Q&A: presidential candidate John Richardson

CW News Staff

John Richardson is a junior majoring in history and political science who currently serves as a senator for the College of Arts and Sciences.  


Q: How did you get involved with SGA? 

A: “My involvement with SGA actually started with First Year Council as a freshman during COVID. We were meeting online and trying to pass legislation and talk about things that mattered in the midst of a freshman experience that was altered by COVID. I had the privilege of running for the Senate and getting elected twice. I’ve actually spent three separate years in SGA and I’ve learned a lot. The main reason that drove me to get involved in the first place was a desire to learn and a desire to lead and to actually help make a difference on this campus. SGA seems like the natural kind of place to do that; a place where students are supposed to advocate to administration, where they can enact change through policies, or through writing legislation that will affect campus. We got to accomplish that in my three years. I’ve been able to do some really good things like advocate for the changing of Autherine Lucy Hall from Bibb Graves Hall. I also got to lead the homecoming task force that rewrote the homecoming queen selection process so that it’s fairer for all students, and that all students across campus can feel empowered to apply for homecoming queen and run for homecoming queen. So that’s really what drove me was a desire for services, desire for leadership, and a desire to give a voice to students that may not normally have a voice.” 

Q: What made you want to run for this position? 

A: “Naturally, I look at the Student Government Association, and I see its genuine purpose: students serving students. But I’ve also had the experience to know that the SGA doesn’t matter for most students. There’s a reason our voter turnout is poor. The SGA isn’t a representative body, it’s a learning laboratory for those who want to go into politics. It’s a bunch of people trying to be someone instead of doing something, and I want to fix that. I think that it’s a shame with $100,000 and 30,000 students it’s supposed to represent, the SGA should do more for you. It should spend that money practically to serve your interests, and so it’s a risk for me to run. There are a lot of people that don’t like it. It’s against the status quo, but I’m doing it because I genuinely believe that the SGA can do more for the student experience. I believe in that, so I’m running trying to make that happen.” 

Q: Why are you the best choice for this position? 

A: “The SGA has operated as it has always operated. If we don’t, as a student body, decide that the SGA does matter to us, if we don’t decide to use that to actually improve our student experience, then nothing else will happen. It will continue to be nothing for most students because the average student does not care about the Student Government Association, and we want to fix that. I’m the best choice for this position because I care about each individual student. If we aren’t better off than we were a year ago, from the last time we elected your typical SGA president, and the Student Government Association hasn’t done anything to actually improve your specific student experience, then we need to change. I’m trying to make the SGA not just matter to students, but also to make it matter to administration because you are not represented. That’s an issue. There are a couple of policies we have, like the student trustee position, that could fundamentally change how students are represented on this campus. By putting a student trustee in a position on the board of trustees, we could change all of this, and our voices could be heard, not just for us, but for the future generations of students coming through.” 

Q: Pick an instance from your time in SGA where you felt the SGA fell short in meeting its responsibilities. How would you have handled the situation differently? 

A: “I think the SGA falls short a lot of the time simply because it never necessarily does what it really wants to do. The vast majority of the time, the SGA tends to focus its time on vanity projects that don’t necessarily affect students. One thing that I think we fall short on in itself is the SGA spends $8,000 every single year on an SGA-only banquet where we give ourselves awards. Instead, we want to spend that money practically and be consistent year by year. … The SGA advocates for it every year, but we have failed to get a sidewalk between Ridgecrest South and the Student Center parking lot. I lived in Ridgecrest South, and I cut across that dusty, muddy field every single day. I wrote a bill, we’ve tried to get it passed, and I’ve had meetings with people and it failed. If we just spent that $8,000 we spend on a banquet, we could pay for the sidewalk and it could practically help someone every single day for years to come. So that’s where we fall short, is we think too little. We don’t think big picture and that’s what we want to change.”  

Q: How do you plan on increasing SGA transparency? 

A: The big thing that I want to do personally is to donate my student stipend that I would get for being the SGA president. I don’t want to be an employee for students. I want to be a volunteer for students. I want to be a leader. One thing that we’ve noticed is that there’s a $20 fee for the Student Counseling Center after your first visit. Suicide is a big issue on this campus. Our campaign actually hosted a suicide awareness walk yesterday, and so I would donate my full stipend as SGA president to cover the cost of around 200 students for the first-time fee, and that’s a difference. That’s an active difference that we can make. Outside of that, it’s being open. The SGA has actually made some improvements on the grounds of transparency, but a lot of decisions are still being made that are not prioritizing students, and we want to fix that. I want to be very open and welcoming. I’ve found that students are afraid to go to the SGA office, and that’s a shame because students should feel encouraged and welcomed. … We want to be a place that’s relevant for them, that is our focus. We want to volunteer for students and we want to give that money to serve students, and we want people to feel comfortable walking through those doors.” 

Q: What’s your number one goal with this position? 

A: “The biggest thing we want people to do is to care. Ever since COVID, there has been this large amount of apathy with the student experience. People don’t seem to care about things that really, really matter, so our goal is to be a voice and to get them to care. Whether that be with the student trustee position, and lobbying the state government and the governor of Alabama so we can have student voices on the board of trustees. Whether that be talking about sexual assault and taking action to prevent sexual assault, rather than just using words. Also establishing a campus shuttle between the Birmingham Airport and Tuscaloosa. We want to make students care and feel like they are known in their experience, and that the SGA is spending its finances to cover their interests. That’s our whole goal. All three of those policies are lasting changes that would improve the lives of almost every single person on campus. We want students to really feel known. … Our whole goal is to make it matter and to make it significant, and make it actually do what it’s supposed to do.”  

Q: What’s one last thing you want voters to know about you 

A: “I genuinely care. I say a lot about the SGA needing to improve. I do that because I genuinely believe it can do so much more for students. It’s a bit idealistic, but it is sincere care for students from across the world, across the nation and across campus.”