Lounging around a leather couch in the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house, Demarcus Joiner and his campaign team let loose. They were prematurely celebrating what would be an unsurprising win.
This year’s Student Government Association (SGA) campaigns were the most uncontested in at least 70 years. Joiner, a junior majoring in civil engineering from Warnock, Alabama, was the only presidential candidate, and all seven members of his executive board went uncontested, too.
“Even though it was unopposed, I was still nervous,” said Jason Rothfarb, Joiner’s vice president-elect.
The room filled with applause as Joiner’s laptop flashed the results. With 7,625 votes, he was named the SGA’s next president.
“It’s a blessing, honestly,” Joiner said. “I honestly don’t even know how to explain how I feel right now. I am overjoyed, and I am ready to start working.”
Current SGA president Harrison Adams was part of that celebration. He referenced Joiner’s role in the diversity, equity and inclusion cabinet during a time of campus unrest, and remarked that he would have the “grace and the poise” to handle any other trials that come his way.
“I’m obviously very proud,” Adams said. “I know he will continue the vision that I think was set forth a year ago with my predecessor, Price McGiffert, in just ensuring that student’s voices are heard at the largest tables. I’m very happy for him and very proud of him.”
Voter turnout was relatively low on Tuesday’s election. With no opposition, Joiner earned less votes than Adams, who was contested by Marquis Hollingsworth last year. Though the entire executive board and the majority of the Senate went unopposed, however, many opted instead for write-in candidates. Official write-in results have not been posted, but our observations are based on suggestions provided by voting software, which are based on previous entries.
While Maddie Gall and J.J. McGrady ran write-in campaigns for the otherwise uncontested College of Communication and Information Sciences Senate seats, several students used the write-in option to show their frustrations with the state of democracy on campus.
Under slots for candidates, students took stabs at the Machine, an underground society known for its influence in elections like these. “The Machine controls the campus, democracy in student government is a facade,” one read. Another charged, “The Machine Blakmailed Me Out of Running.” One suggested senior Patrick Trammell, the Machine’s alleged president, should fill the presidential spot.
“I think if students got involved in SGA, they would understand, like I said Sunday, that SGA is not unethical,” Joiner said. “We’ve had an ugly past, and I’m here to admit it, but our future is much brighter than what it was. I feel like if students would actually get involved in SGA and stop going off perception and what they believe and what they’ve heard, I think that they’ll understand that SGA is not unethical.”
In another living room, about a mile away, the atmosphere was also lively. But the context was different.
While five of her closest friends squeezed onto a cloth sofa, Cat del Carmen sat on the floor, eyeing the screen as an elections board member called her name.
“I feel really good,” said del Carmen, now a senator in the School of Social Work. “I’m really excited, and I’m really proud of my entire team’s efforts and everyone who supported me. I’m just thankful.”
Del Carmen’s college is one of only two that are contested among 10 total colleges. As an independent candidate, this win was huge for her, she said.
“I honestly attribute it to the people that weren’t in Greek life who were supporting me and actually gave a crap about the election for once, and got it out there that this is something that could really foster change,” she said. “That’s what I attribute it to, 100%. It’s a team effort.”
Del Carmen’s first steps as senator will be to assess and bring back inactive mental health organizations on campus, implement a random acts of kindness week before finals and address the elephant in the room: the anti-Machine posters.
After a student posted flyers that questioned the ethics of alleged Machine candidates in the social work Senate, del Carmen said the school has started to plan a dialogue among its student body. But, in her new position, she hopes to bring the conversations about Machine influence beyond her school and onto the Senate floor.
“I think that we should just bring it to light,” she said. “I don’t think that needs to be something that’s swept under the rug. I think it needs to be associated and affiliated with the SGA campaigns, and the SGA election, because it very much highlighted an issue that we need to talk about on this campus, and that’s diversity and inclusion for people that aren’t in Greek life in Senate.”
Below is the full list of 2020-2021 SGA executive board members and senators. Due to under-contested races, 10 Senate seats will undergo special elections.
President: Demarcus Joiner
Executive Vice President: Jason Rothfarb
Vice President for Financial Affairs: Daniel Perkins
Vice President for External Affairs: Jillian Fields
Vice President of Academic Affairs: Price Dukes
Executive Secretary: Anna Beth Payne
Vice President of DEI: Caitlyn McTier
Vice President for Student Affairs: Sam Rickert
Arts and Sciences:
College of Commerce:
Preston Parker McGee
College of Engineering:
Haskins Jones Jr.
Human & Environmental Sciences:
Mary Beth Sanders
Shea Amanda McGriff
Cat del Carmen
Rebecca Rose Lutonsky