Student Government presidential hopeful Jonathan Rankin and his running mate Jade Cooper are campaigning on finance and giving back to student organizations before voting starts on March 25.
The Vision sat down with the ticket to provide a profile on their priorities, strengths and apprehensions about running for the highest student leadership positions at Belmont.
Rankin, a junior, serves as SGA treasurer, which helps set the budget and doles out grant petition funds to different student organizations.
Cooper, a freshman, joined SGA in the fall and sits on the Policy Review Committee. She is the author of the multiple student leadership policy, which allowed student leaders to hold leadership roles in different student organizations.
“We think this is the biggest way we can have a positive impact on the community,” Rankin said in regards to why he is running. “I call Belmont home, and I think that there’s a lot we can do as president and vice president to make our home better.”
Cooper echoed this sentiment and said one of the main reasons she is at Belmont is for the ability to serve the community.
“Student government isn’t worthless. It’s important, and I think it’s something that we laugh off when we’re younger but when we get to an environment like this we see that it really can be effective,” Cooper said.
“Finance is what sets our ticket apart,” Rankin said.
Congress could be doing more for a greater number of student organizations, Rankin said. This includes revamping how SGA spends its money for student organizations.
“I’m in a unique position, having served as treasurer, to really reinvigorate the way that we spend our money,” Rankin said. “The way I see it, we aren’t reaching out to enough organizations, and it’s a minority of student organizations that get money every year from SGA anyways.”
SGA receives a yearly budget of $50,000, but congress has never spent all of it, a problem Rankin said he will remedy if elected.
“If you don’t have a centralized spending plan, if you don’t have a goal, then it’s going to be pretty much impossible to spend that,” Rankin said.
Of the nearly 150 student organizations at Belmont, an average of only 19 per semester have petitioned for money from SGA per semester for the last three years, he said.
Rankin wants a centralized spending plan to better distribute money via grant petitions, something he feels congress currently lacks.
A student organization can approach congress and request specific amounts via the petition, but Rankin said the process is too complicated, creating a perception that it’s simply too difficult to get money from SGA.
This, coupled with the lack of a spending plan, is why so few organizations petition SGA for funds, he said.
“It puts a lot of work on the end of the student organizations. The fact is the way the system is set up, it’s hard for organizations to get all the information; you have to go to something like three meetings if you’re a student organization to be able to just get any kind of funding at all,” said Rankin.
Rankin wants to streamline the process and have SGA reach out to different student organizations, instead of them approaching SGA.
Although finance is the main focus of their campaign, Rankin and Cooper also plan to continue the work being done by the Campus Outreach and Events Committee, namely Coffee & Conversation, Town Hall meetings and open office hours.
However, while much progress was made this year in getting students to talk to SGA, more needs to be done when it comes to SGA “talking back” to the students, Rankin said.
“We’ve kind of failed on our end as SGA in communicating back with students and telling them what we’ve been up to and how we’re working forward,” he said.
To that end, Rankin and Cooper want to create a new website for SGA where legislation, grant petition information and anything else SGA is working on can be easily accessed online.
The secondary purpose of the website is to expand the number of people who know about and have access to SGA, Cooper said.
“People see it and they know what it is but they don’t know what the letters stand for sometimes and they don’t know all that we can do for them,” said Cooper. “So I think that definitely a big part of it is just opening ourselves up to the student body a bit more and showing how we can help them and how we want to help them.”
Rankin also plans to introduce an SGA newsletter starting in the fall. Students will have the option to sign up and receive the letter in their Belmont emails every two weeks.
Transparency is of the utmost importance for his administration if elected, Rankin said. The main initiative he and Cooper will be running on is improving the student body.
He cited the recent controversy surrounding SGA as highlighting the need for transparency.
“As president and vice president there should be nothing to hide. Obviously this semester we’ve had some drama, and transparency would’ve prevented that kind of drama. It takes actual work to make transparency happen,” said Rankin.
Rankin and Cooper plan to have a close working relationship with senior leadership. While students may disagree from time to time with administration, it shouldn’t affect the way SGA works with them, Rankin said.
“It’s an important relationship to uphold and maintain. Their opinion matters and has great value,” said Cooper. “That doesn’t mean we can’t potentially challenge things for the betterment of the student body, but we can do that with respect and with the right intentions. When it comes down to it, both parties want what’s best for the school.”