Conversations with presidential candidates: Kaelen Thomas

Kaelen Thomas in Student Center East. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

“I want to keep students F.I.R.S.T.,” Kaelen Thomas, university-wide presidential candidate, said.

His slogan, F.I.R.S.T., stands for a variety of issues he would like to work toward including free feminine hygiene products across campus, increasing on-campus jobs, reducing student homelessness, increasing sustainability and creating better transportation options.

Thomas discussed his concern for students’ lack of interest in the Student Government Association over the years. With increased internal conflict, he worries that students’ issues aren’t given the attention they deserve.

If he becomes university-wide president, Thomas’ goal would be to not only work toward mending the issues occurring between the Perimeter and Downtown campus leadership but also to focus on a variety of pressing issues that students face on a day to day basis.

In discussing one of his priorities, increasing sustainability, he said he found it ridiculous that the second most innovative campus in the country has given little to no regard for a green lifestyle.

“If you ever open up your tuition expenses, you can see that we pay $250 in athletic fees and approximately $5 in sustainability. I think that says a lot about our priorities,” he said.

Thomas summarized the importance of this issue.

“I don’t know how many football games you go to, but I breathe air pretty often,” he said.

Thomas discussed his passion for improving the lack of student housing at Georgia State as well. Last year, he worked on a task-force group within SGA that focused specifically on a number of student housing concerns. Thomas wishes to address these concerns throughout his term as well. 

As a third-year political science student, Thomas found a passion for his work from his mother and the black community around him.

“It takes a lot being a minority, and I’ve understood the reality of this more and more as I grow up. I haven’t had many role models that looked like me,” Thomas said.

And though he gains a great deal of influence from his mother and his group of friends, Thomas wishes to move forward in his career for a cause much greater than his inner circle.

“As both a black and queer representative, I hope to open up doors and provide opportunities for those people in my community who feel like they could make it to the place I am at today,” he said.

In Thomas’s opinion, the ideal university-wide president needs to account for student priorities first. The policies he focuses on are at the heart of student requirements. 

Along with student representation, he wishes to ease conflicts within SGA that may have inhibited them from engaging with the common student.

One of his greatest accomplishments as speaker of the Atlanta Senate was visiting a number of the Perimeter campuses and understanding why they felt unheard within SGA. 

“Nobody has been able to do that. So, when I talk about representation, I talk about representation and unity for all,” he said.

As Thomas explained his issues and passion toward his work, he emphasized the importance of SGA beginning to work with the students instead of for them.

“An SGA President needs someone to stand for something, and keep students F.I.R.S.T., and that someone is me,” he said.