Empowering students, expanding opportunities

Empowering students, expanding opportunities

I’m Ben Leake, a junior from Lexington, Illinois, majoring in management information systems and finance. This spring, I’m running for executive vice president of our SGA.

Over the past two years, I’ve seen how our SGA can act as a force of positive change on this campus. As a freshman, I served as a senator in the business school, and I currently serve as the vice president for financial affairs. During my time as VPFA, I’ve expanded the role the executive position holds by introducing a financial literacy initiative called Bama Budget. In addition, as chairman of the Financial Affairs Committee, or FAC (the group that provides funding to student organizations), I’ve followed a spending philosophy that guarantees all student organizations access to funding throughout the year by limiting how much money is spent from our budget at each monthly meeting. I’ve loved the opportunity to work toward making positive changes on this campus, and the chance to continue being a part of that change has compelled me to run for this office – I believe our SGA can help maximize the student experience at Alabama.

However, many often believe the SGA only has an impact on student lives through the policies passed by the senate or programs carried out by executives. I see the potential for SGA to play a quite different role – while there are certainly policies and programs we can put in place to benefit students, we ultimately should act as a platform for students to carry out their own goals and fulfill their unique vision of the Alabama experience.

One way I hope to do that is through the development of Student Action Teams – groups of students from across campus who work to tackle specific issues they’re passionate about. For example, a Student Action Team focused on community service would come together on a monthly basis and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity here in Tuscaloosa. Often people associate SGA with being strictly a "political" entity, when in reality, you don't have to be even remotely interested in politics to take part in SGA and have an impact on our campus. Student Action Teams would provide an outlet for those who don't want to apply for a directorship or run for an office, but still want to work to make the Capstone as great as it can possibly be.

Another way our SGA can act as a platform students to enact change is through the facilitation of stronger relationships between cultural student organizations. Right now, our SGA is in a very unique position – Elliot’s addition of a director of multicultural affairs has us poised to make strides far ahead of any other SEC, or nationwide, for that matter, school’s student government regarding inclusion of all perspectives on campus. So how can we ensure this progress, which so many students here on campus work for, is made? I believe it can be done through an advisory council made up of what I’d like to call “concurrent positions"– meaning if you’re the president of a cultural organization, you automatically hold a seat on the council. Students who are presidents of these organizations are often so busy running their own group that they don’t have the time to apply for an SGA position advocating for the causes they’re so interested in. This council would join these groups so they pool their collective resources to have a greater impact on campus together.

I have many ideas for EVP, but ultimately, I want to empower others to enact their own. On March 1st, I would appreciate your support for the chance to do that.

Ben Leake is a junior majoring in management information systems. He is running for executive vice president.

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