In this column, we’ve only really discussed the 2020 presidential race. But that is only one of the many races that will appear on your ballot for the general election Nov. 3. Whether you are planning to vote in person or have been staring at your absentee ballot in confusion, let's discuss what happens when you look a little farther down the ballot. Georgia has two senate races going on. Incumbent David Perdue (R) is facing off against challenger Jon Ossoff (D). On top of this, a special election for retired Senator Johnny Isakson's seat consists of about 20 candidates, with the frontrunners being incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R), State Sen. Doug Collins (R) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D). Our representatives in the House are also up for re-election. This varies by district, so who appears on your ballot is going to depend on what district you are registered in. For example, District 2, which encompasses much of Macon, has incumbent Sanford Bishop (D) running against Don Cole (R). To see the candidates for your district, or to find out what district it is you actually live in, an easy place to look is house.gov. There will be other candidates on the ballot, but that varies by county. For example, in Macon-Bibb, residents will be voting for public service commissioner, several state house seats and senate representatives, solicitor of the state court, tax commissioner, clerk of superior court, district attorney and sheriff. Clearly there is a lot more going on than just the presidential race. There are also more than just candidates on the ballot this time around. In Georgia, there are two state constitutional amendments that will appear on your ballot. These are votes you should be decided on at the same time as you are deciding between all of these candidates. And now you may be asking yourself, “What? Constitutional amendments? I had no idea!” Yeah, that’s pretty common. So let's look at what these amendments look like, and what they mean for an average Georgia resident. The first proposed amendment is House Resolution 164 Act No. 597, but on the ballot you will see this language: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended?” Yes or No.” Essentially, this proposed amendment would allow for the Georgia General Assembly to only use specific taxes and fees for what they are collected for. So, if taxes are put into these special funds, the funds are then used for a specific purpose and not for anything else. So, a yes vote supports the dedication of certain taxes and fees to the public purpose that they were collected for, and a no does not. The other amendment is House Resolution 1023 Act No. 596 and is on the ballot as: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to waive sovereign immunity and allow the people of Georgia to petition the superior court for relief from governmental acts done outside the scope of lawful authority or which violate the laws of this state, the Constitution of Georgia, or the Constitution of the United States?” Yes or No. This amendment, if passed, waives the state's sovereign immunity, which allows Georgia residents to seek relief from state or local law that violates the constitution. If this is passed, we can sue the state of Georgia in superior courts if they are breaking local, state or federal constitutional law. A yes vote means you support the waving of sovereign immunity allowing residents to sue the state, and a no means you do not. Confusing, right? Sometimes even I get confused. And if you aren’t from Georgia, then these don’t even apply to you, but there are probably ballot measures on your ballot that you need to look up in advance of casting your vote as well. Every city, county, district and state will have a different ballot. One of the most important things you can do is to know what is on the ballot before you show up at the polling place. That is the best way to ensure a smooth voting process on Election Day! Usually, the sample ballot for your county is online, and if you live in Georgia you can go to the Georgia My Voter Page on the Secretary of State’s website to view your full ballot. Knowing what will be on your ballot is just another one of the many steps to make sure you are making informed decisions. So before you go to your polling place, research, read and then vote! Absentee ballots can still be ordered until Oct. 24 at vote.org/absentee, and in-person voting began Oct. 12.
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The Supreme Court is confusing — especially now. Since Ruth Bader Ginsburg, popularly known as R.B.G., died Sept. 18, there has been a lot of talk in the news about what will happen next. What is the precedent for replacing her, and what exactly happened in 2016 when a similar situation arose? The politics behind this is complex and confusing, so let’s break it down. The Supreme Court was created to be completely independent of partisan politics. The Supreme Court itself considers its job to be the “final arbitrator of the law” and to be the guardian of equality for all Americans, separate from politics. The Court serves the American people, not any political party. And because of that separation from politics, they don't run for office like other public officials. But that being said, all Supreme Court justices come onto the bench with their own judicial philosophy, which is why we often hear about conservative and liberal judges. Their perspectives on how the law works or how the Constitution should be read often comes from the judges’ own political biases, which often stem from political parties. It is for this reason that picking a new Supreme Court justice has profound implications on many political issues despite them being independent of politics. Once a justice is appointed, they serve for the remainder of their life or until they choose to retire. A justice is nominated by the sitting president, and is vetted through confirmation hearings in the senate. This process, all in all, typically takes months. Senators ask questions about the nominee’s client list, all sources of income, travel destinations, media interviews, writing and more, but they also ask questions about their judicial beliefs. In these specific hearings, we can expect to hear questions about Roe V. Wade, as well as the Affordable Care Act, two increasingly important topics as the court moves to having majority-conservative judges. In a typical year, the nominee also has meetings that last about 15 minutes with every member of Congress. All this is before even going forward with the public hearings. This extensive vetting process is not expressly