The Volunteer’s Union, one of two campaigns running in this year’s election to the Student Government Association, aims to change the narrative of the previous campaign and direct SGA’s focus to student bodies as a whole.
The campaign’s top four executives include Nikolas Dalton, a junior political science major who is running for student body president; Kendall Williams, a junior supply chain management major who is running for vice president; Colin Zimmer, a freshman business management major who works for the student services director; and Jack Robert Huffman, a sophomore majoring in economics and philosophy who is running for executive treasurer.
The campaign stands on the three pillars of integrity, inclusion and progress, hoping they will represent and include all students on campus, even if those students are not affiliated with SGA.
Some of the main focuses covered under these pillars include increasing diversity in undergraduate senate seats, greater student control over budget allocations, and the creation of new, more inclusive student services committees. Members of the Volunteer Union hope to build on these pillars through increased transparency, both within the SGA, and in administrative practice.
“Through integrity, we want to honor that role by ensuring that we are as transparent as we expect from the government,” Dalton said. “Inclusion, because we like to include all ideas and all demographics and all forms of engagement on campus… The development is that we don’t want to just tear down what is already working, what is already being done… we want to continue to expand on what is working and move away from what is No.
One of The Volunteer’s Union’s goals is to ensure that the voice of every student on campus is heard, and that student voices are accurately represented through SGA leadership.
Huffman explained that many people felt that the SGA was inaccessible, which was an issue he would like to fight if elected.
“We have to talk to our constituents,” Huffman said. “We must make active efforts to extend hands or olive branches to students on this campus. If you want more efficient communication, then you need to be more available. I don’t think SGA is available to most of our students.”
Echoing Huffman’s claims, Williams sees one of her most important responsibilities as promoting diversity and inclusion, which starts with encouraging more students to participate in SGA.
Williams admits that one of the biggest problems students face is doubt about their qualifications to participate in the SGA. He believes that in his case, being a new member of the SGA brings positives, especially in ensuring that every voice on campus is heard.
“I’m not going to use the fact that I’ve never been in the SGA as a weakness, only as a strength, because I can bring a new perspective that hasn’t been heard before and also bring my real life experiences. ,” said Williams.
This desire for change for all students became one of the inspirations for starting The Volunteer’s Union, because The Big Four felt that SGA was often seen as an exclusive club closed from public opinion.
“We are not politicians,” Dalton said. “We’re normal students, and it’s important to keep in touch… We’re just out there trying to solve problems. As simple as that.”
“We try to elevate SGA’s mission, which is to make a better experience for everyone on campus. I didn’t even look at it like that at all.”
“I don’t know what traditional campaigning is like by definition,” Dalton said. “I feel we are a traditional campaign. We are just students involved with things on campus. We try to elevate SGA’s mission which is to make a better experience for everyone on campus. I didn’t even look at it like that at all.”
Dalton admits that while the campaign calls for a change of power may be unusual, he believes it is in the best interests of most students, which is in line with the big four’s desire to accommodate the wants and needs of all students.
Members of the top four cited specific issues they wanted to address within these three pillars, including SGA UT’s lack of ability to allocate funds compared to other SEC schools.
“In all of these other schools in the SEC, their student government has a very close role in the allocation of these funds to students, which is ideal because students know what is best for students and students can advocate for student needs better than anyone. another,” said Huffman. “We don’t have that.”
Huffman believes the key to making positive change on campus is investing in budgets and greater autonomy for students over their fees and distribution of funds. Huffman also noted that he would like to see more transparency around how student services fees are allocated. If elected, Huffman would also like to make SGA’s budget report publicly available on the SGA’s website.
Williams also noted that no demographic information about SGA membership was available. This lack of information can make it difficult for students to know who is represented in the current student government.
Not only would the big four want to get better funding for their efforts at SGA, but they also wanted to provide more funding accommodations for various departments across campus.
“Through my experience, I’ve seen how much students need, but how much doesn’t happen with SGA,” says Zimmer. “I really wanted to try as Director of Student Services to create a committee that could really help the student body… and create a student government that everyone could be proud of.”
Zimmer is known as FOR Elves, the persona she created when she dressed up as a Christmas elf and handed out candy across campus to help students feel better walking to class. He created and became president of a suicide prevention organization called Sources of Strength.
If selected, Zimmer hopes to start SGA’s first accessibility committee, which aims to make UT as robust as possible for people with physical disabilities. He hopes that with this change, every student at UT can have the best and easiest time possible while exploring campus.
Overall, members of The Volunteer’s Union feel that it is their promotion of substantive change that will propel them ahead of their competitors.
“I think what we have about Commit is a matter of substantive change and a real willingness to see change on this campus that is not just gradual… but instead, recognizes that our administration runs for a year or two at most, if re-elected. ,” said Huffman. “Either SGA has to be more cohesive and cooperative, or SGA has to be able to actively fight for more dramatic changes on this campus.”
More information about The Volunteer’s Union can be found on their website Instagram page. Election voting will take place virtually from April 3-5 at votesga.utk.edu.