Junior Omar Woodard will get his hands back into the Student Association next year when he assumes the organization’s top position. A former Elliott School of International Affairs senator, Woodard took a break this year to serve as president of the Black Student Union.
A Philadelphia native, Woodard said he plans to proactively address his constituents’ needs while in office. Woodard took 68 percent of the vote in last week’s run-off, beating junior Lee Roupas for the top seat.
“It’s going to be a pro-student administration,” said Woodard, a Sagittarius whose favorite food is candied yams.
Some of his ideas for next year include an online class wait system, where students would be registered automatically for a closed class, and a Residence Hall Renewal Project.
Woodard said he will begin training with current SA President Kris Hart Monday to learn the ropes of the organization.
Woodard, who has an older brother and three younger brothers, said his younger half-siblings will attend his transition dinner the first week of May.
Woodard’s older half-brother, 28, is in the Marines and is currently stationed in Japan. Although the two grew up separately – Woodard in Philadelphia and his brother in Atlanta – the siblings met when Woodard was eight and they are now good friends.
The soon-to-be president sat down with The Hatchet this weekend to discuss his plans for the upcoming year and his thoughts on the current administration.
H: Now, if you could think of one word to describe yourself, what would it be?
OW: I guess I’d describe myself as busy. I’m sure could find a more intelligent word than that, but since I do so much – with working, classes, extracurricular (activities) – I’d just say ‘busy.’
H: Why did you decide to get involved with the SA and then run for president?
OW: My freshman year there was an SA president and his name was Roger Kapoor. And he was funny. I mean, when I thought of student government, I thought of a whole bunch of people in suits who were taking things too seriously. I was inspired by SA President Kapoor, who made the student government appealing for freshmen.
H: What do you perceive as being the biggest challenge as SA president?
OW: For the first thing, logistically, it is getting students involved and keeping them informed about what I’m doing as SA president and with the SA as a whole.
H: So, your first (night) as president-elect was (Thursday). Did you do anything particular toward that, or just get some rest?
OW: I tried to get some rest, but I couldn’t. I mean I went to bed and (it) hadn’t sunk in yet. And then on Friday morning, it hit me – I am president of the Student Association! At that point, I couldn’t sleep. I had so many things going through my mind.
H: So you’ve been up for 12 hours now?
OW: Yes. I had a campaign party, and I was just visible. (I) tried to see as many people as possible and get congratulations, you know. If every day was like the first day, I’d be happy.
H: You came into this election with a lot of ideas for change in the SA. Which ones are the most feasible and how will you prioritize them?
OW: Probably the one I am going to do first is the Residence Hall Renewal Project. I’m going to work with the new (Residence Hall Association) leadership. (I’m) going to work with them and with the facilities manager and the University management to put a task force together.
The second thing I’m going to do is working with the Faculty Senate to do a syllabus file.
Thirdly, the online class wait list system (that would put students on an automatic queue when they are closed out of classes), which is actually in the works. A lot of other things – a permanent selected committee on elections will be the first thing I do this semester.
H: What does that entail – the permanent selection committee on elections – is that like a (Joint Elections Committee) all the time?
OW: Not really. It will actually be a group of administrators, former student leaders, current student leaders, all with experience in Student Association elections. They are going to look at the system and modernize it because it is so old… I want to expand the JEC and have a (judicial) body and a certain body that is solely responsible for administering elections, but that is just something that I want to see.
H: How will your administration be different from Kris Hart’s?
OW: Kris Hart built a solid bridge between the SA and the administrators … I’m going to build on that and turn the SA into more of a student service-based organization, and that’s how it’s going to differ. He spent the time really rebuilding the trust with the administrators. And now, while I’m not going to leave that alone, it’s (going to be) in conjunction with turning the SA into a more student-centered organization that focuses more on students and provides services to students and taking care to proactively addressing their needs.
H: Financial problems have been an unfortunate earmarking of the SA for the past two years. How are you going to prevent future financial mishaps from occurring?
OW: …creation of an auditing general, who will work with the Internal Auditing Department of the University, to make sure that the money going from the University into the SA and student groups is going to the right places, in the right amounts, in a timely way … We also need to take a look at our financial bylaws … We need to streamline the process, and we need to categorize the student groups and see how much is going where and make it a merit process, and not how much you spent last year.
H: And finally, a year from today – what do you want to have accomplished?
OW: I want to have a huge voter turnout because students finally know that the SA affects their lives on a daily basis and can affect their lives on a daily basis. I want to see a 35 to 40 percent voter turnout because students care, the SA cares and because the SA is effective in what they are doing.