outlined as common practice in the Constitution, but has become the precedent over the years in order to make sure that these lifelong appointees are the best people for the job. But what is happening now? Since the passing of the Notorious R.B.G., President Donald Trump and the Senate have decided to move forward with a nomination to fill her seat on the court — as is their right under the Constitution. Trump announced his nominee Sept. 25: Amy Coney Barrett, a justice on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He expressed that he wants her to be sworn in to the highest court in the land before the presidential election Nov. 3. That is a very quick turnaround. If the Senate votes and swears in a justice in the fewer than 50 days we have until the election, it will be the fastest confirmation of any Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. That is one of the main reasons this pick has become so contentious. The other reason for the contention surrounding this supreme court seat stems from a decision made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block President Barack Obama’s nominee during the 2016 election. In February 2016, the iconic justice and the standard-bearer of conservative judicial philosophy Antonin Scalia died. This prompted Obama to quickly nominate Judge Merrick Garland to be considered — as is his Constitutional right as well. Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., had long been a contender for the highest court in the land, so it was a natural decision for the administration. The Senate in 2016, however, was majority Republican, and chose not to hold confirmation hearings for Obama’s nominee. When Scalia died, the 2016 primaries were already well underway. There were still 293 days until the 2016 election, and neither Trump nor Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton were the clear nominees for their parties. Mitch McConnell believed that the American public was close enough to an election that they should wait to nominate a judge to the Supreme Court. "The American people should have a say in the court's direction,” McConnell said at the time. “It is a president's Constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate's Constitutional right to act as a check on the president and withhold its consent." That is within the Senate's right — the Senate’s confirmation power is, as McConnell said, one of the legislative branch’s checks on the presidency — so they did not go through with a confirmation of Garland. Ultimately, Trump was elected and nominated Neil Gorsuch the year after. Essentially, the precedent set in 2016 was that in the year of a presidential election, if there is a seat open, the president should wait to fill it until the election is decided. We have found ourselves in the same predicament again. Ginsburg has passed and left a seat open with less than 50 days until the election. So what will the Senate do? In this instance, they either go against their word and confirm a new justice, or they continue with the precedent set forth in 2016. For Republicans, they say that the circumstances are different now as Obama was a lame-duck president. He wasn’t up for election. As a result, his authority was lessened. But for Democrats, they say that this is Republicans going back on their words from 2016 for the sake of politics. It is a complicated decision no matter what happens, and more than anything, it speaks to the mass polarization and politicization of the Supreme Court. Ultimately, this is a heated debate, and has led to a wide array of comments on both sides. Whatever decision is made will most definitely impact the election on top of possibly transforming the judicial landscape in America for the foreseeable future and for our generation. If I haven't been able to convince you to vote yet, I hope this does. If nothing else, vote for your legislative future, because whoever sits on that Court, will be there for the vast majority of our lives.
Presidential debates have become a mainstay in the election process, and this cycle is no different. Debates can also be confusing, and while I will obviously be watching, I wanted to ask some of Mercer’s own experts what they think about presidential debates and whether or not they believe debates will have any impact on you as a voter. Chris Grant, political science department chair and campaigns and elections expert, and Derek Glasgow, a political science professor and a campaign and research expert, had similar views on the issue. “Watch it, talk with your friends and the people you know — and do not listen to any pundits or commentators on who won or lost,” Grant said. “The purpose of debates is to give voters direct information about the candidates, so you can make your own assessment of who won and who lost according to your own criteria according to the issues that are important to you.” Grant gave some insight into what we could expect going into this debate, citing the Barack Obama 2012 election, the George W. Bush 2004 election and the Ronald Reagan 1984 election. He said that often, incumbent presidents have a poor showing at their first debate. “The president has not been being questioned on a daily basis by other candidates, whereas Joe Biden has been on a debate stage 20 times this year,” he said. “He has seen himself do well and he has seen himself do poorly, so he has a good sense of who he is.” Grant also discussed the rhetoric being used by each campaign about the other. “(President Donald) Trump has actually created a fairly easy night for Joe because he has painted him as ‘Sleepy Joe,’ that he’s geriatric and can barely stand on the stage, so they have already set the bar so low, all he has to do is get up on the stage and give a C performance to do well,” he said. He commended Trump in the 2016 election for employing a similar tactic. “He knew that Hillary was smart, so every time she would say something, he would say, ‘yeah, we know she’s smart, but she is corrupt and should be in jail.’ It was very effective,” Grant said. Overall, Grant said you can expect a message or rhetoric from Biden that “he is a compassionate elder statesman.” From Trump, he said, you can expect a message that “he got done everything he promised he would and that he is a very effective and successful president.” Glasgow took a different approach to discuss the debate: he looked at the research. “As my overarching argument, I do think debates arguably are important; however, I do not believe they have a large outcome on the election,” Glasgow said. Glasgow, a researcher, looked specifically at the data surrounding debates and campaigns. He said that “research shows that debates are arguably a more effective way for campaigns to give their message rather than say, the news.” But this only occurs during a good debate, and not what he calls “a circus.” Another reason he claims that debates are important is that they reach a large audience. “At the first Clinton/Trump debate in 2016, there was an audience of 84 million people, so debates are a great way for campaigns to reach out and get people to get engaged in the election,” Glasgow said. But debates also usually reinforce partisan support, according to Glasgow, and “very rarely is a debate going to get the other side to vote for their candidate. This is even stronger in an era with partisan leanings.” While Glasgow tends to be, in his own words, pessimistic when it comes to debates, he does believe that “they are a unique opportunity for a candidate to confront the other candidate, which does not usually happen.” He also said that his definition of a good debate is when the two candidates clash, and they are forced to argue the validity of their points. But he also made clear that despite it being a good debate, “winning the debate does not necessarily mean winning the election, and that was made clear in 2016.” Overall Glasgow said that debates have little to no impact on most voters. But to a small group of voters, they prove to be very persuasive and important. For example, “if you are interested in politics, and you are undecided, or your party allegiance is week, then the debate may have a large impact,” he said. Glasgow said that if you watch the debate, you can expect clashing rhetoric where they either do not respond to each other or completely move on from a question, and that is common. “I don’t believe it is good for debates or democracy,” Glasgow said. “But typically you get some policy out of them.” The first presidential debate is set to take place Sept. 29 at 9 pm. Mobilize Mercer, Young Democrats, College Republicans and the political science department will be streaming it live on Cruz Plaza for all students to attend. As always, if you are not registered to vote, please visit https://www.vote.org to register.
Mail-in voting, absentee ballots, vote by mail, mail-in ballots — this election cycle has seen a lot of names thrown around to describe the exact same thing: mailing in a paper ballot, instead of voting in person. But what exactly is mail-in voting, and is it a safe way to cast your vote? To answer that question, I’ll start by saying that mail-in ballots have been around since the Civil War when soldiers were able to vote for either the incumbent President Abraham Lincoln or his rival Gen. George B. McClellan. Absentee ballots were actually added to the Constitution “to allow Civil War soldiers to vote.” The addition, however, was only good through the end of the war. The issue was addressed again in 1932 at the end of the First World War, but this time, it went beyond including only active-duty soldiers. It included “individuals who could not appear at the polls because of absence from their city or town, sickness, or physical disability,” and since then, the laws have been updated several times. Before COVID-19, there were already 17 states that didn’t require someone to give a reason when they requested a mail-in or absentee ballot. And currently, there are only six states in which “in-person voting remains the only option unless they can provide an approved reason not related to fear of the coronavirus,” according to the Washington Post. Absentee ballots, mail-in ballots or whatever you want to call them have been used for years, and they are a safe and reliable way to vote. While there are a few instances of fraud through mail-in ballots, the mail-in system itself is not the main source of problems. What really plagues mail-in voting is when people fill them out incorrectly. Mail-in ballots can be confusing, and they require complete accuracy in filling them out or they will be turned away by the election board. Mike Kaplan, Macon-Bibb Board of Elections chairman, said that “not following directions” is the most common mistake he has seen in his tenure overseeing elections. “In the July election, we had hundreds and hundreds of mismarked ballots. It says to fill in the bubble. NOT check it or ‘x’ it. Just fill it in,” Kaplan said. College students must request a ballot for the county they registered to vote in, he said, which might not be the county where they attend school. Students should check through their state department’s website where they are registered. Jadon Murad, president of Mobilize Mercer — which encourages voter participation among the Mercer student body — suggested that the “most important aspect when going in to vote is to have a plan.” “It doesn’t matter if it is in person or absentee. Go in with a plan,” Murad said. “You can’t just randomly fill out a ballot. You have to order it and fill it out and mail it back. Don’t get your ballot and then wait to mail it. Fill it out, and mail it. Follow your plan.” Murad brought up an important point for voting in general: a plan. Voting, especially by mail, is not something that can be done on a whim. Go in with a comprehensive plan. When you're going to vote, how you're going to get there and who you're going to vote for. A plan can significantly diminish the room for error, which is so common in the voting process. Many of the mistakes and errors with absentee ballots happen when voters don’t follow a plan and make sure everything is done correctly. In a 2014 interview with NPR, Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said that there are many mistakes that can cause mail-in votes to not be counted, like forgetting to sign the envelope the ballot is in or using a regular envelope rather than the official mail-in ballot envelope. Additionally, mail-in ballots are not counted if the person who voted already voted in person or if their signature does not match the one on file. And the number one mistake? Turning the ballot in late. These problems may scare you out of voting absentee. If that is the case, then I hope to see you at the polls on Election Day. But if voting absentee is calling your name, I urge you to first make a plan, order your ballot and, once it arrives, read it carefully — maybe a few times over. Then, fill it out and then mail it in! Don’t wait around or say you'll do it after class on Friday; mail it back that same day! And if nothing else, just remember to fill in the bubble. In this case, X definitely does not mark the spot. You can register to vote at www.vote.gov. For resources on how to vote absentee, visit www.vote.org/absentee-ballot/.
