Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Presidential candidates discuss visions for SGA

This year, two people from the same division of the SGA — external affairs —are competing against each other for an office next year. Matthew Brown and James Fowler are running for the office of SGA president, each with their own unique experiences and accomplishments.

Matthew Brown

Matthew Brown, who serves as community service coordinator for the SGA, said the decision to run for office was a part of a long process.

“I saw a great opportunity to build a stronger sense of community here on campus,” Brown said. “My experiences with SGA had shown me what wasn’t working and what needed to be fixed. I wanted the chance to lead the way forward.”

Coming to the University from Providence Christian School in Dothan, Brown first became connected in the Honors College. From there, Brown worked through various other organizations, such as Creative Campus, the Avanti group, the Bama Bikes committee and the Blackburn Institute. However, it was his work with the speech and debate team that Brown said gave him many of his leadership skills.

“That helped me to improve my critical thinking and give me more ideas,” Brown said.

Brown said he has received a good response from the community regarding his campaign. He added it is evident that students are excited about the possibility of change in the SGA.

“Some people are worried that the system can’t work for them, and it’s those people that I really want to reach out to.”

When asked how he would hope to change the image the SGA has received as a result of an SGA rules violation to fund a trip to Pasadena, Calif., Brown said he is aware of what he would be dealing with as SGA president.

“I’m the first to admit that the SGA is not perfect, and that’s one reason I’m running,” Brown said. “The SGA is entrusted with the student’s tuition money every year, and I think students need to be aware of that. Students need to make sure that the SGA is working for them.”

Brown also said he thinks the SGA has lost touch with the group of people elected to represent the student population at the University.

“I think the SGA this year was an SGA out of touch with the student body, and even out of touch with its own rules and regulations,” Brown said.

Regarding his opponent, James Fowler, Brown said he has respect for him, but thinks the students need more in the president they elect.

“James is a nice guy, but I think my experience outside SGA will help me cast a new vision for SGA,” Brown said. “I respect James, but I think it’s time for a better atmosphere in SGA. It’s time to make the SGA work for students in every aspect.”

Ultimately, Brown said the SGA elections are in the hands of the students.

“A lot of people have been disappointed with the SGA. This is their chance to make a difference,” Brown said.

For more information on Brown’s platform, visit

James Fowler

Along the same lines of Brown, James Fowler, a graduate of Madison’s Bob Jones High School, agreed that the SGA must be an organization that has the best interests of the students.

“The overall goal is to create a transparent, inclusive student government that all students can trust,” Fowler said.

Fowler’s first brush with collegiate politics came when he became part of the First Year Council, representing Rose Towers as a freshman.

“After my first year, that was enough to get my feet wet to understand how the SGA works,” Fowler said.

From there, Fowler represented the business school in the SGA Senate. In addition, he worked as Senate president pro tempore and chairman of the student affairs committee.

“My experience in SGA working on these projects over the past three years has given me an understanding of where we are,” Fowler said. “I’ve developed a crucial link with administrators and with students, and it’s given me the understanding of where we need to improve.”

When asked how he would hope to change the image the student government association has received as a result of the Pasadena controversy, Fowler said that perception is reality.

“We have to become more transparent, we have to communicate with students better and we have to bring everyone to the table,” Fowler said.

In an effort to enforce this ideal, Fowler said one aspect of his presidency would be to post all financial affairs committee allocations online in order to keep the SGA accountable for its spending and budget.

Fowler said he has received immense support from his family and friends to run for office.

“They’ve seen through my actions over the past three years that this has been a priority of mine and that it, many times, is more than just an 8-5 job. It’s an 8 to late at night job and that I pour myself into this to ensure that we have student-centered projects and that the SGA is working for students,” Fowler said.

Fowler said Brown is a good man and has a distinct plan for how things should operate within the SGA.

“I think Matt’s a great guy,” Fowler said. “He has his own vision for where the University needs to be, where the SGA needs to be.”

Fowler would not comment on whether Brown’s platform was feasible or not, saying, “We agree to disagree on certain things.”

Fowler said he has enjoyed his time working alongside current SGA President Steven Oliver and his staff.

“I think that this administration has initiated a lot of good projects and has always kept students needs and concerns as a top priority,” Fowler said.

Fowler said it is to make sure the SGA is reaching out to as many people as possible.

“We have to get past just expecting students to want to be involved in SGA,” Fowler said. “We have to go out and actually recruit those people. It’s got to be the SGA’s responsibility to ensure that every voice is represented.”

For more information on Fowler’s platform, visit

Words from the current president

With a new administration soon to take office, Oliver said he thinks both candidates have good ideas. With Fowler, with whom he has worked over the last year, Oliver said he is very motivated to get work done.

“James is capable and dependable for the job,” Oliver said. “He’s put in a lot of hard work this year.”

Oliver said that while his experience with Brown is limited, he feels he is very capable.

“He’s put together a lot of good ideas for different projects that involve the community service department of external affairs,” Oliver said. “He seems like he can get out there and meet people very well.”

When asked what he thought the next president would face next year, Oliver said it is hard to predict exactly what to be ready for, but that some things will hold importance, such as perfecting the football ticketing program. In addition, Oliver said the SGA must continue to preserve the emergency loan program.

“Another thing is that we want to make sure as SGA to serve as a resource for students who are having trouble financially as economy starts to rebound,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s advice to both candidates was simple: be approachable.

“Be open to any opinions that any students have,” Oliver said. “Be motivated and let them know you work for the students.”

And he said it is important to collaborate.

“One of the key things is how you can work with other people in various departments and within the administration,” Oliver said. “It’s all about communication and working with other people.”

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