols can make a statement.
SGA has, however, made a very commendable stride in the process of appointing students to administrative committees. These are committees comprised of faculty, administration, staff, and students that, in some cases, make serious decisions for campus. The concerns of these committees range from the environment to cultural affairs. In the past, the SGA President simply appointed students to these seats with no nomination process. This year, for the first time, SGA is taking open applications. As you consider what to do with your time this semester, I highly encourage you to apply for one of these committees, as well as for an SGA student services committee. The deadline is Friday.
— Eric Dixon is a senior in philosophy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.