Welcome back to campus! 2020 has been interesting and chaotic, but it’s not over yet. For me — and many others — the most exciting part of 2020 is just beginning: it’s election season! Elections come every few years. And 2020 is a big year for local, state and federal constituencies. Many elections, such as the one in Macon this past summer, have come to a close, but some are just beginning to gain traction after the midterm. Right now is when elections start to get interesting. Historically, young people tend to turn away from political life, not entirely by choice. We are met with gatekeeping and stigma that makes the young vote almost impossible to reach. This year could be different. Young people are getting involved. Social media has provided an outlet where we see and hear everything going on, and we make our own opinions and news. Our generation is more politically active than any generation before. In a national survey of college students, results show that “59% of college students think this election will be more important for the country than any election in their lifetime,” Business Insider reported. According to Politico, college students are turning out to vote in “record numbers.” In 2018, “7.5 million college students who were eligible to vote went to the polls,” which exceeds any other election in the past. Young people have the numbers — we just need to put in the work. Our generation makes up “21% of the population,” far outweighing the number of Gen X or Baby Boomers who typically show up to vote. Candidates have realized this and started to roll out platforms that they believe will speak to the younger generation, like loan forgiveness and environmental action plans. As college students or even as young people, we have seen a generational shift. It’s not uncommon to hear individuals our age making fun of our parents and grandparents for their out-of-date ideas. Perhaps this is what leads political operatives to believe we will vote in mass droves. But it is time that we stop making fun of “boomers” for being out of touch and actually work to create a country that fits into the ideals our generation finds so common practice. What is most important for our generation to realize is that we have the ability to make a change. There are so many individuals between the ages of 18 and 23, that if we vote — I mean, turn out with the force that my grandma and her friends do — we could decide the election. "It is a true choice as to what society you want to live in," Mercer Political Science Department Chair Chris Grant said. "Do you want to live in a country where gut instinct is more important than science? Do you want to live in a country where all citizens have an opportunity to gain a prosperous future? How do you want the world to think of our country?” Grant also made his point to young people clear: “Your vote counts and it makes a difference.” When asked about young people in the upcoming election, Macon Mayor-Elect Lester Miller cited how important the youth vote is. “I often say we should vote like our future depends on it, because it does,” Miller said. “When young adults bring their ideas and their energy to the table and get involved in the political process, we all benefit.” The main thing we as young people, Gen-Z and even Mercerians need to remember going into this election is this: we can decide what our future looks like as we graduate and join the workforce, participate in the economy and even begin to raise a family. But even before that, we have to understand that this election decides our direct future. Voting is not partisan — it isn't for some and not for others. It is a right given to us in our constitution. To learn and decide how we feel, and advocate for that. So, register to vote, stay informed, ask questions, and show up to vote on Nov. 3. Me, my grandma and all her friends expect to see you there. To register to vote, visit https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote.
Throughout the course of this semester, the Student Government Association has changed the way they allocate funds to different student organizations, with more discussions happening behind closed doors in Fiscal Affairs Committee meetings and in executive member meetings that occur every Wednesday night and are not open to student attendance. This change has led to quicker Senate meetings and much less public discussion about the funds given out to organizations. Little deliberation has occurred in recent meetings because of the process that Fiscal Affairs Chair Harrison Ivins has created to vet potential student organizations asking for money. Senior Senator Caroline Kittrell raised a question at the senate meeting on Oct. 14 about the repeated passing of large sums of money to the same group without so much as a discussion. “I just feel like if we are giving one organization $2,000 in one night, we should have more information, or at least hear from the organization itself,” she said. Senator Kittrell’s comment was addressed immediately by Senator-at-Large and Fiscal Affairs Chair Harrison Ivins, who said that “each group goes through intense vetting before it is brought to the senate floor.” While the initial job of the Fiscal Affairs Committee is to help organizations apply for funding requests, and then to vet these funding requests, it becomes the senators’ job to decide on whether or not the funding requests are a valuable use of their limited funds once it reaches the Senate floor. So while the vetting process has become more intense for the fiscal affairs committee, this does not change the job of the class senators. President Adam Penland brought up this point in the senate meeting on Oct. 14, urging senators to voice their concerns. “It is important that we discuss legislation before passing it, so if you have questions or concerns, do not be afraid to talk,” he said. The concern of Fiscal Affairs’ overreach in parliamentary proceedings was also addressed in SGA’s meeting Nov. 4 when new legislation was brought to the table to ensure that representatives of organizations that ask for money are actually there to discuss and receive it on the day that their organization reaches the senate floor. Penland said that he was in adamant support of this amendment to the constitution. “I think this bill is vitally important, and Harrison and his team work really hard to make our jobs as senators easier, and they have done a really good job,” he said. “But it is also the Senators’ jobs to vet and decide where our funds go and this will help with that. It will provide a more open discussion and understanding of what clubs will do with their money.” Sophomore Senator Savannah Lackey said she shares similar feelings to Penland. “It is important for organizations to be at Senate when being approved for funding, especially when it is such large sums of money, because it opens the door for us senators to discuss what the funds are being used for and ensure we are allocating funds that will benefit our student body in the best way possible,” she said. Ivans’ constitutional amendment was brought to the floor on Nov. 12 at the SGA meeting and was passed with 100% support, meaning that students now must be present to explain their funding requests before they can be passed on the senate floor. SGA meets on Monday nights at 6 p.m. in CSC 2.
