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Spotlight spirits and traditions director resigns

Submitted by Spotlight Programs Board

As Georgia State winds down from an energetic Homecoming week, it hasn’t left the mind of the man who planned it all. Brandon Byrd, the spirits and traditions director for Spotlight Programs Board, was the lead organizer for the event. He resigned from the influential campus organization on Oct. 30 at 3 p.m.

Of course, several other Spotlight members contributed to Homecoming week in some way shape or form, but it was Byrd who helped personally coordinate almost every event of the week, as he told The Signal last month. 

So, if Homecoming week was a crowd-pulling success, why would Byrd resign from his position?

“For one, the pay at Spotlight is not worth everything that we do,” Byrd said. 

Board members receive a $400 monthly stipend for their position, but as he explains, if the hours spent doing Spotlight-related work were to be calculated, the pay received would be under minimum wage.

“Yes, we know what we signed up for, but sometimes, the cons outweigh the pros,” he said. “There is a struggle in balancing Spotlight and finding other means to make money and survive.”

Byrd echoed what Franklin Patterson, the former university-wide president of the Student Government Association, told The Signal last school year: There are power struggles between the administration and the students in organizations, specifically, Byrd and Patterson both said, with Gail Sutton and Boyd Beckwith, two faculty members who are involved in both SGA and Spotlight. 

After an incident between a faculty member and Byrd, in which Byrd said he felt that “safety was threatened, especially on the job,” he filed an official report to employee relations. According to Byrd, Beckwith and Sutton did not hesitate to deny his claims, despite the fact it was intended to be an unbiased “investigation.”

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“It was as if they made a decision to choose faculty’s side before I even said anything,” he said.

The status of the report is currently unknown to Byrd.

As mentioned before, retention and engagement with events had been decreasing in previous years. On multiple occasions, Byrd said he tried to present innovative ideas to reverse this but would regularly get shut down by Beckwith and Sutton without any explanation.

“It’s as if student leader opinions aren’t valued, and they think we aren’t capable of making big decisions,” Byrd said. “[With] upper leadership and how they run the department … I believe the department is, for one, self-sabotaging. There are a lot of decisions that are made without our input — and those are our events.”

When situations similar to these occur, Byrd said there is no safe space for student leaders to hold faculty members accountable. In fact, there is no space at all, he said. Messages are passed through advisers, leading to no direct opportunities for students to express how they feel to faculty. 

The same could be said the other way around. 

For instance, Byrd, who began working on Homecoming events since April, said he received little to no recognition from faculty members. He said the only form of gratitude shown consisted of one email from Sutton simply saying “kudos.”

“There was no appreciation shown whatsoever, and you just don’t feel valued,” he said. “I feel like I was used, basically.”

Byrd is satisfied with how Homecoming week turned out because he thinks he did all he could do.

“Regarding resigning, I don’t feel bad or sad because I know what I came to achieve I got done,” Byrd said.