After a tense spring election, ETSU Student Government Association President Pooja Shah, Vice President Nathan Farnor and Secretary/Treasurer Emily Marmon are equipped to tackle challenges head-on.
During election season, social media posts and images alleged that Shah was participating in campaign activities that were forbidden by election commission regulations. As rumors began to spread, the election became heated and caused dissention, particularly among SGA members.
Farnor acknowledged the controversies and said that SGA leadership is continually working toward resolution.
“There are going to be students who may not agree with everything that happened in the election and may have questions,” Farnor said. “Emily and I were on one ticket. Pooja was from the other. Even amongst ourselves, we got caught up in drama. But at the end of the day, the university judicial board made a decision. Pooja, Emily and I as executives have agreed to accept that decision and to say, ‘here’s what happened; let’s prevent it from happening in the future.’”
Shah said that one of the executives’ goals is revamping the election process.
“Throughout the past few years, many of the issues surrounding elections have arisen due to inconsistent regulations and lack of transparency, which we are working diligently on improving,” Shah said.
Farnor added that the executives have discussed their differences and have determined that the best course of action is to move past the election and focus on establishing trust within SGA.
“Most of the people who were very vocal about the election were involved in SGA,” Farnor said. “That gives us a benefit in that we can work with them and try to reunify the organization.”
Farnor said that SGA is being restructured internally.
“In the past, we’ve had problems with certain student groups being underrepresented, like veterans, adult students, LGBT students and students of various racial groups,” Farnor said.
“We’re being very intentional about diversity this year. With our appointments and our committee assignments, we’re making sure that we have all those voices brought into the conversation. Starting this fall, we’ll have a permanent diversity committee made up of people who can devote their time to issues that affect underrepresented populations.”
Shah said the executives hope to expand Civility Week into a “Civility Series” with events taking place throughout the semester.
SGA is increasingly involved with the Student Government Presidents Council, a statewide organization for executive student leadership at TBR schools. In fact, Shah was elected Vice President of the organization this year.
Farnor added that SGA leadership will be poised to take a stance on hot-button issues.
“This isn’t something that a lot of SGAs in the past have done, but we’ve decided that when it comes to some issues, we are going to formally take a side,” Farnor said. “As representing students, we feel that if we’re going to move in a positive direction, when an issue comes up affecting our students, we’re willing to send out an email to the student body that says, ‘here’s our position and here’s what we’re fighting for.’”
The executives are proposing several initiatives to improve the ETSU experience for students, which include grading scale reform, possible grading and feedback deadlines, increased student community service opportunities and escalated sexual assault prevention efforts.
Farnor emphasized a rebranding of SGA in which members go to students to address issues instead of waiting for students to come to them.
“In the past, it’s been ‘here’s our office, come speak to us if you have concerns,’ and that’s always an option,” Farnor said. “But we really want to reverse that image.”