If a tree falls in a Student Government election...
In Liberty Jacket tradition, the Editorial Board will not endorse candidates for Student Government (SGA), for we believe that our job is to present information on the candidates so that our readers can make their own decisions. Thus, for those who are still on the fence as polls close on Friday, March 18, here are some main takeaways from the candidates’ platforms. We encourage you to read each platform yourself.
Since Srija Somaka and Granger West are lagging behind in club and organization endorsements, the current frontrunners of the election are projected to be Rohan Sohani for President and Grace Swift for Vice President.
The Sohani-Swift campaign’s major focus is its commitment to helping all students have equal access to opportunities and experiences while at Georgia Tech. The campaign has a “three pillars” setup on the policies they want to implement during their term.
The Somaka-West campaign has different priorities: Their campaign’s number one issue is the disorganization, organizational politics, and secrecy within SGA. To address this problem, the campaign has proposed internal reforms, including new representative positions, new executive branch positions, and election process changes. Changes are unlikely to be achievable within one year, they may be a step in the right direction. Typically, executive and legislative changes infer a constitutional or bylaw change: a long, excruciating process. This is especially true for the proposed 11+ new representatives, new presidentially-appointed positions, and election reforms. Because major organizational changes typically require an amendment to the constitution or bylaws, these changes are unlikely to be achieved within one year. If the Somaka-West campaign commits to addressing this concern, it will undoubtedly take most of their time and resources away from their other campaign promises.
The elephant within the chambers of SGA is the disconnect between SGA and the Georgia Tech Community. Both campaigns have proposed solutions: On the one hand, the Somaka-West campaign is pressing to reform SOFO and cut “red tape” around student organization funding, something Somaka claims to be the most significant role of SGA at Georgia Tech. The Somaka-West campaign has proposed increasing SGA’s campus presence, including SGA tabling events, publicized meeting minutes and newsletters, and a lengthier and more engaging SGA election process.
The Sohani-Swift campaign has advocated for SGA representatives to visit student organizations to “understand how SGA can support their initiatives and receive input on SGA initiatives.” Sohani and Swift are also advocating for holding monthly forums for organizations to share grievances. The campaign has also suggested connecting SGA representatives and college student advisory boards to Institute Administration to better address problems on campus.
Another problem facing the candidates is the low track record of campaign promises being kept. The Sohani-Swift campaign, after parsing the completion statuses of over 250 promises among the platforms of the past two presidencies, delivered a damning statistic that only 18% of campaign promises were fulfilled by the last couple administrations. Sohani and Swift’s approach has been to advertise only three pillars with specific goals and solutions. This purported failure of previous administrations to keep their campaign promises may be a substantial factor in the SGA - Georgia Tech Community disconnect.
Another common issue both campaigns seek to tackle is updating FASET to better equip incoming freshmen and transfer students for life at Georgia Tech. Beyond the major issues, there are great similarities in both campaign platforms.
Students at Georgia Tech have much to consider in this campaign cycle: Can each campaign accomplish its goals? Are the candidates’ goals aligned with the desires of the student body?
Does the Somaka-West Campaign try to tackle too many issues while the Sohani-Swift Campaign addresses too few?
