Brycen Higdon, current sophomore and Student Government Association recording secretary, and Ryan May, current junior and wide receiver on the Mercer football team, built their platform on three themes: inclusivity, engagement and innovation.
They wrote in their platform that they hope to increase awareness of smaller and Mercer-specific organizations by helping them with marketing.
All approved organizations will have access to SGA Public Relations materials, and their platform promises that they will meet with each organization’s representatives on a bi-monthly basis. SGA liaisons will be provided to connect SGA with “predetermined organizations.”
They also plan to facilitate a discussion about reforming general-education requirements, especially concerning pass/fail courses.
Higdon said that increasing communication between the student body and SGA would help them advocate for students and accomplish their goals.
“I’ve seen a huge divide between the student body and SGA,” Higdon said. “SGA’s a lobbying firm when it comes to safety, parking, bigger issues like that. The thing about a lobbying firm, if you don’t have people backing you, you don’t have power.”
The Higdon/May ticket plans to move the Senate office into the room currently used for Mail & Document Services in the Connell Student Center to increase accessibility. The platform also says they plan to hold Senate meetings on Cruz Plaza once a month “or spontaneously” and stream each meeting via Facebook Live.
They also plan to continue entertaining the idea of planting SGA members in student organization meetings despite the lack of engagement with that plan this year.
This ticket promises to do more to accommodate student-athletes.
They wrote, “We PROMISE that dining hours will change” to suit both the times when athletes are expected to wake up to train and the hours that study areas such as the ARC are open.
They also wrote, “by coordinating with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, we will promote cooperation between our athletic teams and campus student organizations to dramatically increase student-athlete turnout and involvement.”
Other innovation ideas include supporting the Green Coalition, reallocating funds to Academic Affairs to provide rental laptops in Tarver Library, working with students to introduce more vegan and vegetarian options, working with junior James Stair regarding gender neutral housing and funding reparations for the organ in Newton Chapel.
The Higdon/May platform has been updated since March 24, when some students found that their names had been included in it without consent or prior communication.
Specific student names were removed from the “Innovation” section.
On his own Facebook page, Higdon later apologized for the inclusion of several students’ names.
He wrote, “Our intent was not to assume endorsement, but to show our eagerness and willingness to work with the students and student organizations of Mercer University. In order to do that, we chose to utilize prominent figures, not always Exec members, within organizations; this was to show that we had specific information about each cause that we plan to pursue.”
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Higdon later emphasized further that his team realized that they had made a mistake. He said that he had received “a pretty heated message from a member of Adam’s (Penland) campaign team” who was upset that her name was included in the Higdon/May platform.
He said that after a thirty-minute conversation with this person, the platform was shared in a group message with members of Common Ground, the Mercer gay-straight alliance, urging others to make sure their names had not also been included without consent.
“We had already called everyone that we were worried about, because we had made that a top priority,” Higdon said. “We called them to reconfirm, everyone else was fine. A couple names were taken out because after the post had been made, it scared some people.”
The platform was edited again on March 25 after a student, Johna Wright, identified language that she found offensive.
“Some of the items in this platform are quite offensive and will only perpetuate stereotypes of certain marginalized groups of students on Mercer’s campus,” she wrote in a comment on Higdon’s Facebook post sharing the platform. “We (disabled students) do not have a ‘situation.’ That statement is inferring that all disabled students face identical challenges on campus, which is simply not true.”
Higdon responded, “We do need help understanding the situations of other students, and that’s why focus on having genuine conversations with students.” He wrote that he incorporated Wright’s “advice” into the platform.
The full Higdon/May platform can be found on a document shared by Higdon.
Voting will take place March 28-29.