Student government puts plans into action


Student Government Association president and vice president. President Ben Childress (right), an economics senior, and vice president Elizabeth Foster (left), an electrical engineering junior, posed for a photo near Bradley Hall at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. 2017 file photo. Photo by Joshua Qualls | Staff

Bailey Vandiver

Just over six months ago, Ben Childress and Elizabeth Foster were candidates for Student Government Association’s top spots. Now, they have been hard at work for months.

Economics senior Childress and electrical engineering senior Foster are SGA’s president and vice president, respectively.

During their campaign, Childress and Foster emphasized four areas of focus: the WildCab program, fall break, mid-sized funding grants and a syllabus bank. Childress and Foster have been and will continue working on these areas, as well as other “passion projects,” as Foster called them.

Childress said he thinks they and UK Transportation Services have similar goals for the WildCab program. He said Transportation Services will fund additional cabs this semester, while Childress works to find sustainable funding.

“I like our chances,” Childress said about getting fall break added to the academic calendar. University Senate will have to approve the addition, which would be implemented after a year or two because the academic calendars are decided in advance. Childress said UK Provost Tim Tracy has been receptive to their proposal.

Childress said SGA will begin working in more detail on the syllabus bank initiative in late September or early October.

Mid-sized funding grants are one of Foster’s passion projects, and the SGA Director of Finance will be addressing that area.

“It’s a weird thing to get so excited about,” Foster said, “but I just think there are a lot of issues we have with holding groups accountable to using student fees in a manner that really helps students.”

At SEC Exchange, they learned more about the Legislative Report Card, which is a grading of state representatives and senators on how well they support higher education, from Louisiana State University’s student government. Deputy Chief of Staff Susie Smith will be working on this.

Foster also spends most of her time working on restructuring and improving the Leadership Development Program, which she participated in as a freshman. She said LDP is one of her primary responsibilities as vice president.

An overwhelming tone of Childress and Foster’s campaign was a desire for diversity and inclusion on campus. They still hold that sentiment, which is even more relevant now in light of events in Charlottesville and anticipated events here in Lexington.

“I think we (at UK) struggle with genuine diversity,” Childress said.

Childress said he thinks UK students self-segregate, which causes them to miss out on diverse experiences.

Childress said one solution is to make SGA more representative of campus, which was the motivation behind election reform that took place last year.

“I don’t want us to stop there,” Childress said.

Childress said one of his main roles as president is “being an intermediary between the administration and students and student government.”

However, Childress said, the best way to accurately represent the student body is for him to not be the only student representative in the room.

“It’s impossible to speak for all students,” Childress said, so it’s important for other students to have the ear of administration.

Childress said he and Foster tried to create an executive team that was as diverse as possible politically, religiously and more.

Foster said the all-student survey data also helps SGA make decisions that most help and represent students.

Childress said a goal of his, particularly as a Board of Trustees member, is to make sure UK is accessible to all Kentuckians.

“I firmly believe in the power of higher education, especially the power that the University of Kentucky holds for students—all students,” Childress said.

He said he wants students to see UK as a home.

“I love this university, and I love the people who go here,” Childress said, “and anything I can do in this role to just make their lives or their time here a little bit better is worth it, is what my focus and mission is.”