Ultimately, it is up to students to perform their civic duty by reviewing each campaign platform and voting for the candidates who will best serve the Georgia Tech community. //
Logan Putnam (forward and takeaways)
Nathaniel Greve (multimedia and platforms)
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The Presidential Platforms
Beginning with Srija and Granger, scroll down for Rohan and Grace
Biographies and Platforms are copied directly from the candidates' online campaign materials to provide a convenient guide for our readers. We do not own the rights to nor officially endorse the statements made. Please send us an email to correct any mistakes. firstname.lastname@example.org
Srija Somaka + Granger West "It's Time 4 REAL Change"
1. Reform SGA to Work for You
Streamline and Simplify Organizational Finance
■ Prepare a student organization financial guide for navigating institutional funding sources beyond the student activity fee
■ Ensure a standing time slot for organizations with time sensitive requests at Joint Finance Committee (JFC) Meetings
■ Work with the Student Organization Finance Office (SOFO) to implement a policy for urgent requests
■ Advocate to fully staff and fairly pay SOFO
■ Work with SOFO and GT legal to allow for block grants per project and large event set ups
■ Make the bill submission process easier by automating price verification using a script
■ Reclassify organizations with high reach or expenditure (such as competitive engineering orgs and SCPC) as Department Registered Student Organizations to improve funding and streamline approval processes
Reform and Prioritize the Undergraduate House of Representatives (UHR)
■ Create new representative positions focused on student organizations as constituencies: Representative for Academic/Professional Organizations, Representative for Arts/Media Organizations, Representative for Civic Engagement Organizations, Representative for Competitive Organizations, Representative for Competitive Sports Organizations, Representative for Cultural Organizations, Representative for Honor Societies, Representative for Religious/Spiritual Organizations, Representative for Recreational/Leisure Organizations, Representative for Social Fraternities, Representative for Social Sororities
■ Create several presidentially appointed member-at-large seats reserved for representatives from historically underrepresented and minority communities to better represent the student body in UHR
■ Transition from the current method of having 1 or more representatives from each School to several representatives from each College
■ Establish and prioritize House committees as the main place to plan projects and do work within SGA that enrich the student experience
Restructure the Executive Branch
■ Reintroduce a Vice President of Student Organizations to create resources for and assist student orgs with chartering, growth, and leadership development
■ Re-evaluate executive committee’s structure and functions to optimize efficacy
■ Use SGA resources to expand advocacy networks to coordinate the work of similar student organizations
● Expand current networks such as the Green Network, the Mental Health Network
● Create new ones such as Philanthropy, Service, and Minority Empowerment
■ Prefer leaning into existing organizations and communities when new campus issues arise rather than creating new SGA task forces and committees
■ Establish roundtable meetings between all presidentially appointed students that serve on Institute-wide committees to coordinate their work to best reflect the student body opinion
Improve Communication, Transparency, and Engagement
■ Redesign the website to make it simpler and more intuitive to find resources and information about SGA
● Implement a Student Activity Fee tracker
● Implement and keep updated extensive project trackers
● Publicize and keep updated minutes from SGA meetings
■ Increase frequency and usefulness of SGA newsletters and social media posts
■ Establish an independently appointed watchdog position to investigate and report waste, abuse, and mismanagement
■ Coordinate and expand representative and cabinet member office hours and work to ensure there is always an SGA member available in the SGA office during business hours
■ Have regular tabling events to improve SGA presence and accessibility
■ Promote fairer and more engaging SGA elections
● Publish the elections schedule to the student body within the second week of spring semester
● Hold several interest meetings over the course of the 2 months leading up to elections to encourage new and outside applicants
● Leave the elections application open for 4 weeks
● Host several town halls and forums during the campaign period to allow the student body to meet and discuss ideas with the candidates
● Overhaul the elections website to make it easier to understand the candidates and find their information a. For example: University of Southern California’s site https://usg.usc.edu/elections/
2. Empower all Communities
Address International Students Needs
■ Advocate for urgent support to the greatly under-staffed Office of International Education (OIE)
■ Advocate for a separate department that supports graduate international students
■ Improve the international student career search
● Work with Career Center to develop an international student specific Career Fair with employers willing to sponsor students
● Develop separate searching procedures for curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT)
■ Reform the international student FASET experience
● Include better information about international upkeep and legal requirements for staying in the US under a visa
● Replace outdated cultural learning sessions and provide cultural and diversity training for FASET advisors and all incoming students
Support Transfer Students
■ Improve Academic Advising
● Work with the Georgia Tech Academic Advising Network (GTAAN) to develop resources and train all advisor members on the unique needs of transfer students
● Advocate for advisors specific to transfer students in individual schools
