This past week, I had the chance to sit down and chat with SGA President Tate Ohmer. Transy’s Student Government Association elects a new president every academic year, and Ohmer will be serving until May of 2023.
I opened up the discussion by mentioning Ohmer’s uncontested run for the position of president. Some may have felt uneasy about the fact that he had assumed the role uncontested, so it felt important to get this topic on the table as soon as possible. He first stated that this was commonplace within SGA, as he was “either the fourth or the fifth president in a row to be elected uncontested.” This was an “ongoing situation” that Ohmer “hopes to mediate” in the future to assure that the best possible candidates are in the position of power. He’s already begun making changes to implement an internal system that would prevent candidates from getting a position by running uncontested with a “yes/no” vote, ensuring the opinions of all SGA members is heard. He also made note of his qualifications, having served as Chief of Staff last year, the “only contested race on the executive board” in 2021.
I next asked Ohmer how he’d continue to form relationships with other campus organizations. SGA is a decision making body that voices the opinion of all students and student leaders, so being involved all across campus is crucial. Ohmer is taking the extra step by strengthening the campus engagement chair’s power within SGA. This would allow more opportunities for SGA to work with other campus organizations. He also set the goal for that chairholder to attend “at least one meeting of every student organization on campus” each year. Ohmer hopes to become more visible on campus this year, too, attending the meetings of other organizations himself. His “Commonwealth Tour,” as he called it, would allow him to form relationships with leaders outside of SGA.
Curious about his progress in the position, I asked him what projects he currently had on the table. Ohmer immediately made it clear that he wanted to allow the SGA senators to feed projects up the ladder to him, rather than from the top down. His reasoning for this comes from observations made in previous years, where Senators may have “worked on projects that they weren’t really passionate about” when passed down from the president. In addition to making this change, Ohmer has also pledged to try and secure a student seat on the board of trustees, as well as improve SGA’s notoriously small budget through “an earmarked fund” provided by alumni with close SGA relations. This would give the student leaders the means to commit to bigger projects that require more funding.
Finally, I asked Ohmer about his goals for the year, and what the Transylvania community can look forward to seeing by May. The most important changes in his mind come from the inside of SGA, where internal improvements can lead to long term success for all of campus. Focusing on “election improvements” and allowing senators to carry “the bulk” of project management, Ohmer hopes to leave SGA in a better place than when he arrived. Along with the focus on funding and securing the board of trustees seat, his vision for SGA is one that he believes will produce long-term benefits not only for student government, but Transy as a whole.