Virtual voting booths are being cleaned and aligned inside browsers around campus as the 2006 Student Government Association elections open up the polls today.
Two candidates, criminal justice major Justin Berry and political science major Christopher Whitaker are set to face off for the Student Body President role.
Both candidates have high hopes for the fate of the organization under their leadership but differ in opinions on the current view of SGA by students and administrators. While Berry believes the administrators perceive SGA to be a joke due to disorganization and internal conflict, Whitaker feels much has been accomplished through the interaction of SGA and administrators.
“SGA has the potential to express the opinions of students to state, local and university officials,” said Whitaker. He says that administrators have indicated that “some years SGA is hot and on the ball,” and that they are more than willing to work with the students.
Despite a desire to improve the organization, Berry does feel that the organization does have effective members.
“There are people in there who are driven; [they] don’t get the recognition they deserve,” said Berry.
Each feels he has accomplished much this year, which will assist him in his desired leadership role. Berry, who works in the administration building, feels he has gotten to know administrators, a diverse group on students and has learned how the campus runs. He said he was happy to “Get to become a part of it” and added “[I] feel I’ve become a student here now.”
Berry has been nominated for a Sammy award this year; he feels that a good student leader will cover real issues and real concerns.
He wants to stabilize the organization so when he graduates he “will have a lasting impact.”
Whitaker, who chaired the Rules and Regulations committee for SGA part of this year, believes he helped senators grow in effectiveness.
“This year we’ve changed around the rules to allow senators to bring things to the floor,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker feels that despite administrative opposition and the failure of the body to stop students from being evicted, that the SGA represented the students during the closing of Adam’s house at the end of the fall semester.
“[I’m] glad I got the opportunity to express the student opinion on that,” he said.
When asked what he would have done differently with his involvement in SGA, Berry regretted not getting involved sooner with the student government. He felt he could have benefited from and helped the organization more if given the time.
Whitaker would have taken a different route on the shuttle system. Student Senator Ray Martin has been working to push a grant-funded metro bus system in Huntsville through the city council. Whitaker feels working through the city rather than the university will greatly benefit this program.
In the past, SGA elections have received much due to an unclear election code and violations of election rules. Last year, the first election’s results were thrown out by the SGA Supreme Court and a second election was run to replace the first. Presidential candidate Christopher Whitaker assures students that this will not be the case this year.
He says that the rules have been changed to provide a smoother election process.
If elected, Whitaker says he would help other student leaders learn to be effective. He wants to recruit more members into SGA and work to “get results” and to keep students informed.
“I would look forward to giving a State of the Campus,” said Whitaker
Berry said, “I want to focus on the students,” and said he wants to bring professionalism to SGA. He feels that his connection with other students lies in his relation to them on an economic and social level.
“I am just like any other student here working two jobs, using financial aid,” said Berry.
He feels he learned a lot about leadership when he became captain of his explorer post as a teen. He said they brought home trophies from their first competition and that their success lied in working together.
As student leaders, both Whitaker and Berry are aware of issues on campus that students may not be aware are in the sights of SGA. These issues range from the upcoming legislative session to discussions with administrators regarding the current attendance policy.
Berry said that students should be aware of the textbook task force that he and Whitaker are a part of. The textbook study was requested by Vice Chancellor to the Texas State University System.
Berry feels that students need to be more involved in the community and hopes to work with organizations to plan more events on weekends to keeps students in town. He also feels that students should be responsible for their own class attendance and that on-campus residents should have unregulated visitation; he plans on addressing these issues if elected. He says that they are adults and should be entitled to visitation, “as long as they work with their roommates.”
Whitaker said students should be aware of the “Potential for new buildings if the state gives us TRB’s.” He says the planned buildings on campus would include a new fine arts building as well as an academic building five. He sees promise in the growth of the university: “With the profile of the university rising the way it is.”
Whitaker says he “feels lucky to be going to Sam at a time like this; we’re going places.”
Voting opens today and will continue through tomorrow at 5 p.m. Students can vote online by going to [www.shsu.edu] and following theelection link.