● Allow first year class permits for transfer students
■ Provide Relevant Resources
● Provide directed Career Center information regarding co-ops and internships
● Provide a contact to the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors
● Provide information on library classes and a guide to checking out books and resources
■ Reform Transfer FASET
● Involve organizations like Transfer Student Association (TSA) and transfer student representatives as a resource and point of contact during orientation
● Promote the TSA mentorship program
Develop Student Organizations
■ Promote Inter-Organization Relations
● Host mixers between student org leaders to promote social connections
● Support the development of roundtables to share common issues and ideas
■ Connect students to organizations
● Create an organization matching survey for students to better find and join organizations
● Improve promotion of the org fair and Engage
■ Provide Organizational Development
● Host rotating monthly lunch and learn trainings on different topics such as: effective leadership, diversity equity and inclusion (DEI), navigating SGA, recruitment and growth, financing and fundraising, year over year transitions, and organizational networking
● Provide assistance for creating and updating organization governing documents (Constitution, Bylaws, etc)
Elevate Cultural and Religious Groups
■ Advocate for the creation of a Multicultural Resource Center to promote, coordinate, and advocate for the interests of different cultural groups on campus
■ Use SGA’s social media presence to elevate smaller and under-served organizations
■ Promote diversity education on campus to improve cultural understanding and awareness
■ Promote interfaith and multicultural events that allow students a non-judgemental space to ask questions and connect on a deep level with people unlike them
■ Ensure neutral meditation spaces in the new student center
Promote Greek Life
■ Improve publicity of (Multicultural Panhellenic Council) MPC/ (National Pan-Hellenic Council) NPHC recruitment
■ Ensure priority booking for chapter meetings in the new student center
■ Promote rush on Engage and in orientation
■ Create a rush buddy system based on a survey (similar to roommate sign up) to encourage involvement in the process
Uplift the LGBTQIA+ Community
■ Integrate and normalize the use of pronouns and preferred names in professional and academic spaces at Georgia Tech, including CANVAS
■ Improve signage of gender inclusive bathrooms in all buildings
■ Support expansion of gender-inclusive housing and advocate for an option to opt in mid-year
■ Promote and support Pride Alliance and the 3-full time staff at the LGBTQIA Resource center Center
Recognize all Athletes
■ Register competitive dance teams as GT sports teams so they can access priority registration for practice spaces and receive institutional support and funding
■ Ensure GT sports teams of all levels are properly recognized and receive adequate funding when representing Tech at competitions
■ Provide a point of contact for registered GT sports and intramural teams to help navigate the funding process and access resources
■ Advocate for a dietitian for the GT band alongside other traveling sports teams
3. Advocate for Better Mental Health + Wellbeing
Work for Improved Access to Mental Health Providers
■ Advocate for the addition of an online intake form and availability schedule on the CARE website
■ Advocate for the creation of a comprehensive list of on and off-campus mental health providers focused on affordable care options
■ Advocate for increased funding for long-term licensed psychiatrists and psychologists on campus
■ Implement a “Get help now” button on all Georgia Tech websites to navigate to a central page where services are listed with a short description and are in order of emergency to non-emergency services/contacts
Address Physical and Sexual Violence
■ Assist student orgs with creating a clear and specific policy to address sexual harassment/assault to ensure swift action in the event of misconduct
■ Improve communication into how the Title IX process works
■ Improve education on consent and sexual assault as part of the First-Year Experience program
■ Advocate for the hiring of more VOICE staff
■ Increase the number of sexual violence support groups that can be joined throughout the semester
Adopt a Holistic Approach to Wellbeing
■ Expand Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training across campus and work towards mandatory Mental Health training for all students, faculty, and staff
■ Promote the expansion of effective life coaching
■ Provide students with more outdoor gaming spaces such as life size chess on Tech Green
■ Continue to ensure that the Menstrual Product Program has a long-term funding source
■ Work with the Dean of Students to create a social fall through prevention system to identify uninvolved students and provide them with additional support to help them discover their community on campus
■ Move the location of the drug disposal dropbox from GTPD to Stamps to improve privacy
■ Encourage art in “invisible” spaces such as residence halls and campus buildings
4. Look after Campus Infrastructure + Sustainability
Improve the Physical Campus Infrastructure
■ Continue work on bringing lighting to the top of Peter’s parking deck
■ Advocate for more hammocks along Tech Green and throughout campus
■ Support the work of the Residence Hall Association (RHA) and enable this organization to be the primary advocate for housing problems
■ Work closely with Capital Planning and Space Management (CPSM) to involve more student’s in planning/designing upcoming projects such as Ferst Dr cycle track, future developments on south campus and improvements to the Peters parking deck Area
■ Work with existing contacts and mobilize the student body to petition the City of Atlanta for faster improvements to city owned parts of campus
● Repave Hemphill Ave. and Techwood Dr.
● Add lights to Couch Park (Burger Bowl)
● Add a traffic signal to Ferst Dr and State St.
