Why some students say they feel especially disconnected from SGA this year

Campaign season usually takes over campus. Now students could conceivably log onto classes and never know election day was around the corner.

Claire Yates, Contributing Writer

The goal of University of Alabama’s Student Government Association (SGA) is to be a support system for students, to help them with concerns and to take in ideas. But while students struggle to find their bearings during the pandemic, some have only felt more disconnected this campaign season.

Caroline White, a junior management major, said she has voted in the past, but only for her college. 

White said she thinks SGA is important to give students a voice, but she does “not place much value in it.” She added that she does not really care about SGA as a whole. 

‘Exhausting to see’

Most candidates promote their campaigns to become a part of SGA by posting on social media, having customized t-shirts, cups and pins, painting on cars and by having a slogan attached to their name. White said she feels indifferent about seeing candidates campaigning across multiple platforms to win over voters. White said the dizzying campaign week, which often takes place close to spring midterms, is “exhausting to see.”

While social media has become most SGA candidates’ main way of campaigning this year, some students still find themselves encountering candidates in person. 

Aidan Creel, a junior majoring in microbiology, said while on his way to class he’s experienced people standing in Shelby Quad telling him to vote for certain candidates. 

“Once you get stopped for the fourth time on your way to class, it gets to be kind of a hassle and somewhat annoying,” Creel said. 

Creel said that he doesn’t care at all about SGA and has “never heard about any of the elected candidates after the election.” 

More transparency

Creel said if he could change one thing about SGA, it would be for them to be more transparent about SGA activities so that “we know what changes they are making.”

Blair Woodall, a senior majoring in public health, said she voted in a previous SGA election, but doesn’t remember a “single thing about [the candidate].”

Woodall said she heard about SGA when people came to talk to her sorority about it.  She remembered seeing some campaign promotions on Instagram in the past, but since she deleted her social media accounts, she hasn’t been able to learn much about this year’s slate.

“There are buttons in my sorority house for current candidates, but I do not know anything about them,” Woodall said. 

Other students may not have social media accounts as well making them less likely to see some candidates.

Nick Etheredge, a sophomore kinesiology major, said he has not kept up with the elections at all, and that he “couldn’t even tell you who the president is at the moment.”

Ethredge said he has not heard a lot about SGA this year because he has not been on campus as much due to the pandemic. He added that he never sees anything about SGA after the election process. 

“Maybe this is my own fault for not taking interest in SGA, but if SGA was actively doing things and making changes, then I should be able to see those without going out of my way to find them,” Etheredge said. 

‘Students serving students’

On the other hand, members of SGA feel differently about SGA’s importance.

“I think students have actually been very interested in SGA this year,” said Will Bradley, the director of communications for SGA and a junior double majoring in public relations and communication studies. 

Despite the pandemic, Bradley said SGA’s mission is still the same and that “meeting students where they are and enabling them to have the best possible on-campus experience,” is still a core value of the organization. 

“We also worked with university officials to provide students a pass/fail option in spring 2020, an expanded sentinel testing program, an extended add/drop date in spring 2021 and ensured students were informed through the University’s spring semester COVID-19 training,” Bradley said.

Bradley said SGA is working diligently to create opportunities for every student at The University of Alabama. 

Bradley reiterated the need to uphold SGA’s motto: students serving students. He said he wants to make sure every student has at least one interaction with the organization in their college career.