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How Effective Is Student Government, Really?


LEXINGTON, Ky. – According to Jake Ingram, running for president of the University of Kentucky’s Student Government Association is “a huge operation.”

He would know, having run a successful campaign to serve as SGA president for 2014-2015.

Ingram, Jackson (his vice presidential running mate) and their team (comprised of more than 150 volunteers) began developing the platform in Sept. 2013, preparing for the next year’s SGA elections in March 2014.

“It’s a long process, but that’s what it is,” he said.

According to an article published by The Kentucky Kernel, Ingram and Jackson won the 2014 Student Government presidential and vice presidential election by 204 votes. A record number of votes were also tallied, making it the highest UK student turnout in the university’s history; 5,205 votes were recorded, compared to the previous year’s 3,206 voters.

A senior mechanical engineering major at the university, Ingram maintains a (possible) future career in politics was not the reason behind his decision to run for SGA president.

“I was passionate about UK,” he said. “I heard people wanted a change.”

Here at the University of Kentucky, the SGA president is the head of the organization’s executive branch. Ingram also sits on the Board of Trustees, functioning as the chief advocate for students on UK’s campus.

His vote counts, too.

“I transcend the [university] bureaucracy to make things happen,” Ingram said.

But, has he made things happen as SGA president?

Well, let’s look at the facts.

When Ingram and Jackson first announced their candidacy for SGA president and vice president in 2013, their platform included implementing a new, free smartphone app to improve off-campus student safety, as well as promoting an increased funding for student organizations and developing a plan to control student fees (as reported by The Kentucky Kernel).

Earlier this week, an email was sent from Student Government to all students at the University of Kentucky, announcing the implementation of “a revolutionary smartphone app to improve the safety of the UK community.”

It’s called LiveSafe.

The app is free and allows users to communicate with UKPD in two directions. According to the email, users will be able to report GPS-tagged information with added picture, video and audio clips; students also have the option to text police directly.

“[With the app] You can take responsibility for your own safety and contribute to the safety of others on campus,” Ingram said.

Prior to Spring Break, the app had reached 1,000 downloads (as reported by Ingram).

“We know students are using it,” he said.

Because the app is free for students in the App Store, Student Government will pay for half of the initiative ($20,000 this year and $25,000 in subsequent years, as reported by The Kentucky Kernel). The UK administration will pay the remaining balance.

In addition, the procurement process to select the best app for the university was the fastest UK has ever seen.

“I’m a doer,” he said.

To make sure the right things get done, Ingram does his best to stay plugged into what students want. His tools for measuring students’ opinions include a campus-wide SGA survey and daily interactions via Twitter.

“Twitter has been super successful,” Ingram said. “It’s a legitimate source of student input.”

He and his staff often use this feedback to voice the concerns of the student body to the university’s central administration.

For example, during February’s “Snowpocalypse,” thousands of students sent pictures of their snowed-in cars and blocked driveways to Ingram via Twitter, pleading for classes to be canceled. He later presented these messages and students’ overall concerns to President Capilouto and his team, who ultimately made the decision whether or not to cancel.

“Thanks to everyone’s feedback I made a compelling case for canceling Thurs & Fri,” Ingram tweeted. “Now it’s in the hands of Pres. Capilouto to make the call.”

After UK notified the university’s community of its decision to cancel, hundreds of students Tweeted to thank Ingram for canceling classes.

Ingram responded, tweeting “Big thank you to everyone giving feedback & helping me show that closing was in the best interest of students. Now stay warm & be safe BBN!”

The Tweet was retweeted 70 times; it also received 266 favorites.

While Ingram and SGA are considered the voice of the UK student body, they are also dedicated to hearing students’ needs.

As a result of Student Government’s ear, a non-denominational prayer room was dedicated last year. The Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, comprised of leaders from diversity organizations all across UK’s campus, was also appointed.

“Sometimes, it’s just being in the office [that makes the difference],” Ingram said.

While this year’s SGA placed less of an emphasis on increased student organization funding and a plan to control student fees than promised during the election process (Ingram, in fact, voted in favor of a salary increase for Dr. Capilouto), the Ingram-Jackson administration has made tremendous strides for students at the university.

From the introduction of our first-ever safety app to the facilitation of an increased student voice to the central administration, I do believe Ingram and SGA “make things happen.”

And, I look forward to what this organization continues to make happen in the future.

 

Picture credits:

www.wkyt.com

"Sam I am," and I LOVE to read. Whether it's Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" or The Mortal Instruments series, I'm always reading. And when I'm not reading, I'm writing; English papers, magazine editorials, you name it! Italian food is my favorite, shoe shopping is my addiction, and I hate cold weather. I'm also a proud member of Slytherin house (we're not all bad, I swear).
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