The Crimson White Editorial Board endorses Stephen Keller for Student Government Association president.
Stephen Keller’s platform is grounded in concrete details about how he will address campus problems with implementable, timely solutions, while Elliot Spillers’s platform is about the idea of creating well-being for all students and cultivating sustainable change. Spillers is charismatic, personable and a man of the people; Keller is pragmatic, political and focused on the details. Spillers’ background is in community service and sustained volunteerism; Keller’s background is in campus politics and SGA. They are complete opposites of each other, despite their interests in the same position.
The Student Government Association’s highest office requires someone who can effectively manage all parts of the executive office, work with Senate and Judiciary and represent the entirety of the student body. Keller’s background as an SGA senator and vice president of student affairs exposed him to both the legislative and executive side of the SGA, which separates him from Spillers’ SGA experiences as assistant director of engagement and deputy vice president of student affairs. Keller understands how to craft and push legislation through Senate in efficacious ways. He also understands the roles of the executive office and how best to maintain cohesion and unity amongst the highest-ranking officers of the SGA.
Keller’s platform, dubbed “Tomorrow begins today” by his campaign, is well-crafted, thoughtful and intricate. Each of the issues his platform addresses starts with a proper diagnosis of a campus issue and how it impacts students. He sketches in detail how he will implement a change and who he will collaborate with to ameliorate the issue. He then provides a timeline of when students can expect him to achieve his actions, thus empowering students to hold him and the rest of the SGA accountable – something few candidates have ever considered doing. Simply put, Keller’s platform is about the what, when and how.
One of his ideas that has the potential to truly transform campus life for an entire generation of students is his plan to implement bystander training for all incoming IFC pledges, which will also be available for all incoming freshman students. He said he believes that empowering individuals to act is the best prevention for sexual assault, especially in fraternity houses, where sexual assault is pandemic and difficult to track. Addressing problems like sexual assault requires specific policy solutions. A small change like the one Keller is proposing can produce tangible, powerful results.
While Spillers’s platform is ideologically appealing and bold, he lacks specifics of what he intends to do and how it will be beneficial for all students. Far too much political rhetoric for SGA elections is focused on a vision without a strategy to achieve it and we believe Spillers made that mistake. Spillers might also be overestimating his ability to connect various administrators and programs on campus towards the same goal. For example, one specific program that we felt to be tangible and effective but weighed down by overextension is his idea to create a sexual assault peer advocacy program. In our interview, he failed to mention how he would create the program besides partnering with National Association of Mental Illness and Housing and Residential Communities. We understand the importance of collaboration amongst all students and synthesizing disparate ideas, but describing the dynamics of the relationships and the avenues through which all the agents would act is just as important.
In making our endorsement we debated the merits and flaws of each candidate. Two issues gave us cause for concern when choosing whether or not to endorse Keller: his Machine backing and his violation of election rules in his campaign for vice president of student affairs last year.
The Machine is a fundamentally unfair institution and its continued existence is a stain not only on the SGA, but on The University of Alabama as a whole. However, we ultimately felt that it would be unfair to rest our decision on this single issue or to lay responsibility for the Machine at one person’s feet. Keller’s willingness to reach out to minority groups on campus and his endorsement by the Campus Veteran’s Association and the Muslim Student Association helped assuage some of our concerns that a Keller-led SGA would, like previous administrations, continue to serve a select few.
Keller pointed out he served his required community service for violating election rules last year and he would rather move forward than continue to look to the past. We tend to agree. Whether or not someone broke a rule by handing out a stack of fliers a year ago has little to no bearing on their ability to be an effective leader.
We realize that the two candidates, Stephen Keller and Elliot Spillers, are possibly the two best candidates competing against each other for the SGA presidency in a very long time. Both candidates would make excellent SGA presidents. We are all truly fortunate beyond measure that these two phenomenal leaders are dedicating themselves to selflessly servicing campus and students. We hope this presidential race inspired more across campus to act for others and better our campus.
We feel it is our duty to endorse an SGA presidential candidate, and we endorse Stephen Keller. What this campus and SGA needs is a leader with a vision and a plan to act with implementable actions that benefit all students and not just a select few. Stephen Keller is that leader.
Our View represents the consensus of The Crimson White Editorial Board.