Senior Phil Robinson, a business major, was voted Student Association president in a close run-off in the spring. Running on a platform to improve student life by reaching out to students, Robinson has promised to make the SA more open and visible to students, and take problems to the Board of Trustees if administrators fail to hear student concerns.
At the same time, Robinson has said he will focus on attainable changes for students, and will become involved in debate over a new library and computer lab printing fee in the fall.
Robinson won the run-off after losing the regular election by nine votes to then-SA Executive Vice President Josh Singer. Singer ran on a platform with several senatorial candidates and EVP candidate Eric Daleo, who ran unopposed. Ten of these candidates became senators, and the election went to a run-off after two controversial Singer votes were discounted, eliminating his 40 percent of the vote needed to win.
Robinson was a School of Business and Public Management senator last year, and served as president of the Black Student Union for the last two years.
The new SA head recently sat down for an interview with The Hatchet in his fourth floor Marvin Center office.
Hatchet: How do you plan on reaching out to students during C.I?
Phil Robinson: Just being around, introducing myself, not being overbearing but just being accessible enough that a freshman can walk up to me and say ‘my name is such and such. I’ll do the initial speech that every year the president does and we have the open houses where I’ll talk to students and get them involved. We’re hiring new office assistants, we want to be able to hire some eager freshmen.
H: What is it that you’re pretty comfortable with going into the year?
PR: I’m experienced with working with student organizations, being in charge of one, working with the administration, communicating with them, knowing the good and the bad and how to get around it. I even think the Senate is starting to come around in certain regards. I still realize it’s tough, but Eric has been great. We actually have been working a lot better than people thought we ever would. I’m feeling pretty comfortable that we can get things done. We have issues to rally around, so it’s kind of like the petty stuff, you gotta kind of forget about it and keep going.
H: What about that Senate that has 10 members that were in a slate that you ran against?
PR: Eventually, students are going to get to the point where they’re going to start to get fed up. I’m coming in there working for students. If they are too, then at the end of the day, you really don’t have to like me, but you can work with me. That slate, I kind of feel like it shouldn’t be as strong come fall, the election is over with, the tension should be done with, we should now start focusing on what issues we need to get done. And I also think the fact that Eric and I have been willing to put aside any differences and get started on working on things this summer has built a healthy relationship that the Senate will see.
H: Another common complaint about the SA is all the politicking that goes on. How can you as a president address that?
PR: I think the first thing is to admit that there is politicking going on, but it has to be for the right purpose – and that’s you’re politicking the administration. You know, we lobby. You come to us and we’re that piece that lobbies to the University, and if that doesn’t happen then we go to the Board of Trustees. But when it comes to just being students and working with students and being around students, you subtract that garbage, then I think students will say ‘okay.’
H: I was talking more about the inner workings, people just standing for things or making statements just to advance their political career in the Senate.
PR: I hope this past election proved that doesn’t work. The end of politicking, I’ve already made several speeches about that to senators. I’ve pulled senators aside and said if you’re going to turn this into a political slugfest all year, you’re not really even hurting me so much as you’re hurting yourself in the long run. If we don’t work together, then any policy that happens that we don’t do anything about, we have to live with the fact that on our watch, that happened.
H: What would you say is the role of a freshman senator?
PR: To really get involved and not so much as representing freshmen as working with each senator to make sure the freshmen in their particular school get connected with what’s going on. For instance, I’m a business school senator, and I don’t know all the freshmen in the business school because of the way the program is set up, you don’t meet them until sophomore or junior year. That freshman senator should be a lightning rod to get those students involved. That’s kind of where I look at them going, but so far as dynamically changing the Student Association, no they probably won’t.
H: What about the “freshman curse” (of freshman senators dropping out of the SA after one year)?
PR: I don’t know, it’s kind of true, actually. Actually more people who are denied freshman year for freshman senator get involved. Eric was denied and he’s EVP, I think Dan Moss was denied and he’s finance chair. Omar (Woodard) was denied and he’s Elliott School senator. I think it almost does motivate you, if you really want to do it, to begin by going out there, campaigning and trying to get in.
H: Any other issues for freshmen you would like to discuss?
PR: I guess let freshmen know my door is open when they have complaints. For instance, I remember I was running last year and someone told me the heat didn’t work and the air didn’t work in Mitchell. That’s an issue that easily the SA and (Residence Hall Association) could have combined and got on top of who was in charge in (the Community Living and Learning Center) overlooking Mitchell and got it changed. Those kind of things they’ve got to kind of let us know and conversely we’re going to outreach to them, with town hall meetings where they can just complain or have suggestion boxes put in all their dorms. Let us know what’s going on and it’s up us then to take the next step and get it fixed.
For full transcript of interview, see www.gwhatchet.com.