Machine influence suspected in new SGA office


Photo Courtesy of UA news

Anna Beth Peters, Contributing Writer

The Student Government Association proposed a bill to elevate the director of diversity, equity and inclusion to a vice presidency on the homecoming election ballot, voted on Oct. 9.

The bill passed, and with the change came a restructuring within the SGA.

“The University of Alabama Student Government Association is modeled to look like just like the administration at Alabama,” said SGA President Price McGiffert, a senior majoring in civil engineering. “The one vital role that we were missing was this vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The passing of this amendment left the new position vacant, which meant the executive council had to begin an application process. The council appointed Jay Little, a senior majoring in computer science who formerly served as SGA chief implementation officer, was confirmed as the new vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion on Nov. 1. He will fill the position until it can be officially voted on in the upcoming spring elections.

Amber Scales, a senior majoring in public relations, has served as director of diversity, equity and inclusion (formerly titled director of multicultural affairs) for the past two years. She still currently holds this position, while Little is serving as the new vice president.

Because the two are doing the same kind of work under two separate titles, they will work together. Little said he will collaborate with Scales and her cabinet for a lot of the work that he’ll be doing.  

“Price [McGiffert] basically made it clear that he would like for us to work together, but there is really nothing that connects us because we are separate entities,” Scales said.

Little said his efforts now are really about getting the cabinet restructured for the next year.

“Myself, as a student leader, I pride myself on laying the ground for the students who come after me,” Little said. “The work that I’m doing now is not for me. In the end, it’s bigger than myself.”

Scales said she doesn’t know why she was not elevated to the position.

“I don’t think the argument could be made or has been made that Jay is more qualified than I am,” Scales said. “He’s very experienced as a Blackburn student, as a black male on campus, as a member of a historically black fraternity, but I definitely think that there are aspects that [come into] play, as there always are. It’s politics.”

Scales said these political calculations may come from owed favors or other tangentially related factors.

“It’s all very convoluted, and at its core doesn’t have a lot to do with, ‘How am I benefiting students?’ and has a lot to do with, ‘How am I benefitting myself and how does this look?’” Scales said.

McGiffert said the SGA opened applications for the new vice presidency for 10 days, and there were a lot of applicants. Around ten candidates were invited back for an interview, including Scales, and McGiffert said Little received the best score.

Scales said voicing her opinions may not have helped her chances to get the position, but she will not stop doing what she believes is right, which is advocating for students.

“It probably doesn’t help that I am a loud voice on issues I think are poorly handled by my fellow students and student government,” Scales said. “It probably doesn’t help that I was on that podcast.There are a lot of ways that I might have quote, unquote ‘shot myself in the foot,’ but I will never be quiet about an issue to appease someone. Especially because at the end of the day, it’s my job. It’s my job to advocate for students.”

The directorship will be dissolved once the vice presidency is officially voted on. The elevation of this position comes with a larger cabinet as well as a line item for budgeting.

New uncertainties also come with the new elected executive council position. Many students have worried about the effects this position will have on the Machine, a secret political society, and its power in the UA student government. Rumors have been circulating about Little’s association with the supposed coalition, but when asked, he denied all allegations.

Scales said she has concerns about Machine influence on the position in the upcoming years.

“It could be given to any sorts of group on campus for basically showing that they are committed to diversity instead of focusing on the real student organizations who are consistently problematic,” Scales said.

Regardless of the status of the Machine’s affiliation with the position, McGiffert, Little and Scales praised the position’s mission to promote diversity.

McGiffert said the position will one hundred percent promote a more diverse campus and Little said the move to an executive is actually an upgrade for the efficacy of the role.

“Regardless of what stipulations someone thinks that there may be on this role, it’s more open to students,” Little said. “Students have more transparency within this role.”

Little said students alongside the administration will be able to solve problems related to diversity with the new vice presidency.

“With the new VP for diversity, equity and inclusion, it puts both people at a great place on campus, for students and for administration, to continue working towards the problems that we want to solve and to actively represent students on campus,” Little said.

Scales said the position can be effective or ineffective depending on who holds the title.

“I understand the potential of this position to do incredible things for this university,” Scales said. “But know that if it’s given to the wrong person, it probably never will. I love this position. I’ve loved being able to work with these students, being able to give them a seat at the table, give a voice to the voiceless. I hope that the next person who is elected to this position will start that trend.”