The four types of SGA presidents and their legacies

Throughout history, our Student Government Association presidency has seen a number of personalities and individuals who have in some shape, form, or fashion left their mark on the student body and the SGA. However, by examining this campus’ history of SGA Presidents and at least the last three presidents, along with SGA Presidents across the nation, I have developed four different SGA President styles: The Title Bearer, The Activist, The Visionary, and The Popular One.

The Title Bearer is one that we have seen very often at Alabama State University. This individual serves just for the title and excitement of being in one of the top student positions, normally not accomplishing much, nor having any real intentions to do so. More than likely, they are complacent. Very protective of the title, this person reminds people of their position and demands unwarranted respect. They rarely produce; this person is only looking for the next opportunity to be in front of the crowd. As you notice, I have not mentioned issues or their ability to deal with them because this person is more concerned with being in front of the crowd, as well as being recognized and given accolades for holding the position.

This title bearer’s legacy will be negative for the campus and student body. What happens is more people see them get away as just a title bearer, and they too, place their desire in the basket to pursue the positions. This is damaging because positions carry a level of power and influence to affect change on the campus, but it is is not being effectively utilized. Keeping individuals out of positions who just hold titles is important because they disrupt the necessary movement towards addressing pertinent issues.
Some known leaders who have been title bearers include President Calvin Coolidge or an individual like the current Vice President of the United States, Mike R. Pence.

The Activist is very different. The activist is the person who has the voice, plan, and can be found leading their peers to fight for issues that matter. This person is not just an activist for things on the campus; they normally have a hold on the issues across the world. They are no stranger to being vocal about those things and their stances against campus injustices. This person develops reasonable solutions and does not thrive on attention or recognition, but focuses on serving and representing students, which includes injustice committed against their constituents.

An activist president’s legacy will center around movements of social equality. Students become more engaged in issues, and socially aware of injustices and movements on and off the campus. Under an activist president, students are concerned, not just about their own welfare, but the welfare of the entire student body. The ultimate impact is that decision makers and power brokers are more cautious about the decisions they make. Notable leaders who are considered activist leaders include individuals like Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and our very own university president, who during his SGA presidency earned this title very well, Quinton T. Ross, Ed.D

The Visionary is concerned about moving forward and seeking new ideas. They are not your traditionalist. They value practicing new things and ideas to better the campus for current students and those who will come after them. This person is concerned with the current state of affairs but focuses more on delivering sustainable change that addresses outstanding issues. They don’t look for temporary solutions to issues and problems.

The visionary fights and does things that do not immediately appear, however, their ideas and work manifest over time. The visionary will leave a legacy to cultivate something that has long outlived their time at the institution. SGAs and student bodies benefit from the works and accomplishments of a visionary president 3, 5, or 10 years following this person’s term. This includes things like: gradual increase of enrollment due to a president’s plan to fight for better housing; a president’s plan to help the university shape and build stronger curriculums to ensure graduate school and professional career success following graduation from the institution. Whatever the case, the president’s goal will be longevity in ideas. This person has the power to shape the way people view current situations, capabilities to move forward, and the future. They influence whether a person thinks something is possible or impossible, by how they spark the innovative and imaginative side of every student. This person has the power to make students understand why things that might not seem convenient now will be convenient for the coming times.

A visionary leader is not always well received by those whom they lead or are seeking to lead, but in the long run, are the ones who are adaptable due to their cunning ability to think forward. Notable leaders with this mentality include Walter Elias Disney, United States 35th President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, or the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

The Popular One: Unlike many of the other individuals, this person is unique in their personality as they can be a mix of the above or none of them, but the one thing that is signature about them is that just about every person on campus knows who they are. They run, not because they necessarily have a niche for helping the student body, as much as they were convinced to run by a group of friends, or they knew they could win because of their notoriety. However, the one advantage that this person has is that they have influence, without the position.

A popular person carries a level of influence, whether it stems from their looks, status, or their involvement on campus, this person is known and respected by so many of their peers, which carries a power that many of the other personalities have to build or work for.

So the tricky part about the popular president is this: While they have influence, the question is how do they use it? This is the defining factor in the capability and resourcefulness of a popular president. If this president takes the position and uses their popularity to create change and engage the students in the way that a visionary or activist does, they can be an effective and successful president. They can make people who would not normally care, care about things that are important. They can speak to a certain segment of the population who will listen to them. However, if the person just takes on the position to flaunt their popularity and make themselves look better, they will be ineffective and not cultivate change.

This person normally runs on the confirmed support of their base, which means what runs very important in their leadership is being held accountable by those who supported them and elected them. This person’s term will be based on the thoughts of others because this is how they were elected. They will only do things that are popular with the students and not drift away from that safe zone. Anything that would bring a blow to their popularity will be out of their comfort zone.

However, because they lead their term in the words of pastor Todd White, “Living by the praises of the people will lead you to death by their criticisms” this leader may never be effective in creating change on real issues, if the student body’s interests are not real issues, making them a figure head versus a tool for change. This person’s impact on the campus is dependent upon how they wield their power and influence they carried prior to being in office in partnership with the power and influence they wield that is granted them in the position by the Constitution. People in this area include some rap artists, Young Thug, Lil Wayne, etc. These are people who carry a level of influence and power and shy away from standing for issues but would rather maintain their influence and audiences.

While I know this cannot begin to sum up the totality of different SGA president personalities, I believe that with every SGA President, you will find someone who embodies the given qualities and attributes in their terms and leadership.