Mercer’s Student Government Association met Sept. 9 for the newest members’ first time to discuss plans for this fall. Legislation was passed for six new organizations on campus: Relay for Life, Period, MUTouch3D, Georgia HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), Bears Engaged Across Religion and Collegiate National Association for Music Educators. Vice President Michaela Jones also asked fellow senators to comment on Tarver Library’s new printing service “Bear Print,” which has received several complaints from the students on campus. Out of the 13 senators who had used the system, 10 said they find it difficult. Chief of Staff Christian Hartley said he found the new system inconvenient because it requires the newest Bear Card, and that it costs $25 to get a new card. Senator-at-Large Sheridan King shared an idea she first brought up as a freshman Senator. She said that adding “print credits” on cards as a part of tuition might alleviate the transactional fees involved with putting money “from your credit card onto your Bear Card for Bear Bucks.” Senator-at-Large Harrison Ivins compared trying to print to “running around in circles” and said that a “print credit system could be very effective for students.” Media Secretary Bryce Brandvold said the system took so long to figure out that a librarian ultimately ended up printing out his materials in the back. “Obviously it is not a very good system if even the librarians are getting frustrated,” Brandvold said. SGA tabled the topic for future discussion after Sen. King meets with the librarians in the near future. Mercer SGA meets every Monday night at 6:00 p.m. in the Connell Student Center’s Conference Room 2. All meetings are open to the public.
After three years of what seemed like a revolving door of coaches and players, it is finally cross-country runner Marc Reiser’s senior year. Reiser is the only boy left in his year, having started with 13 athletes his freshman year. He competed in all five events last season for the Bears with a season-best 26:51.28 for the 8K. “As soon as I came on campus, I knew it was where I wanted to be,” said Reiser. “Mercer (being) a division one school I could compete at was a very big draw, that, added to an awesome education and a good opportunity to get involved on campus, made me want to be here.” The team has had three different coaches during Reiser’s time at Mercer. This year's new coach is Josh Hayman from Louisburg College. “With the position we’re in now with our team and new coach, I would say it has all been more than worth it and a great experience nonetheless,” Reiser said. This year, the team mostly consists of returning players. With five meets left in the season, Reiser is excited to see how the team will do. “At least for as long as I have been here, this is the largest team we have had return between seasons and I think there is so much incredible talent within our team,” Reiser said. “Adding a fantastic new coach, I feel a strong end-of-year performance is right on the horizon for us.” After this year, Reiser plans on pursuing a masters of accountancy. He will then sit for a Certified Public Accountant and look to work with an accounting firm. Reiser’s next meet will be Sept. 30, in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The iconic blue American Idol bus drove into town on Aug. 23 and parked outside of the Macon City Auditorium. Macon has a rich musical history — with people like Otis Redding and The Allman Brothers Band coming out of Macon — so it is no surprise to locals that the popular show chose this Middle Georgia town to find their next big star. Cochran, Georgia, native Ashlynd Jolley was one of thousands who lined Cherry Street as early as 3 a.m. to sing their hearts out. “Me, my brother and his girlfriend woke up really early on the day of the audition,” Jolley said. “I’ve always struggled with stage fright, so it took me a good while to even work up the courage to audition, but I’ve been singing since I was old enough to walk and my friends were always telling me to audition.” Audition day can be stressful, and for Jolley, this was no exception. “My nerves were super high,” Jolley said. “When I actually got in the building, it wasn’t as crazy as I thought it was going to be. I didn’t even know what I was going to be singing until I walked in.” One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of the American Idol audition process is meeting the judges. “The judge and I didn’t even talk that much, and I can’t give any hints about a golden ticket. All I can say is keep watching to find out what happens,” Jolley said. Some Middle Georgia hopefuls did make it past the first round of auditions, according to WGXA. In the future, Jolley hopes to “keep working more gigs to get a little more comfortable singing in front of people” in order to work out all of her nerves. The 18th season of American Idol is set to air in January 2020. When watching, look out for Jolley and other Macon locals who auditioned in one of music’s greatest cities.
