• By Madison Sharrock

Election results are in: Change of the guard at SGA

The Student Government Association (SGA) recently announced election results and named the winners of spots on its executive board for the 2022-2023 school year.

The new student body president is Mateo Solana, a junior economics major from York, S.C. He is a member of Catholic Chants, Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI), and serves in the Army National Guard.

“At this point in my life, I’m 21 years old, I’ve served in deployment over-seas. I think I’ve garnered enough life experience to step into the role and to be a leader,” Solana said.

The election marks Solana’s first step into student government.

Solana said he plans to advocate for a safer campus, club expansion, more parking, student voices, and tuition transparency. Regarding tuition, he would like to see what percentage goes towards things such as wages for staff and upkeep on campus. To solve the parking problem, Solana said the university should raise the price of parking passes for freshmen to make sure those who commute to campus have more accessibility.

The purpose of SGA is to provide a collective voice for the students, said Michael Roberts, dean of the Gupta College of Science and an SGA adviser for the past three years. Roberts said he’s not sure that the lack of parking can be fixed, but he said the mix of new members to the continuing ones is a good thing.

“You are representing the student body. You may come in with particular views, but you have to realize if you only pursue your own agenda and it doesn’t represent the students, it becomes difficult,” Roberts said.

Solana will replace Brianna Martin, a senior sociology major and the current SGA president. Martin’s campaign was built on the idea of redefining Coastal’s image by focusing on community outreach and inclusivity. She advised Solana to come into the position open-minded and ready for the responsibility.

Martin was part of a group of students who organized social justice protests in February after a poster by the Turning Point USA chapter used the image and words of Martin Luther King Jr. to critique critical race theory and provoke controversy during Black History Month. Martin said she has heard rumors Solana is a member of the Turning Point chapter on campus.

Solana said he is friends with some Turning Point members but does not have any affiliation with the conservative club. Solana said he attended some of the club’s meetings during the first semester but thought that the things they said and the posters they made were “raunchy.”

“It’s things like that, that makes it a hard club to like or want to align with,” said Solana.

In December, Solana traveled to Phoenix to attend the Campus Leadership Project’s convention, an event organized by Turning Point, which is headquartered in Phoenix. Solana said he while he was in Phoenix he did attend some Turning Point events at its rally, AmericaFest. Solana said he did not attend events featuring Kyle Rittenhouse, who spoke at the rally a month after he was acquitted on murder charges.

Solana said he was invited to the leadership convention by Leah Jackson, his running mate and secretary of the Coastal Turning Point chapter. Jackson’s bid for office was unsuccessful, but Solana said their campaigning together likely caused many students to assume he is also a member of the Turning Point club.

“SGA is not politically affiliated. We remain neutral, regardless of our own political affiliation,” said Martin. “You shouldn’t bring in anything from the outside, you have to stand in the gaps.”

Solana said he views Martin as a strong leader because she comes off as straightforward and honest. He said he believes he will be able to fill her shoes and bring the same personality as he takes her place.

“I’m not going to say I’m going to do better than Brianna. She went into her office position wanting to be better than the previous president, and I’m going to go into this one trying to be better than the previous president as well,” said Solana.

Martin said she was inspired by the previous president and wanted to elevate his work. Martin said Solana has mentioned wanting to learn how to hear the needs of students of color.

According to Roberts, the vice president runs the meetings with the senate while the president sets the agenda. The Board of Trustees turn to SGA when they need to know what students think about an issue.

SGA is comprised of senators who represent the different colleges and graduating classes. The student government’s main duties are to propose bills and vote on them. The funding for SGA projects comes from student fees, and that money is distributed back to organizations across campus.

To get an inside look as to what SGA is doing, Roberts said there are multiple bills in the process of being passed. One proposed a midterm course evaluation to relay feedback to professors earlier in the semester. Martin is currently working on a bill with the CCU Muslim Club to establish a non-denominational prayer room on campus.

“As you see how things play out over a year, you begin to realize there are a lot of things that have changed for the better as a consequence of this very slow, methodical approach to getting things done,” Roberts said.

The main example Roberts used to prove that bills have a purpose to SGA is one regarding Summa Cum Laude, an honor recognizing students with the highest GPA. One student came a few decimal points short of the 4.0 requirement, but many other students ran into the same problem. After seeing the differing requirements at other colleges in South Carolina, SGA proposed a bill to lower the requirement to match other schools.

Two other students ran in opposition against Solana, including Destiny Jackson, a junior psychology major. She is currently president pro-tempore of SGA and has worked on issues regarding transportation, parking and inclusion.

The other student who ran for president was Caleb Cox, a freshman psychology major. He said before the election his goals were aimed toward creating one campus for all students, no matter their race, ethnicity, or religion.

The other SGA winners are as follows:

  • Executive Vice President: Gabrielle Ryder

  • VP of Finance: Ryleigh Gregory

  • VP of Public Relations: Ansleigh Touchberry

Martin said the senators are important and mean a lot to her, and the quality of the students continues to amaze her. Roberts said she encourages all students to get involved with SGA and pay attention to voting and election results.

The Student Government Association has announced the winners of all executive positions for the 22-23 academic school year, including Executive President Mateo Solana. Solana will focus on solving issues revolving around a safer campus, club expansion, more parking, student voice, and tuition transparency.