Beyond the Hill

University of Alabama students elect first African American SGA president in 40 years

Photo courtesy of Vel Lewis

Elliot Spillers was recently voted University of Alabama's Student Government Association president. Spillers is the first African American student to be elected SGA president in about 40 years.

After nearly 40 years, students at the University of Alabama have not only elected its first African American Student Government Association president, but they have done so by a large margin.

Elliot Spillers was elected into office on March 10, and he earned more votes toward his presidency than any other candidate has earned in SGA history at the university, said Vel Lewis, the volunteer and outreach director for the Spillers campaign.

Not only was this the first time in almost four decades that an African American SGA president was elected at the school, but it is only the second time in university history, the only other African American president being Cleo Thomas in 1976, according to a March 10 Yellowhammer News article. He received more than 57 percent of the vote, according to The Crimson White, the university’s student newspaper.

Spillers’ campaign was centered around diversity, inclusivity and non-alienation of all students at the University of Alabama, those stemming from all backgrounds and regardless of their involvement on campus, particularly the togetherness of Greek and non-Greek students, Lewis said.

Throughout the campaign, Spillers’ received almost entirely positive support from the student body at the University of Alabama, with only one prominent negative reaction occurring when two unidentified males stole a banner hanging from a fraternity house in support of Spillers, Lewis said.

Lewis said Spillers is the first independent candidate to win the SGA presidential election in several decades.

To be considered an independent candidate, the individual running for the office position must not be backed by “The Machine,” or a Greek-based society on campus that has had great political influence historically, said Lewis.

The Machine is a secret society of sorts that is more or less a coalition of all-white fraternities and sororities on Alabama’s campus that have managed to consistently back and elect candidates to Alabama’s SGA for the majority of the last century, according to an Oct. 3, 2013 Business Insider article.

Lewis said that while Spillers was an independent candidate, it does not mean that he is against The Machine, but rather in favor of all voices on campus being heard, this including both Greek and non-Greek affiliated students.

The campaign covered everything from posting flyers and hosting events to creating a large presence on social media and the work paid off when Spillers won the election by a large margin, said Mary Lieb, the director of communications for Spillers’ campaign.

Spillers and his supporters are currently in the process of transitioning into the new position, and he is in the process of finding his new role as leader and beginning to implement his platforms, including the recurring emphasis on diversity that was prominent throughout his campaign, Lewis said.

Moving forward, Spillers will be appointing people to continue working with him as he moves forward in his journey as SGA president, said Lieb.

“To know Elliot is to love him,” said Lieb.

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