Student Government Association (SGA) announced March 27 that Adam Penland will serve as SGA president for a second term. Junior Michaela Jones was elected vice president. “I ran again because there is still more to be done,” Penland said. “I have a unique opportunity since I am a junior to continue everything I have been working on.” Penland and Jones said they are excited to not only continue what they worked on this year but also to introduce new ideas. “I have a lot of experience on the Academic Affairs Committee, but I'm excited to do other things as well as help guide the new members of the committee,” said Jones, who is currently spearheading several projects as head of the committee, including the initiative to pay Mercer Police parking tickets by donating canned food. Penland and Jones are using this time at the end of the school year to work together with senior and current vice president, Shruthi Vikraman, and Dean of Students Doug Pearson, faculty advisor for SGA. “I was talking to Dean Pearson about how at this time, presidents are usually winding down their presidency, but we are actually working to have a really smooth transition,” Penland said. Both Jones and Penland have their own initiatives that they are excited to work on in the coming year, but as of right now they are focusing on “making SGA more accessible to the students,” said Penland. “We are here because of the students.” Students also voted for Student of the Year and Professor of the Year while deciding on the presidential ticket. The results will be announced at Honors Convocation April 5 and the Campus Leadership Awards April 23.
Mercer’s Student Government Association (SGA) reconvened to discuss the perceived disconnect between students and athletes as well as what safety improvements students believe the school should make during this semester's Safety Walk. The campus outreach committee, lead by Senior Senator Hayes Rule, introduced student concerns about relations between the Mercer student population as a whole and the student-athletes. “Honestly, athletes can be a little cliquey sometimes,” Rule said. “As an athlete, I can see both sides.” Rule suggested that SGA play a role in bringing student groups together. He proposed a community basketball tournament as one method. “Athletic teams and non-athletes would come together, be on the same team together, play together,” he said. “It would happen at the end of March in Hawkins Arena during the time when a lot of March Madness is going to be showing in the stadium.” Rule said he would still need to work out many of the details about the tournament. Junior Sen. Michaela Jones suggested a kickball game instead, which many senators seconded, including Recording Secretary Adi Trivedi. “With basketball, athletes are given a huge advantage training-wise, whereas there is not a kickball team for Mercer,” Trivedi said. Sen. Rule said he is still open to ideas and has not closed discussion on the subject. SGA also talked about this semester's upcoming Safety Walk as they look to appoint a new head of the Campus Safety and Improvement Committee to replace former committee chair Grant Denton, who no longer serves on SGA. Senator-at-Large Azam Gadi, as acting head of the committee, said he has been talking to Dean of Students Doug Pearson about when the walk will be. As of now, the date has not been set. Senators relayed student concerns about campus safety issues to the committee. Sen. Jones said that they should check on a “door at Mercer Hall that does not always lock,” and Freshman Class President Savannah Lackey spoke up about recent car break-ins occurring across campus. She said the freshman dorm parking lots have been targeted lately. “My friends have been telling me that their cars are being broken into in the freshman parking lots, and that's not okay,” Lackey said. The committee is still taking suggestions for what to look for on the safety walk and ask that any urgent safety concerns be addressed with Mercer Police. SGA has open meetings every Monday night at 6:30 in the Connell Student Center.
Mercer’s Student Government Association (SGA) met Jan. 28 and swore in four new senators, Juniors Sarai Mapp, Caylen Johnson and Peri Staples and Senior Nigel D’Souza. The new Senators promised to “fulfill the duties of the office entrusted to me to the utmost of my ability, to serve purposefully and meaningfully, to speak frankly and candidly in representing students and in all my endeavors to reflect honor and merit upon this organization and Mercer University.” The New Senators were elected as a result of a special election held Jan. 15-16 and will be serving for the rest of the 2018-2019 term. At the meeting, Green Committee Chair and Sophomore Class President Jadon Murad, discussed their joint efforts with UCapture, an extension for the Google Chrome web browser that funds environmental programs when users who have downloaded the extension make monetary transactions online. Partnering websites donate a portion of users’ spending to projects that offset carbon emissions, such as methane capture and reforestation efforts. Murad invited Rebecca Romp, a representative for UCapture, to speak on the program. “Every time you shop online (using the app), every time you do your taxes online, anything like that, it offsets pounds of carbon,” Romp said. UCapture users have offset 2,411,836 kilograms of carbon using the extension, according to the company’s website. This partnership is part of SGA’s overall green initiative implemented by Senator Murad and the Green Committee, as well as various other organizations on campus. “This app is a really good way to get students involved, it’s a great way to get the administration involved,” Romp said. Murad said that more than 200 people signed up for UCapture, making Mercer the number one school for involvement in the program. “We want to keep this going and maybe it can turn into something where we compete with other schools like we did with voting,” Murad said. The link to download the browser and start using UCapture is ucapture.com/mercer. SGA meets every Monday night at 6:30 in CSC 2. All meetings are open to the public.
