Early in the semester, The Paladin held an interview with Furman University’s Student Government Association Office Executive Council. Present at the meeting was Chloe Treible, Paladin writer and at-large representative for Greek Life within Student Government Association conducting the interview; Scotty Bryan, Editor-in-Chief for the Paladin acting as an unbiased representative; Josh Swope ‘23, Student Government Association’s Student Body President; Meredith Ervin ‘24, Student Government Association’s Student Body Vice President; and Karisha Brown ‘24, Student Government Association’s Madame Secretary. The interview was recorded for quoting accuracy. The following are important highlights of what the Student Government Association or SGA had to tell.
Just to get to know a little bit more about you and what you guys have done, have you served on SGA before and what roles did you serve on before the roles you have now?
Brown: I started off SGA last year in the spring. I was a class representative for the sophomore class.
Ervin: I have been a class representative since the beginning of my freshman year, so I have had two full years as a class representative. This year will be my third year on SGA as Vice President.
Swope: I have been on SGA as the Class Vice President Freshman year, Class President my Sophomore Year, Class Representative my Junior year and now serving as Student Body President.
In the spring of 2021 the Furman Student body voted to eliminate the titles of “Class President", “Class Vice President”, “Class Treasurer”, and “Class Secretary”, to, as Josh clarifies later in the interview, “even the playing field and make it a more well spread-out representation… there is no hierarchical system”
We know that you have representatives and the executive council, are there any other members that serve on SGA?
Swope: We have at large representatives. We have the big 5, which are founded through SGA but go through a little bit of a different process because they represent a lot of the bigger organizations on campus. Student Diversity Council, SDC; Campus Recreation, PAC and Athletic stuff; Religious Council; RLC , Housing; and lastly FUSAB [Furman University Student Activates Board]…we also have different representatives from different organizations come to SGA meetings to come talk about what is going on and what are their clubs and we hope to expand that a little bit this year.
From your previous terms and experience, would you say at least 75% of your Council and At- large representatives are present at the meetings?
Brown: From previous experiences we almost always have 85% of council there. There might just be one person absent but they always have a valid excuse, like academic or athletic reasons.
How often do you have a Furman Administrator or Official come to the meeting to talk to those on SGA?
Ervin: Almost every meeting.
Swope: It’s actually funny you asked that question, because about an hour ago, I just got the whole list for every single administrator who is coming to the SGA meetings for the semester.
How do you view yourselves as different from previous councils?
Swope: So I would say one of the things we are pushing for this year is building a lot of bridges with other organizations, with other clubs. Being an SGA that is more hands-on with the student body. I think you are going to see a lot more representatives at different club meetings and around campus. Being more excited to be at Furman in person. I just hope that there will be a lot of bridges being made with this year’s council.
With that, who are the people or is the person that the Student Government Association works for?
Swope: Well, it’s in our name, Student Government Association. Students for the Students, it’s our big slogan. That is something that is always our number one priority.
What is one team goal for this academic year that you have as an executive council?
Ervin: I think a big thing that we all want to do, including myself, is to help each other feel supported, feel included, make sure this is a safe space where we have your back no matter what. Wither it’s with a new project idea or you’re having issues getting a deadline we want to make sure we have each other’s backs. We are genuinely focused on being a team.
Brown: We are also trying to uphold the communities and knit the communities within each other because there is some groups that are separate from others and we want to put them together to show that we all are students and that we go through the same issues and problems. We just want to be here to support and uphold each other.”
With that, do you guys have any individual goals that you're striving to achieve in this academic year?
Swope: I would say one of my biggest is involvement on campus… increasing CLP numbers, Greek Life involvement numbers, anything we can do to encourage students to get out there and have fun…encouraging the student body to get out there, have fun, and make the most of your college experience.
Ervin: So personally, I am very involved in SGA, but I also am involved with the cheer team and involved in a lot of other organizations. A big goal that I have for myself that I have not held myself really accountable to as much in the previous years before is to know the student body better. Showing up to their clubs. Showing up sporting events. Showing up to their meetings. Really making them feel more supported. I also want to help others feel more supported by Furman as a whole. Their voice is valid and they all deserve a chance to be happy here. I literally ran on a slogan that "I want to be your biggest cheerleader", so I really just want to uphold that.
Brown: I want to support the communities, as well as all of us want to do. I want to also make sure that communities are being represented. Not to just see what other communities and groups are doing, but to actually participate in some of the things. There are also different communities that also aren’t really represented on campus, and I would like to help make sure that everything is upholding Furman’s promise to diversity.
What do you guys think from serving on previous councils and your experience is a big obstacle that you’re ready to resolve or are going to work to resolve within this year?
Ervin: I think it’s kind of in the question itself of obstacles and resolving them. One of my top Clifton strengths is restorative, so I am all for that. Like Josh mentioned before, building those bridges, and creating good vibes – we literally just purchased a sign saying "Good Vibes Only" for the SGA office- and we want to keep that sentiment going forward. I think a big thing we are going to hold ourselves accountable to is resolving issues anytime they come up and good vibes only.
How can the student body get involved with SGA even if they do not serve as any of the members that attend meetings?
Brown: One of the biggest ways is to rep your organization. Spread the word through word of mouth or send flyers to the Instagram. We always want to get more participation from the student body. We want to know how we can help you.
Ervin: I agree. Josh and I have tried to adapt a new slogan for this year of ‘The door is always open." We are really working to have the SGA office door more open and creating a safe, comfortable space to come into, so students are able to communicate with us, ask us what’s going on, ask us for help, and overall feel supported.
Swope: We are always here for the students. Whether it is an email at 11pm at night, we will get back to you as soon as we can. And like Meredith said, that open door policy we are really, really pushing for this year.
What is the best way that the student body can hold your executive team and your council accountable throughout this year?
Ervin: Personally, I think just coming into the office, sending us an email. I think there is this general negative vibe around the word "Accountable". I don’t like that. I think that can be a really beautiful thing because you can look at it as a support system way… Just increasing that communication, understanding that things sometimes do not go as planned, that it is not just pinned on one individual because there are a lot of factors to consider. So, just coming in and talking to us. We are all students here and we are all doing our best.
Why do you care about what the student Government Association Represents and what it does for the student body?
Swope: I think going back to our motto "Students for the Students." One of the things I personally really love about SGA is seeing the excitement that happens when people get that Caesar Salad dressing in the Dining Hall or see their club advertised really big. Anyway, that we can really help the student body and can get encouragement and hope going, that is extremely awesome for lack of a better term. It is something that make this job so fulfilling. It makes it something that even as a senior now, I would continue to do past senior year.
Brown: Yes, and we are a reflection of [the student body]. The reason we care is we want to represent the different voices and people of the student body. Why wouldn’t we care? We are here to represent [students] and [their] ideas, opinions, and emotions. We want to be the best representation of [Furman's student body].
Why should the student body care about what you do here as a council?
Ervin: I’d like to think that anybody who runs for a position in SGA and gets voted in are in it for the right reasons. If that is the case, we are truly volunteering our time to try to go above and beyond to not only benefit ourselves, but benefit our friends, benefit people we’ve never met before, faculty, staff, students, everyone alike. Really go that extra mile to try to make Furman a place for everyone. The more we feel supported by the student body, the more we are able to pour that support back into Furman.
Responses were edited for clarity.
The Student Government Association's office is in Trone Student Center connected to the Student Organization Commons. They can followed on Instagram at @furmansga.