Fowler calls for unity


Katherine Martin

In the State of the University address Thursday night, Student Government Association President James Fowler talked about the SGA’s continued efforts to break down barriers and improve transparency.

Fowler said since he took office, the SGA has become more financially and operationally more transparent than ever.

The SGA must act as a forum for all students to share ideas and improve the University, Fowler said.

“Our role is unique,” he said. “We are student representatives and student advocates. We must dedicate the strength and reach of this SGA to erasing campus divisions and unifying once and for all the different groups and students that comprise this University.”

Fowler spoke of his opportunity to attend the Foster auditorium dedication held last week that honored Vivian Malone Jones, James Hood and Autherine Lucy.

“As I stood on the stage, I saw the product of a system that, in its own way, is still broken,” Fowler said. “I saw that while we may have moved miles beyond our dark past, we still suffer the consequences of division and discord.”

Fowler said the student body should look to the SGA as a place where they can go when the need answers, solutions or a seat at the table.

“We haven’t always held ourselves to the highest standards on that front, and honestly, we may not even be there yet,” Fowler said. “But as we move forward, we must open our doors and show this University that improving student life and advocating student interest will always be top priority of student government.”

Fowler challenged all students to reach out of their social sphere.

“It’s time for students on this campus — black or white, greek or independent, American or international, rich or poor — to compromise, sacrificing pieces of their own interests for the common good,” he said. “It’s time to discredit the generalization and stereotyping we see everyday. It’s time to end the elitist and petty mentality that preaches that ‘my group is better than your group.’”

Right now, Fowler said, the SGA is entering a uniquely challenging time of the year with the football season winding down and winter break approaching. But, even with the stress of the upcoming weeks, the SGA’s belief in their ability to effect change will carry them through.

Fowler discussed some of SGA’s successes from this year.

“For the first time in recent memory,” Fowler said, “we opened up Student Organization Seating, allocating every student organization that applied a reserved block of seats in the South end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium. The section is more diverse than ever, and the impact of that diversity has touched students from every corner of this campus.”

Fowler said he talked to fellow student Tommy Walker, president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, about the new seating changes.

Walker told Fowler that many fraternity brothers looked around the stadium and saw that barriers that for years had been seen as undefeatable had been broken down.

“They noticed that the hard work of our SGA had brought about more equitable student seating at our home football games,” Fowler said.

Fowler also talked about the success of Ride with the Tide, the program that provided 150 UA students a ride to cheer on the Tide at LSU this past Saturday.

“While we may be disappointed in the results of that game,” Fowler said, “the outcome of the project proved momentous.”

Fowler said the success of these programs and initiatives, with the addition of the gubernatorial debate, student football ticketing and the High Tide Club, have raised the bar for how the SGA can impact the lives of students, but do not cover what all has been done.

In addition to this year’s accomplishments, Fowler said the SGA has improved on past successes like the Fall II minimester program, the Registration Help Hotline and permanent all-access parking for students with parking passes at the Recreation Center.

Fowler announced in the speech that, as of last night, every expenditure for this fiscal year will be posted on the SGA’s website.

“This is an unprecedented display of transparency,” he said, “real evidence of our commitment to an honest and open government.”

In the coming weeks, Fowler said, the SGA will launch a concerted effort to engage new corner of campus in the work of the SGA.

“The time for the SGA to sit back and expect diversity to show up at its doorsteps is over,” he said. “As we progress in all we do, we will ensure that our SGA is reaching out to and fostering new connections with various communities across campus. Our engagement team will work hard to see a new image of SGA develop across this University and our goal of becoming more inclusive will come ever closer to reality.”

When they return from winter break in January, Fowler said the SGA will hold a special election to vote on a newly-rewritten SGA constitution that will strengthen checks an balances and create a more accessible SGA.

SGA will also make efforts to help students earn scholarship money.

The RAGE: Students for Scholarships event will be held in the spring at the new riverfront amphitheatre. There will be band performances and the SGA will give out thousands in scholarships.

Fowler said the SGA department of financial affairs will launch UAid, a “comprehensive clearinghouse of information,” that will provide students with information about scholarships, financial aid and work study opportunities among others.

The Ideas to Action program will add text messaging as a way to contact the SGA with ideas for improvement, Fowler said.

Fowler said in the coming weeks, a diverse group of student leaders will meet to develop a plan for how they will begin to “tear down the walls of division.”

The SGA is serious about providing worthwhile services and programs to students, Fowler said.

“We see how far we’ve come,” he said. “We also see how far we have to go.”

David Wilson, a Senator for the business college, said Fowler’s address was great.

“I believe that this SGA will go down as one of the greatest in SGA history,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the message that the SGA is devoted to creating campus unity and bringing down some of the old divisions was the most important aspect of the speech.

McKay Cleveland, a member of First Year Council, said Fowler was able to clearly present his points to the audience.

“The SGA is moving forward and really is trying to serve the best interests of everyone on campus,” Cleveland said.

The idea of “breaking down walls” also impressed Mackenzie Merry, a freshman majoring in political science.

“I though it was a great speech,” Merry said. “He covered a lot of topics the SGA has been working on this year and some great projected projects.”