In 2013, the Mercer Football team returned to the field, playing their first game in a little over 70 years. President Underwood’s Chief of Staff Larry Brumley described the day as “filled with excitement” with “tickets for the comeback season selling out long before the games even started.” A little over six years after the Bears’ triumphant return, alumni and students have started to notice a lull in the excitement surrounding game day at the Five Star Stadium. “The newness is wearing off,” Brumley said. “We are trying to find a way to rebuild the excitement the community felt back in 2013.” To recreate that excitement, Underwood has assembled a team of individuals made up of “alumni, staff, student life, students and marketing” to meet and discuss different ways to bring the spirit of excitement back to Mercer football gamedays. “There is nothing wrong, but something that we take very seriously at Mercer is continuing to grow and make things better,” Brumley said. “We are just using this six-year mark as a way to re-evaluate.” Before the team’s hiatus in 1941, the Mercer football team had created a name for itself. “Mercer actually played in the first college football game in Georgia, against the University of Georgia,” Brumley said. “Some people may not know that UGA’s Sanford Stadium is actually named after a Mercer alum, and one of our football coaches went on to be a football coach over at the University of Georgia.” Some of the changes being discussed by Brumley and the team include establishing a stronger WiFi signal in the stadium and installing a new, larger video board to give students in the Lofts a better view of the action.. Brumley says that these are just a few of the changes that were discussed in the first meeting. “Overall, we just want people who come to the game to leave with a smile, whether we won or lost the game,” Brumley said. Underwood’s task force is only at the beginning stages of making the changes, having only had one meeting so far. The task force is “working closely” with the Director of Campus Life and Student Involvement, Carrie Ingoldsby, to keep student opinions involved in the changes. The first of these attempts was an email that students received last week containing a survey about the 2018 football season. “Athletics, when done right, can be a way to create a good student body, and President Underwood wants to continue to capitalize on the good things football brings to our campus,” Brumley said.
Mercer University’s programming team, the Binary Bears, recently sent groups to two programming competitions, Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges (CCSC) and Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), where they ranked second and 14th respectively. “We are given problems to solve, and then we see how quickly we can solve the problem using a specific type of program,” senior member Avery Zebell said. “Style is important, but speed is key.” Teammate Will Darragh said that although problems are based on simple concepts, the mathematics required to complete them can get complex. “The programming would be something really easy for a computer to solve, it's just us being able to write it as fast as possible,” Darragh said. In order to compete, the members enrolled in Programming Team Strategy, a course offered in the computer science department. “You are automatically signed up for it when you join the Binary Bears,” Darragh said. “As you get better, the best thing you can do is practice, but for the younger people, we really focus on the strategies.” In the class, the team practices problems and strategies as a group. He explained that there are “tricks to writing code fast,” and these comprise some of the strategy that they teach the new members in the class. The tricks are also what drew Darragh to coding. “In high school, I had zero interest, but when I got to college, I had a mathy side to me that always wanted to problem-solve and I had a creative side that always wanted to create something, so when I took my first programming course, I knew it was my passion,” he said. To Darragh, programming presents the perfect opportunity to combine analytical thinking with the chance to express yourself creatively. ”There is a little bit of you in every line of code you write,” he said. On the other hand, Verhine said he knew that he loved coding from the start. In high school, he started using a program called Scratch to create his own online games. “Just finding online games is really the best way to get started,” Darragh said. Although the fall season is now over, the Binary Bears are still accepting new members as they begin preparing for the Mercer Spring Programming Competition. The team will start meeting again next semester on Thursday nights. Anyone interested in joining can contact Andy Digh, associate professor of computer science.
The Student Government Association (SGA) approved Bear Grants for several student organizations by unanimous consent Oct. 15, including the Aces Up Card Club, Bear it Naturally and the Public Heart Coalition. SGA also provided additional Conference and Lodging funding for the Model Arab League to attend two conferences. Freshman Sen. Sheridan King discussed a proposal she had made to Interim Dean of the Library Scott Gilles about “trying to get printing credits in the library instead of using Bear Bucks.” King said that it would be “an additional fee to your technology fee in tuition. That way it is already covered for the year and is not additional fees on your Bear Card.” Junior Sen. Michaela Jones said she believes that this system will be “more efficient,” but several Senators had concerns about the program. Senator-at-Large Clark Myers said that charging all students for the printing fee is unfair, as many students bring their own printers to campus and do not use printers provided by the school. “I know that me and my senior friends use printers in our own dorms, so to pay an extra $20 on top of the $50,000 that we already pay, it doesn't seem like that much, but it is kind of a bother or it doesn't seem fair,” Myers said. Chief of Staff Christian Hartley also said that Stanford University and Wofford College, “schools that Mercer competes and compares with, both offer free printing.” Free printing is “something that is essential to college life,” Hartley said. “The university should provide it for free since schools that we compete with every day in things like voting, academics and athletics offer it for free.” King said that she is “just at the beginning of this process” and will continue to work towards a solution. SGA holds open meetings on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. on the 3rd floor of the Connell Student Center.
