Thomas takes oath, Mejia takes off — SGA Inauguration & First U-Wide Meeting

Jazmin Mejia passes the baton to new SGA U-Wide President Kaelen Thomas as the 91st Administration begins. Design by Brooklyn Valera | The Signal

91st Administration Takes Over

The afternoon of May 7 signified a turning of the guard as the Student Government Association’s 90th administration, as well as Georgia State faculty, welcomed the 91st administration. 

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the student government held the inauguration on Microsoft Teams. 

More than 90 people attended the inauguration, including faculty speakers, inaugurated members and members of the previous administration. 

Kaelen Thomas, as de-facto president-elect after the disqualification of former presidential candidate Nigel Walton, was sworn in as the SGA university-wide president to represent the 2020-2021 student body. 

In Thomas’ inauguration speech, he emphasized the need for the student government to put students first. 

“We have fallen out of touch with the students,” Thomas said. “We will … finally give students a platform to speak about their concerns.”

He touched on ongoing concerns about transportation, housing and access to menstrual products. 

“There are students who are still struggling to find a place to sleep at night, [who are] denied the fundamental right to access menstrual products, who want to get involved on campus but do not have the time nor the resources, who are concerned about sustainability, and … who are worried that parking and transportation are becoming a second thought rather than a firm priority,” Thomas said.

New senators, as well as executive vice presidents, including Taika Tinsley of Atlanta, Kyle Kath of Clarkston and Michelle Martinez of Dunwoody, were also sworn in.

Georgia State University President Mark Becker, Vice-President Allison Brown and Dean of Students Michael Sanseviro all spoke during the occasion. 

Becker discussed the COVID-19 epidemic.

“[It] will not end soon, so we must continue social distancing … and adapt and find new ways to continue to live and thrive,” he said. “We’re learning and creating as we go.”

Becker also complimented former SGA University-Wide President Jazmin Mejia for her “outstanding leadership during this particularly challenging year.”

Becker shared his hopes about Thomas. 

“It’s going to be an unusual year for sure, but I’m sure we’ll get through it, and I know you … and your team will excel because that is the State Way,” Becker said.

Mejia expressed her gratitude to have served Georgia State.

“I never thought I’d have the experience to be the student body president,” Mejia said. “It definitely was not in my plan, and I will forever be grateful for those who believed in me.”

Mejia discussed some of the previous administration’s accomplishments.

“We were able to … reduce plastic usage in our dining areas … [reopen] the pool on the Clarkston campus … continue the successful flower initiative … [and] start the pilot program for free feminine and menstrual hygiene on our campuses to be distributed through Georgia State health clinics,” she said.

Mejia thanked student government members Ashrakat Hassan, Terry Fye and Khadijah Green for work on the menstrual products program. 

There are high hopes for the 91st administration.

“Being student body president is much easier said than done, but I know [Kaelen Thomas] will lead the [student government] down the correct path,” Mejia said.

After Party: The First University-Wide Senate of the 91st Administration

When the inauguration concluded, guests left the Microsoft Teams call, but members of the 91st administration stayed for their first University-Wide Senate Meeting.

Newly sworn-in SGA University-Wide President Kaelen Thomas urged members, both old and new, to download the Microsoft Teams application on their personal computer or on their phone (members of the Senate aren’t capable of voting if they use the browser version of the application).

For more than half an hour, members struggled to operate Microsoft Teams, having issues with seeing the poll. Thomas helped the best way he could, telling the senators how to download the app and access the polls and the hidden channel.

He gave out these instructions for Android users, unsure if they were the same for iOS.

“I’m not an iPhone president,” he said.

The meeting eventually began, and the Senate was quick to fill in the vacancies that formed by the conclusion of the election.

Mario Hubbard was seated in the Robinson College of Business. Samuel Pittsman, Stephanie Smith, Spencer Bivins, Spence Carr and Natoli Bora were seated in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Former SGA presidential candidate Carlos Porter became the executive vice president for the Newton Campus. 

There was some confusion regarding the procedure, as it had never been done before, given the circumstances.

The Senate filled its Bylaws Standing Committee, tasked with reviewing and researching bills to be voted on, as well as its Safety Standing Committee. 

The bill filling the Perimeter Standing Committee was tabled for a later date, to allow for more discussion about the committee.

Sen. John Le introduced a bill to establish an ad hoc committee that would create a five-year strategic plan for the administration. This was inspired by his research into other student government organizations.

Finally, Thomas discussed plans for the creation of an executive cabinet. 

“This legislation would really give the president the power to act in situations that require timeliness,” Thomas said. 

He pointed out that bills often take two or three months to be voted on. One month to introduce the bill, another month to research it and a third month to vote on it. 

“It’s time we separate the executive branch from the legislative branch and give the executive branch the opportunity to carry out its goals and initiatives separate [from] the legislative branch,” Thomas said.

At the end of the meeting, Thomas gave a president’s report.

“I’m just excited … to be working with everyone [and] we all get to know each other a little bit better,” he said.