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Fitzgerald, if elected, wants to stabilize, engage SGA

Will Jones

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Q: Can you give me a quick run down of your life story?

A: Sure. I was raised in the small town of Harvest, Alabama, outside of Huntsville, and there in Harvest when I came down – we moved from St. Louis. My dad’s job moved when I was about three years old, and by the time I was starting pre-K and any kind of schooling in Alabama, I mainly only spoke Italian still, and so it has been an experience. Alabama is pretty much, has been pretty much, everything I have known, and I don’t remember anything from back home, and being where you had a little bit of an early language gap on things, but just in general seeing how welcoming the people of Alabama are, and how great the people are, and how sweet everybody is in this state, it’s really – it’s really motivated me to want to give back to the state, wanting to channel my energy in finding what is – I have fallen in love with the people I grew up with in Alabama as a whole as a state, and I want to do things to pay back and help the state as a whole.

Q: Why do you want to run for this office?

A: So, for this office specifically, I want to run for this office because I look at the way the campus has changed over the last few years, and I know that this election cycle is going to mean a lot for the progress that is going to be possible here on campus. You want to look at – the Machine has lost a few times in history, but the Machine has never lost twice in a row, and the idea that we have allowed one. The Machine to practice the politics that they do in the 21st century, it would really speak and would really say something about the direction The University of Alabama was going in saying that for two years in a row we can beat a system like that and show that we are ready as a campus to move forward into the 21st century of actually governing for the better of students.

Q: What makes you the best choice for this office?

A: The best choice for this office – what I will tell you is if you look at platform-wise and that we are going to be running on a platform that is going to provide the most in new student services, the most in – the most money for scholarships, the most relief for most students living in poverty (who are) more worried about studying for – more worried about finding their next meal rather than studying for their next test, which we have quite a large community in that situation. I’m going to provide the most new opportunities in the most inclusive way to join SGA from now on and actually have a seat at the table. I’m going to put the most effort and we are going to have the most external programs to groups to try and touch as many people as we can at the University and make sure that, say, clubs, organizations, you know, even people outside are going to be able to have a seat at the table in discussing the future of SGA. We want to finally make FAC sustainable throughout an entire fiscal year. And we get a little bit of help from administration along the way to bail us out from time to time, and that’s, you know, we’re very grateful for that, but at the same time it would really serve the student body if we could have enough money to go throughout the whole year and not have to cut people 40 percent, 30 percent every month. Instead we could have everything throughout, and people could have, you know, they could be able to optimize and really reach a full potential on all their organization’s events and things like that. And, on top of that too, we’ve got a good plan that we’re going to roll out for campus safety, and we are going to be very strong against sexual assault, and we are going to partner with a lot of different groups to, you know, have a lot of new preventative programs, training, Green Dot training program across campus, and, you know, self-defense, and whatever it may be, and really make sure we are enforcing a zero-tolerance, one-strike system at UA and really make sure that all of campus knows that that is what we are going to be doing.

Q: What is your biggest goal for this position?

A: You know you look around at SGA and across the country you see a lot of voter apathy, and you see, wow, 50 percent of people in America didn’t vote in the presidential election, and you think, golly, that’s terrible – the greatest country in the world and still has people who don’t vote. You can kind of understand sometimes because if you’ve got families, you got a job, you got this, you got that, you can understand that if you have to wait in line for a couple of hours to vote, and you can understand how people maybe wouldn’t, but the idea that at The University of Alabama, 60 percent of students didn’t take 10 seconds to go onto MyBama and click twice and vote? It lets you know that SGA needs to completely retool what it’s doing to reach students. It’s very good what we are doing, and I think that advocacy is a huge thing that SGA can do, that we have our powers there, we can advocate for different programs and movements, but at the same time I think students on this campus see that, and, you know, we can make progress with advocacy, but at the same time, I think students on this campus want their SGA to retool, reach them and give them something tangible. We need tangible change. We need to see, you know, not just an SGA that advocates for more money for clubs and organizations. We need an SGA that will make tough choices to ensure that we will have more money for clubs and organizations, and essentially that is what it is there, it is making – rebuilding – faith in people that SGA actually can do something for them. Because when you see 60 percent of campus not voting, even in such a monumental election year like Elliot’s first election was, it just lets you know that we have so much further to go.

Q: What’s the first thing you would do if elected?

