Beverly Banks and Kiersten Marsh have collaborated to create a campaign that endeavors to change the stigma of SGA at UT.
With an SGA that seems to be out-of-touch at times, Banks and Marsh want to revamp the communication techniques, work on inclusive campus partnerships and promote plausible policies.
Banks, who served as Communications Director for SGA for one semester last year, believes her service on the SGA executive team will help to make appropriate adjustments to the communication strategies of SGA as SGA President.
Her goal is to use different techniques to encourage engagement, like town halls. She also hopes to incorporate more video aspects to target students and harness their interest. Finally, she hopes to reinstall the livestream used at senate meetings last year to keep students informed.
Marsh, who is running for Vice President, added to this issue by calling attention to the fact that students are commonly unaware of SGA’s activities.
“We want people to know that SGA exists and SGA does something. We’re going to put SGA’s name on what we do,” Marsh said.
She highlighted a bill passed last session that lengthened the time that the student union was open during finals week so that students had additional places to study. She believes that students being unaware of SGA actions is damaging for the organization. According to Marsh, if more students knew that SGA could make a difference, more students would step forward with issues.
Banks and Marsh are also interested in strengthening partnerships on campus. Doing this will create larger events that encompass a larger demographic. Bringing more students together, Banks hopes, will begin that culture change she wants to see on campus.
“We want to make sure students on campus in these organizations can partner with SGA to create these big events, whether that be a diversity week or a campus wide mental awareness week. I want to be able to combine our resources. It could be a great thing and more widespread than just one organization,” Banks said.
Marsh spoke to the fact that Banks-Marsh will have more plausible policies, like lowering POD prices and improving bus routes.
“So often you find campaigns trying to promise a comprehensive alcohol policy that’s going to be implemented next year…That’s just not possible. That’s something that we work on for years,” Marsh said. “No SGA president or Vice President should forget that that is something that students want, but what we’re running on is fixing things that students are affected by that we can change in a year.”
Choosing to partner to run for SGA president and vice president was a serious decision that neither candidate took lightly. Banks and Marsh believe that their good work ethic and mutual respect will ensure that they will excel if they are elected.
Though they sometimes differ in political viewpoints, civil conversation and civil discourse is what ensures that they can be efficient. They view their occasional differing opinions as an asset that helps them reach the best possible solution. According to them, SGA should transcend political ideologies to serve students.
“You know, Kiersten [Marsh] and I don’t agree on everything, but what we do is that we have a civil conversation about our points of view and at the end of the day, that’s where the greatest change comes from—that civil discourse. There’s never a time where I’m afraid to tell her something that I don’t like. I think that’s why this works,” Banks said.
Beverly Banks, Presidential Candidate:
Though Banks hails from the small town of Wheeling, West Virginia, her Volunteer spirit runs deep. Her father, a Tennessee native that attended UT many moons ago, is the root of her desire to continue the legacy of the Vol.
The political science and journalism double-major is comfortable in front of people. Her involvement in SGA, the College of Communications and various leadership roles has nurtured a sort of comfort and ease in the spotlight.
“I’m a communicator—that’s what I do,” Banks said. “I have the skills in order to make a change and communicate issues between different parties on campus.”
Her ability to communicate is one of the pillars of her campaign. Communication between the various branches of SGA as well as communication between SGA and the students themselves are both issues Banks hopes to tackle during her time as SGA president.
“Students feel no one is communicating to them. They feel left out. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard ‘I’ve been in the dark. I didn’t know that was going on,’” Banks said, identifying her main issue with campus.
According to Banks, SGA exists in a “bubble.” She and Marsh are running on the fact that they will change that stigma.
“We want it to be that bubble is broken and everyone can come in and have a part in whatever we’re doing. By “we’re” I don’t mean SGA, I mean the campus as a whole,” Banks said.
Banks says her decision to run was simple: It was about the people.
“It just shouldn’t be SGA people in SGA, it should be every student that feels welcome to come to Dunford hall or every student that comes to us with an issue.”
During her tenure at UT, Banks has been involved in several organizations. She spent the first two years of her college career in UT Housing. Banks is also an honors student; a producer, anchor and reporter on Torchlight News; a member of the Student Judiciary Board; Leadership Knoxville Scholar; former Emerging Leader and an intern for the City of Knoxville’s Mayor, Madeline Rogero.
During her three years in SGA, she has identified both strengths and weaknesses of the organization. By strengthening communication campus-wide, she hopes to make change.
“I’ve seen things that I love and things that I don’t like. And when I saw the things I didn’t like and that lack of communication we had, I knew that I either had to walk away from it or to fix it. So I chose to stay and fix it because that’s how much I care about it,” Banks said.
Kiersten Marsh, Vice Presidential Candidate:
Though the self-proclaimed love of Marsh’s life is UT Mock Trial, the Legislative Branch of SGA holds a special place in her heart. She believes that her ability to compromise is a tool that will help her fulfill her role as VP if elected.
“I love the legislative branch of SGA…There is a lot of potential to help the student body. The legislative branch has so much potential, but it’s just not being used because there is such division,” Marsh said.
Marsh has a rigorous academic life with a major in political science and a double minor, with one in Latin and one in Psychology. Like Banks, she is involved in numerous organizations on campus. She serves on the leader’s council of her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi as well as serving as a senator to represent sorority village in SGA. The honors student also dedicates a large portion of her time to UT Mock Trial.
If elected, serving as the adviser for the First Year Council and fulfilling her VP role in the senate, Marsh would stress compromise. She believes that being able to work together is the only way to truly help students. Setting aside political beliefs and ideologies is something she believes she and Banks can bring to the table.
“It’s so important that you stress compromise—that you stress being able to work together and that you stress making a positive difference in the lives of students— as opposed to furthering any kind of political agenda,” Marsh said. “The things we do in SGA aren’t supposed to have an agenda. You know, fixing a bus route or lowering prices in the POD isn’t conservative or liberal, it’s just helping students.”
According to Marsh, after running on the 2016 Challenge SGA campaign together, she and Banks knew that they would make a dynamic team.
“Beverly [Banks] in particular just made me love SGA. I saw that passion for the organization and when I heard that Bev [Banks] was running I was on board with her immediately. This opportunity to run presented itself and now we’re here,” Marsh said.
According to Marsh, she is fully prepared to dedicate a year of her life in service to students at the University of Tennessee.
Banks and Marsh aren’t running alone.
They were sure to draw attention to the team of individuals they have running with them on their campaign. They hope students bear in mind that the campaign goes beyond them.
“We can’t do it alone. Without the people that we have on the executive team and our senators and general campaign members, none of this would be possible,” said Banks. “…It’s not just us. Its everyone. We’re just so grateful for them. We tried to get different types of students.”
To find more information about the campaign and team running with Banks-Marsh visit their Facebook page. Voting begins Monday, April 10 at 9 a.m. and continues through Thursday, April 13 at 5 p.m.
Edited by Kaitlin Flippo
Featured image by Emily Cullum