Two speakers from the Mercer Atlanta campus attended the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting Oct. 22 to talk about a new initiative to bring international students to Mercer in the coming years. The two speakers, Provost of the Atlanta campus Scott Davis and Senior Vice President of the Atlanta campus Kellie Appel, explained that Mercer is pairing with a company called Shorelight to meet their goals in raising international student numbers. Shorelight is an organization that works with schools such as Auburn University and now Mercer to be what Davis called “mediators,” connecting the different schools with students who are looking to attend college overseas, according to Davis. “It is hard for Mercer to reach out and make the connections needed to bring international students to campus, which is why we have enlisted Shorelight,” Davis said. Davis said Shorelight can help Mercer draw in higher numbers of international students “since the geopolitical climate these days makes it so difficult, and you have to build a rapport with these students who are looking to go to schools overseas.” Appel said that Shorelight does more than just recruit students. “They actually add staffing and resources to really provide support systems for these students while they are here,” she said. “This is part of a seven-part strategic growth plan over ten years, and the one part that we really want to focus on is these international students,” said Dean of Students Doug Pearson, who attends SGA meetings as the faculty advisor. “Right now, Mercer has a little less than 3 percent international student population, and we are looking to grow that to anywhere from 7 to 10 percent.” SGA also approved five Bear Grants, including one for the new campus organization Mercer Film Society. The Mercer Film Society asked for $870 to screen three films in the upcoming semester. Junior Senator Chase Peplin raised questions about “paying for all three licensing fees up front with no trial or test runs.” He said he was concerned because of the Film Society’s new presence on campus. “We are charged as senators to look at new clubs and new organizations for funding with the strictest scrutiny possible. That is what we are charged with, and quite frankly, I don’t think I can justify this when we have no idea how it will turn out,” he said. Some senators, such as Sophomore Class President Jadon Murad, believed that this was “a great opportunity for us to further education on Mercer’s campus.” Murad’s thoughts were echoed by Sen. Genesis Cooper. “We are paying for students to be educated, and that is the main thing we have to take into account,” she said. Despite a long discussion, the Film Society was awarded the full amount. SGA meets on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. in the Connell Student Center, and all meetings are open to the public.
A student organization will host Mercer University’s first Abortion Positivity Tour Oct. 16. The event will educate audiences on reproductive rights and provide the community with resources, information and activities throughout the day leading up to a rally in support of the new women's health center coming to Macon. F.O.R.G.E, or Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality, is a club on campus that focuses on many issues regarding women’s rights. Former president and co-founder Emily Cuarenta said F.O.R.G.E is an “an intersectional feminist organization,” meaning that they are “looking at the different ways all types of women’s identities are discriminated against.” Cuarenta and current president Emile Harris said they want to use F.O.R.G.E to educate people on the different aspects of every type of women's rights. The Abortion Positivity Tour is one way they aim to do this. This event will be taking place over the course of the day, starting first at a table in the Connell Student Center. The group will be giving away free shirts, raffles and other gear, as well as information about what Cuarenta, Harris and the rest of F.O.R.G.E believe means to be “abortion positive, as well as body positive.” After the tabling event, they will be hosting a rally in support of the new women's health center that is coming to downtown Macon. “It should be really fun to celebrate (the center),” Harris said, “because trying to get the abortion center in Macon is a really big deal, considering that it is a low socioeconomic area.” The leading reason women seek abortions is because they cannot afford the child, which is often not their first, according to The LA Times. Studies also suggest that women who cannot access abortions spend more years in poverty than other women. At the rally, there will be speakers from several organizations and speakers from Atlanta and Macon discussing what it means to be abortion positive. Throughout the day, Harris said the group will be collecting signatures for the “Each Woman Act,” which hopes to ensure health coverage for every woman seeking safe, legal abortions and overall make it safer and more accessible. F.O.R.G.E. is not only a club about women's rights. They have recently become a part of the U.R.G.E, or Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. U.R.G.E, Cuarenta said, is an “organization that educates people about their reproductive rights and reproductive opportunities in typically conservative states where they might not be otherwise given the information necessary to make safe educated decisions.” One of F.O.R.G.E.’s main goals is to help inform individuals in the Macon area about these reproductive rights that they have and where services like abortions can be found, Harris said. She believes that “education equals advection” and that through F.O.R.G.E’s initiative both here and in Washington, they really have the power to make a difference. Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the members of FORGE rallied in support of a new crisis pregnancy center in Macon. The article has since been updated to reflect that the group actually supported a women’s health center set to open this spring. The center will provide abortion services, according to The Telegraph. Crisis pregnancy centers are generally anti-abortion and do not offer the procedure.