London Newton and Olivia Barnes succeeded Isaiah Green and Corey Smith as president and vice president of the Student Government Association at UNC Asheville. The Newton-Barnes administration plans to continue fighting for climate justice, as well as accessibility on campus.
“I’ve loved being in student government the past two years and running for president was pretty much always the plan, it was just a matter of when. I have been advocating for students in many capacities and felt the presidency would give me the platform to do more,” said SGA President Newton, a sophomore majoring in political science and minoring in legal studies and mass communication.
According to Newton, her first act as president was to start a free menstrual product distribution for students in need. Newton said this summer she will stay on campus and address some accessibility concerns she has, such as temperature controlling hand rails for people who depend on them. She also said she wants to collect feedback from students on how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled and present her findings to UNCA administrators.
“We will all be coming into the new school year with a lot of feelings and room for feedback and I hope to start collecting feedback from students so that we can form some kind of comprehensive plan for the next time this happens and what factors may not have been thought of at the time,” Newton said.
Vice President Olivia Barnes, a creative writing major with a minor in international studies, said she agrees the pandemic will lead to future plans for similar situations.
Barnes said she originally planned to be on the executive board of the SGA, but was convinced to run with a friend as vice president.
“My friend Elina asked me if I wanted to run with her as VP. She said I had the longest tenure in SGA and therefore I would know exactly what to do. Sometimes it takes a friend pointing out your potential for you to be able to see it,” she said.
Newton said she plans on preserving Green’s method of building an executive board that represents the wants of the student body while giving the board members freedom to accomplish goals they are passionate about.
“As a vice president and a previous senator, I feel that this was the closest senators and the exec have been. I would like to keep that sense of community and make it stronger,” Barnes said.
Newton said the biggest change she wants to make from the previous SGA administration is educating the student body on the SGA.
“When I was campaigning I met students that didn’t know what student government was or that there was an election going on. I had some people think that you had to already be in student government to run for president which is not the case. I want students to feel empowered to make change in their school and a better relationship between student government and students is, I believe, the first step,” the president said.
Newton also said she wanted to focus climate change discussions on climate justice. She said race and socio-economic status impact the effects of climate change on individuals, and that it is not talked about often enough in conversations about the issue.
According to the new president, the biggest challenge to her campaign was the emotional and physical exhaustion of running against her friends.
“I spent a lot of time just walking around Brown and talking to people face to face, stopping literally anyone who walked by me on campus and trying to get them to talk to me,” Newton said.Barnes said the biggest challenge to her campaign was the campaigning itself.
“I’m more on the introverted side, so it was challenging to walk up to strangers on campus and ask them if I could give them an elevator pitch,” said the vice president.
Chase Loudermelt, the Association of Student Governments liason at UNCA, said she believes the new administration will uphold its duty to defend student interests before the board of trustees and the university’s interests at monthly ASG meetings.
“I have known London Newton for a couple of years now and I truly envy her work ethic
and her ability to relate to everybody she talks to,” Loudermelt said.
According to Loudermelt, the receptiveness of the student body president and vice president is their most important duty. Everything the administration does is to benefit students. She said the best way students can get involved with the SGA is to keep up with what they are doing.
“Things like emergency funds for students and other initiatives to benefit students will be announced on the SGA Instagram,” Loudermelt said.