Keely Brewer | @keelykbrewer
From a term cut short, to campaign violations, to ever-present bouts with The Machine, some student leaders have brought on big ideas, and sometimes even bigger controversy to the University’s Student Government Association (SGA). But for all of the promises, what have they actually accomplished? Here’s a guide to the most recent platforms and resolutions passed by five SGA presidents.
DEMARCUS JOINER: April 2020 – March 2021
When Demarcus Joiner ran for SGA president in spring 2020, his platform emphasized mental health resources for students, anti-hate speech campaigns and other efforts to enhance student experiences campus-wide.
Joiner hoped to partner with the UA Counseling Center to create an app that would allow students to talk to a mental health professional at any time, which was supposed to fix the long waits at the Counseling Center.
He also wanted to create a campus relations committee that would have been made up of students who voiced their concerns for hate speech on campus. However, Joiner’s original platform has been overshadowed by the global COVID-19 pandemic that erupted early in his career as president.
Joiner and SGA have held several campaigns intended to keep the student body safe during the pandemic, especially when school started back in August. In a time where students weren’t sure if campus would get shut down again, Joiner prompted everyone to wear their masks, practice social distancing and participate in UA’s sentinel testing program.
Earlier in the COVID-19 crisis, Joiner teamed up with Governor Kay Ivey and 14 other SGA presidents from across the state to promote a blood donation drive after blood donations dropped due to the pandemic.
For one week in September, SGA and Joiner hosted “One UA,” a week of activities and showcases that focused on inclusivity on campus. The program hosted a virtual movie night, a talk with Jane Elliot, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion certifications.
Among other accomplishments, Joiner and SGA also extended library hours for finals week, added pronouns to UA student applications, and created a five-part video series to inform students of the University’s return to campus plan.
HARRISON ADAMS: April 2019 – March 2020
When Harrison Adams ran for SGA President in 2019, his platform focused on incorporating the use of Dining Dollars and charging stations in Bryant-Denny Stadium for gamedays, implementing a sexual assault hotline with both UAPD and Tuscaloosa Police and initiating emergency preparedness courses for students that focused on active shooter prevention and inclement weather preparations.
Although Adams seemed to have a plan to reach the goals on his platform, he was unable to achieve most of them.
During his tenure, Adams most notably sponsored an amendment to create the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee within SGA. He also co-authored a bill to create the Tuscaloosa City Councilor Committee to improve communication between the University’s SGA and the City of Tuscaloosa. The committee is made of 10 UA students who work with the Tuscaloosa mayor and District 4 Councilor to improve safety and transportation in the area.
Adams also created a new executive position in SGA called the Director of Strategic Initiatives, which serves to find more grants and funding for SGA projects. The position currently works with all cabinets of SGA to facilitate and initiate programs for the entire UA population.
In early 2020, Adams co-sponsored a partnership with food-delivery service Starship Deliveries, which uses robots to bring food to students across UA’s campus.
When UA Dean of Students Jamie R. Riley resigned in 2019 after his tweets about systemic racism in America surfaced, Harrison notably remained silent on the issue, unlike many students and organizations on campus.
PRICE MCGIFFERT: April 2018 – March 2019
In early 2018, Price McGiffert ran for SGA President on the platform that campus and Tuscaloosa as a whole needed safety reforms and better transportation, as well as more amenities during football games. McGiffert also pushed for the expansion of the role of director of diversity, equity and inclusion (formerly called multicultural affairs).
As president, McGiffert pushed SGA and other UA organizations to be more involved with the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center, which is an agency that provides emotional, medical and forensic help for survivors of sexual assault. At the time, McGiffert also served on the center’s board of directors and helped usher large donations from the UA Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association.
Under McGiffert, big changes were made to UA football games. McGiffert and SGA pushed an executive initiative called Play for Four, Stay for Four, which rewarded students for staying in their seats for the entire duration of football games. The rewards included free refills in the fourth quarter and an increase in vendors within the student section of the stadium. They also brought back the “Dixieland Delight” tradition after it was stopped because of vulgar language in 2015.
McGiffert also helped pass a bill that moved the director of diversity, equity and inclusion to a vice presidency position within SGA. After this change, the current director, Amber Scales, was not given the vice presidency, and she was outspoken in believing that the Machine had a role in fulfilling the position.
JARED HUNTER: April 2017 – Jan. 22, 2018
From the beginning to the bitter end, Jared Hunter’s SGA presidency was constantly under scrutiny. During his campaign, Hunter was given two major campaign violations that put him under suspension. He allegedly provided a bar tab at his kickoff party and gave false information when testifying to the Elections Board. Despite this rocky start, Hunter continued to run under the platform that he would provide free stadium cup refills at football games, create a trust fund for the Counseling Center and make a task force to secure better off-campus housing options for UA students.
Early into his time as president, Hunter issued an executive order repealing the former SGA president’s block seating executive order so that it could instead be moved to legislation. He also started preliminary planning with several Greek organizations to create the trust fund for the Counseling Center to expand mental health resources. Hunter did not finish the trust fund.
In January 2018, Hunter delivered a speech and backed a resolution condemning racism at UA after then-student Harley Barber was expelled for sharing a video of herself saying racial slurs and profanities. The SGA Senate later passed a resolution created by another member of SGA that condemned racial intolerance and put harsher sanctions on Greek organizations to show more representation and to enforce more action against racist behavior.
After only serving a little over half of his term, Hunter resigned on Jan. 22 after being arrested for driving under the influence. During his term, he only passed one executive order and a resolution that created an SGA newsletter. Nothing on his campaign platform was accomplished.
LILLIAN ROTH: April 2016 – April 2017
In 2016, Lillian Roth ran for SGA president under the platform that she would bring Uber back to Tuscaloosa, implement an exam forgiveness program, build better sexual assault prevention programs and create a council for all of the presidents of organizations on campus to get together once a month to foster community.
Although Roth successfully held meetings of the council composed of the presidents of many campus organizations, which she called the Presidents’ Council, it proved to be unattainable in the long run. Roth was also successful in creating Green Week, a week dedicated to sustainability and environmental causes that continues to occur annually. The Student Non-Academic Misconduct Forgiveness Program was also implemented under Roth so that minor offenses to the Student Code of Misconduct could be removed from a student’s record following good behavior.
After successfully passing a bill in the Senate and First-Year Council that proposed rewriting the SGA Constitution, Roth’s bill was later voted down by over half of the voting student body. Roth also successfully worked to bring Uber back to Tuscaloosa after it was banned in 2014.
Right before her term ended, Roth issued an executive order after vetoing a bill that would have codified student organizational seating at football games. In her executive order, Roth added five changes to the original bill, including one that banned members of Theta Nu Epsilon, also known as The Machine, from being a part of the Student Organizational Seating process. This order was later reversed by Jared Hunter during his presidency.
After campaigning to be re-elected in March 2017, Roth was found guilty of posting campaign material on her personal Instagram account, which blacked out her campaign for a short period of time. She later lost her reelection against Jared Hunter after both candidates repeatedly violated campaign rules.