■ Begin the process of advocating for a pedestrian scramble at North Ave and Techwood Drive
Improve the Digital Campus Infrastructure
■ Advocate for an improved room reservation system
● Expand the availability of instant reservations
● Better the website UI and add the ability to reserve onsight
■ Advocate for redesigned campus websites (for PTS, Dining, GTPD, CARE, etc) that make it easier to find updated and complete policies/procedures/information
● Create better graphics, flowcharts, and video explanations
● Create expanded and searchable FAQs inspired by top questions on Reddit
■ Continue advocacy for improved Parking and Transportation Service (PTS) apps such as Passio GO and Stingerette
■ Continue work to improve the system for reporting non-functional street lights
■ Improve GT Dining programs to make ordering, finding nutritional information, and submitting feedback easier
■ Continue work with ElectrifyGT to push for the electrification of the campus fleet as current vehicles reach the end of their life cycle
■ Continue the work for Zero-waste game days
■ Work to ban the use of single use plastics on campus
■ Continue work to standardize recycling practices across campus
■ Advocate for expanded recycling and composting in residence halls
■ Advocate for the quantifiable tracking of utility usage in all campus buildings to better identify waste and inefficiencies
■ Improve sustainability education for all students, faculty, and staff
Rohan Sohani + Grace Smith "#LeadingWithListening"
Pillar I. Tech needs to be a campus that strives for academic excellence while maintaining a healthy balance between work and a social life.
We’d like to change the culture around the Tech experience being about survival. SGA making campus more enjoyable looks like continuing to push for outlets to socialize near campus, but it also looks like reevaluating course curriculums. Rohan has been working to assess pre-req and co-req chains that block students from graduating on time and being able to take all the courses they’re passionate about. Additionally, the pandemic has taken an even greater toll on our mental health, so we need to have more outlets to have fun. From a student experience perspective, SGA should serve as a place to celebrate our vibrant Atlanta and campus communities.
• Continue Rohan’s work with OUE to eliminate unnecessary prerequisite and corequisite chains to allow students to graduate on time and take more free electives
• Continue progress made to ensure we get a cheap bar in Tech Square
• Provide more outlets for student art like the Community Arts Fair that Grace started
• Host more concerts, especially for Atlanta artists
Pillar II. SGA can make Tech more accessible by reducing barriers to existing campus services and eliminating extra required expenses.
• The cost of being a student goes far beyond simply paying tuition and fees. Many classes require equipment that students must pay for out of pocket, and campus services are sometimes inaccessible for students. SGA has the power to alleviate many of these burdens.
• Examples in the past have been SGA making on-campus laundry free, Rohan’s creation of a MyDAQ lending program for ECE classes, and expanding scholarship opportunities.
• Accessing services like the GT Counseling Center can be difficult, but SGA can help. Grace has been advocating at the state level for a bipartisan bill allowing for students who are outside of Georgia (whether for an internship or on break as an out-of-state student) to be able to access GT counselors
• Propose to the Technology Fee Committee (which Rohan serves on) that all classroom expenses (MyDAQs, Adobe Suite, online Lab Notebooks, etc) be covered by Tech
• Continue Grace’s advocacy to expand telehealth options for GT counselors and psychiatrists so students can more easily access a mental health professional, and allow students to continue therapy with out-of-state practitioners
• Move funding for competitive engineering organizations to the College of Engineering rather than through SGA to free up funds for all other student organizations
• Partner with OMED to learn which required student costs are the most burdensome and increase resource access where possible
• Either create a lending program or subsidize regalia for graduation
Pillar III. Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be a priority in campus programming and resource allocation. Advocating for these priorities must be a focal point of SGA’s work. Rather than speaking for these groups during a campaign and rarely following up, we commit to regularly listening to and meeting with leaders of BSOs, cultural organizations, and queer communities to understand where Tech can and needs to do better.
SGA has often not sought the input of various cultural organizations or minority student groups during advocacy. As liaisons of the student body, it is paramount that SGA serves as a safe space for all campus leaders to share their concerns and ideas on how campus can be improved for them. By listening to these students, and understanding the true issues and concerns, SGA will be able to advocate for these students at a much higher and more productive level.
• Send a weekly representative from SGA to listen to various student organization meetings to understand how SGA can support their initiatives and receive input on SGA initiatives
• Integrate Undergraduate House of Representatives members with existing college student advisory boards to regularly present school and college-specific issues to administration
• Hold monthly forums for BSOs and cultural orgs to meet and collaborate as well as share specific grievances
• Ensure that SGA executive cabinet selects candidates with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and priorities
• Further promote diversity within groups that liaison with community members (ex: GT Tour guides, Alumni Association Student Ambassadors, etc)
Polls close at 5:00 P.M. on Friday, March 18th. Vote Here.
More election info and the candidates running for the other races available at sga.gatech.edu/elections
Do you wish to make an impact on SGA and champion your own set of solutions? Get involved by attending meetings this year, reading the meeting minutes, and creating your own plans. Applications to run for election typically open at the end of February and are due at the beginning of March. Be sure to send us a message when you do.