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

Opinion | AMP students interested in SGA deserve more flexibility

CW / Caroline Simmons
SGA sign outside of its office located in the Student Center.

There are two universities at the Capstone. One provides undergraduate students with the higher education needed in today’s professional world, while the other serves graduate students seeking advanced degrees and specialized learning.

The University divides our student government accordingly, specifying that, like each undergraduate college, the Graduate School is allocated its own SGA senators in order to accommodate the needs and concerns of these adjacent yet distinct student bodies. 

 The SGA, no matter how flawed it can be at times, provides students with a much-needed platform. At its best, student government pressures the administration to pay student workers fair wages, provide free feminine hygiene products, and encourage transparency in grading.

Students who participate in the SGA get experience building political coalitions, running campaigns, and passing legislation — important skills when more than a few SGA members dive into state politics after graduation. For at least one University alum, the SGA prepared her for serving in the U.S. Senate.

Unfortunately, current SGA election rules do not mirror the nuances of AMP students’ experiences, leaving them in electoral limbo.

The SGA’s press secretary, Sarah Beth Corona, said in an email, “Depending upon their classification, AMP Students can either campaign for their specific college’s seats if they are still considered undergraduate students, or they can campaign for a Graduate Student seat if they have completed their undergraduate degree and are full-time graduate students.”

This condition creates confusion for AMP students who wish to vote and/or run in elections like the most recent special election for Graduate Senate.

If some AMP students are enrolled only in graduate-level courses and yet can still be classified as undergraduate students, the system is obviously flawed. If something looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably not a rabbit.

The SGA’s restrictions on AMP students’ participation in student government are simply blind to the realities of AMP students’ lives. Sure, some AMP students only take one or two graduate courses a semester and mostly act and live as undergraduates, but many are graduate students in all but name. 

Recipients of many scholarships, including the National Merit scholars the administration loves to brag about, can only benefit from parts of their scholarship while classified as undergraduates. Additionally, only undergraduates can receive Pell Grants and subsidized loans through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Because of this, many AMP students prudently decide to remain classified as undergraduate students while completing their master’s.

SGA Senate seats are divided up by college because we recognize that students in each college have unique interests and deserve unique representation. But the interests of many AMP students are far more consonant with the interests of the Graduate School than with the colleges the SGA demands they vote and run within.

Students in accelerated master’s programs who choose to graduate with their bachelor’s and master’s simultaneously will complete their master’s without ever being able to vote or run for Graduate School Senate. 

Our argument is simple: We should let AMP students elect to be treated as full graduate students for the purpose of the SGA.

The current system is manifestly incapable of dealing with the nuances of the accelerated master’s program, but we don’t need to create more hurdles for AMP students to jump over and more checkboxes to tick. AMP students are more than capable of making the call themselves about whether to vote for senators from their college or from the Graduate School.

Recognizing AMP students’ unique status would also help them advocate for solutions to the unique problems they face.

Marie Winchester, who graduated with her Master of Arts in political science this past May, recounted how being an AMP student made it harder to get a decently paying job.

“If I hadn’t graduated, I couldn’t have had two of my jobs at all, and I would’ve been paid less in the third,” she said.

The SGA maintains, with good reason, a distinction between graduate and undergraduate students. However, AMP students blur the border between these two categories and must be allowed to pick how they participate in student government.

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