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Q&A: Incoming SGA president to implement new student councils

Daniel Eliott (‘23) and Akheem Mitchell (‘23) were elected as SGA president and vice president two weeks ago. The Sandspur asked Elliott the following questions to learn more about his administration and future plans. 

The Sandspur: What goals from your platform will you work on first? What are you working on right now?

Elliott: One of our top priorities is to get student organizations to collaborate more with each other and with SGA. We’ve organized a student organization summit, which will take place on Apr. 15, where representatives from every student organization have been invited to speak on student issues. This will be the first meeting of hopefully many more, as we look for ways to make SGA’s relationship with these student groups more official next year.

The Sandspur: In a previous Sandspur interview, you said that one of your administration’s main goals is to represent minority communities. What are your tangible steps toward this goal? When might they be implemented?

Elliott: At the [student organization] summit, we’ll also begin setting up the framework for our Task Force on Equity by enhancing our relationships with identity-based student organizations so that next year, after Akheem and I are inaugurated, the transition with new student leaders will be a lot easier. I think, right now, special attention needs to be placed on the safety and comfort of Black and Asian students, and the issues affecting those communities, who Akheem and I represent. He and another current senator, Mercedes Brathwaite, are also working on creating a social justice competency, which could be implemented as early as next spring.

The Sandspur: In the same interview, you said that an additional goal of your administration is to fight for a tuition freeze on campus to ensure that students know what their tuition cost will be when they commit to the college. What are your tangible steps toward this goal? When might they be implemented?

Elliott: In February, the Board of Trustees met and discussed our tuition freeze proposal and the third-party financial consultant’s findings on its cost and projections. We are still waiting on our meeting with Finance Vice President Ed Kania to find out what the verdict is on this issue and steps forward. I am an optimistic person, but I’m also a realist, so I’m also preparing to present the student perspective to the Board when they meet again in May, since that was a huge component missing from the February meeting.

The Sandspur: How will you go about comprehensive SGA reform? Have you taken steps toward this as of yet? 

Elliott: Two of our main reform priorities are creating the student organization council, which I mentioned earlier, and creating the Holt Council, so that our Holt students can be better represented since most Holt students are unable to attend SGA meetings because of evening class times. We are having a final meeting about the details for making it work this semester, but I want to make sure we also get this off the ground beginning even before next school year too.

I am still operating as Vice President until my inauguration during the summer, so I run weekly Senate meetings as the presiding officer. Manny Rodriguez, the current SGA President, and I have worked really hard this semester to get our SGA members back to meeting in person again. There were a lot of concerns going on about how we would keep in-person participants safe and ensure that virtual members were given an equitable experience. As a virtual student, I know how difficult it is to be virtual in a hybrid meeting and what components of the meeting we can improve on, so Manny and I put together a new hybrid model plan and put it to work at our first hybrid meeting on Mar. 24, and it was a huge success.

The Sandspur: What do the results of the election mean to you?

Elliott: The election results meant that students want SGA to be a strong voice for the student body and a place where students of all backgrounds can collaborate on how to solve issues that we see everyday, and that they want the SGA president to be an effective leader for them. Part of [my role is] refusing to join the antagonism and cutting through the noise to provide a bridge of dialogue and action between the students and the college administration. […] The results to me confirmed that students overwhelmingly believe in Akheem and I, our leadership style, our ideas, and our continued commitment to get things done.

The Sandspur: What kind of legacy do you hope your administration will leave at Rollins? 

Elliott: I hope that my administration leaves a legacy of accomplishments, of getting a lot of great things done for our students that improve the Rollins experience for everyone and make bold institutional change. I want everyone in the Rollins community to remember, generations from now, that 2021-2022 was the school year that students, faculty, and staff came together to make those reforms that will last for years to come. The tuition freeze has been my biggest fight since I entered Rollins as a freshman, but I know that if we are successful, our current students, my class included, will probably not get to enjoy the benefits of this tuition change since it may take a couple of years to be fully implemented. I’m leading the way for this change because I know that there are generations of Tars to come after us that are counting on us to do the right thing, here and now.

The Sandspur: What do you want Rollins administration to know, and what do you want students to know about your role as SGA president?

Elliott: I want everyone in the Rollins community to know that their SGA president is always here to listen and to bridge the divide between students and administration, and that we will always advocate for students and make sure that every student is heard. I believe very strongly in servant leadership. Everything I’ve done in SGA has been to benefit the students I represent, and I can’t wait to continue serving them in this capacity.

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