A: I would go in the Senate and I would ask them to pass the Spirit of Alabama Act. Essentially, last year this was a bill that I put on the floor, and it’s a bill that we will put back on the floor when we have a Senate that is easier to work with, and this bill is basically something that says: look, we know we have needs on this campus. Right? We know that we’ve got students in poverty. We know that we’ve got students who need scholarships. We know that we’ve got clubs and organizations that continually go without the money that they need to be operational throughout the year. We know that we have inclusionary problems. We know that we want to put on a spring concert for SGA, but there is a difference between wanting to do things and being able to do things. The Spirit of Alabama would essentially be a small activity fee of $12.50, but what it would do is it would ensure that everything we are going to do would actually be paid for. In a sense it lets you know that in government you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You know, it’s one of those things where the University is going to raise tuition, hundreds of dollars every year with students not knowing where it’s going to go. But if we just take pocket change, essentially you take $12 from everybody’s, you know, every, take a $12 fee from everybody, and the students actually get to know where every cent goes, that’s an empowerment that we haven’t had as a student government. You know, as this university continues to grow, our student government has to grow not only with it but further than it, so we can be sure to encompass everybody, and this is going to be a way of saying we can take matters into our own hands. We are young adults at The University of Alabama, and we can control our own destiny when it comes down to clubs, organizations and other programs encompassed in the Spirit of Alabama Act. And so those two things are what I would try to envision: make SGA sustainable, make SGA expand in those first few weeks.

Q: Why should indifferent students care about this election?

A: Indifferent students should care about this election because if you look at records on all the candidates, if you look at the past of every candidate, you know, I’m a candidate that in my time at SGA has not been afraid to take stances (that) at the time were not popular. And when times get tough, that is when I am further in the corner of whoever it is who might not be, you know, favorite at the time. I’ve got a loyalty in SGA to when I believe in something or when I believe in a group of people, I’m not going to back down because of political pressure. You know, whenever I have taken a stance, it’s been for a reason, and whether that ends up in a good result or not. What I’ll tell you is there is not an issue that I would sell out on because it looked like the climate was bad. You can’t say that about every other candidate, and at the same time, too, I’m very realistic in the sense of you can put all these initiatives forward and you can be an advocacy candidate, but if you don’t have teeth in your programs and you don’t find a way to fund these programs the Student Government Association is not going to be able to grow in the way that it is now, and, you know, it is one of those things too that in my SGA, if I were elected president, in my administration we would reach out, it would be something, we would expand out to all the student body and try to bring as many people on board. We would be the most open, we would be the most active in trying to reach students, and we would be the most empowering for the student body, because sometimes other people in SGA, while we do have to work with the administration on issues, firmly in a good relationship with the administration. People have to remember too though that we’re the Student Government Association. That if there comes a time where the administration does not agree with us on an issue, you don’t back down just because maybe there is a little bit of controversy behind it. You stand up for your students and you make sure that we the students on campus have as much power in our hands as possible, and I don’t see another candidate being able to fight for students as much in that aspect as I would.

Q: How do you see the campus changing and/or staying the same by the end of your possible term?

A: It wouldn’t stay the same, that’s for sure, but I think you see the campus changing in a way that, like I said, you go away more from an advocacy base to a change base. I see us putting in actual tangible changes. I see us bringing a lot more people to the table. I see a lot more people getting involved in SGA than before. I see our programs, our new programs flourishing. I see a lot more economic opportunity for those that struggle every day, and I see a lot of nourishment opportunities for those who suffer every day. I see this campus being a lot more inclusionary. I see, essentially I just see things getting a whole lot better around here. And campus would stay the same. I mean, the way we’re trying to take SGA and change it, the only thing we would not want to change is the name of the University. One of the things I see us doing is I see us going and talking to marginalized groups a whole lot more. I see us really enacting change in places that are often forgotten on campus. You know, we are going to start talking about issues that haven’t been issues yet. We are going to start talking about, you know, relations with the University as far as it goes to workers on campus, and workers’ rights on campus, and, you know, we want to make sure that we have competitive wages compared with other SEC schools to make sure, you know, that whether it be labor relations, whether it be ensuring that, you know, there are a lot of students – like another issue there is there are a lot of students that are in the LGBT community, and if their parents find out that they’re gay, they wind up disowning them. And, you know, if their parents find out that, you know, let’s just say if their parents find out they aren’t straight, they wind up disowning them financially and cutting them off, and this happens all the time. And one of the things I want to implement, one of the things I’m going to run on implementing is creating an emergency fund for students who get disowned like that so that you don’t have to decide between being who you really are and getting an education. And so that’s one of the things at Spectrum, they only have like a couple thousand dollars a year, and, you know, it’s a good fund to have. Spectrum often finds themselves having to choose who gets what, and it’s a matter of we have so many resources at this university. I mean, as a university system, you know, in terms of assets, liabilities, and we are at a net position of $1.2 billion. There’s no way we can’t afford that as an excuse, and we are going to push and lobby for groups to make sure they get the resources they need, and we are going to organize a whole lot more.

Q: Can you give me a fun fact about yourself?

A: Two of the traditions that our family always has is, one, you have to teach your children how to speak Italian first, and, two, you have to have a vineyard at the house. So, we make wine. That’s it. We have the only vineyard in Harvest, Alabama. And if I’m elected, we are about to have crates of it down here. 

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Fitzgerald, if elected, wants to stabilize, engage SGA