The election of freshman senators for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Student Government Association (SGA) had record-breaking student engagement. There were a total of 811 votes, which is over 26% of this year’s freshman class. 20 freshmen ran and each of the winners broke the previous record of votes in a freshman election. 

Colby Hebert, the SGA President, shared, “Two years ago, we had, I think it was a total of five people run and the total number of votes was 14 and top vote getter had seven.” 

In comparison to this year, the top vote getter, Winter Sullen, had 410 votes.

Lauren Lopez, SGA Chief Elections Officer, attributes the level of student involvement to the hard work the candidates put in and the overall student involvement on campus.

“Personally, I think the numbers are so high, because of the increased student involvement across campus as well as within SGA. Our organization has worked really hard to ensure that elections were a success, and I believe students are starting to understand the impact that SGA has on the university as a whole. Also, our freshmen candidates this year were extremely dedicated to being elected, causing lots of campaigning and awareness that elections were happening,” Lopez said.

Hebert added that the engagement comes from students finally getting back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This is the first year we’ve seen mass turnout like this since COVID. We feel like we’re really, the University, not just SGA, is hitting its stride in participation and engagement with the freshmen. When this freshmen class are seniors, I think it’ll be a full university, like every student is going to have the same energy. Post-COVID, this is that first class that is now really starting to get back into it,” Hebert said.

The freshmen elected represent the freshman class and are tasked with being the voice of those students as well as organizing the freshman class project. Every college and the freshmen are given $2,200 from the SGA’s budget to do a college project. 

For the freshman, this money can go to anything they feel is going to improve freshman’s college experience. In addition to organizing that, they advocate for the freshmen at the weekly SGA meetings and let the general senate and the executive branch know how they can improve upon advocating  for the freshmen.

Lopez explained why student engagement in elections is important. 

“The main reason is that these individuals are truly supposed to be a representation of the entire student body as well as the group of students they represent. Students caring about elections and learning about the candidates is so important to the success of SGA long-term and the work that happens on this campus,” Lopez said. 

The freshmen senators shared their plans for office.

Winter Sullen, a criminal justice major, was elected with 410 votes. 

“In office, I plan to become a vessel for the freshman student body. I am a fond believer that everybody deserves for their voice to be heard no matter their race, ethnicity, age, skin color, or gender,” Sullen said. 

Tre Washington, a nursing major, was elected with 346 votes. 

“Being able to fill a senate position on the SGA at ULL is an honor. My focus is to make sure all our freshmen finish strong at the end! I’m here to help guide and protect our student body while getting their voice heard. I will utilize my leadership and organization skills to help improve the health of our students while providing a stress-free environment. I also plan to be well-rounded on how ULL’s SGA organization is run so when the time comes I can potentially fulfill higher duties. I’m ready to bring all that our campus has to offer to light and make many improvements!” Washington said. 

Tafari Beard, a moving image arts major, was elected with 254 votes. 

“My goal in office is to be able to elevate the student body and bring them together as one. I want to inspire and allow the school to become more connected. We are truly unbreakable when we all come together,” Beard said.

George Aggrey, a kinesiology major, was also elected with 254 votes. 

“I plan to revive the atmosphere of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and develop bigger events where everyone can come together no matter where they’re from. I also want to inspire individuals to seek out their full potential so that they can become the best version of themselves. Our team is here to be a microphone for student’s voices that aren’t heard around campus. We will always be here for the ones in need,” Aggrey said.

Hebert shared the SGA’s excitement about the engagement.

“We’re really excited about it because we know it means that this class is going to be more engaged, more participatory and have a bigger say on what their college experience is like, and that is our goal,” Hebert said.

Hebert also added that applications opened Nov. 1 for the SGA’s big three: president, vice president and treasurer. 

“We’re hoping to see a similar amount of engagement and obviously hopefully more, but we’re really hoping that it spreads to all classes,” Hebert said.