SGA vice president moves forward after election controversy

Garrett Edmonds, Sophomore, is in his first year as Executive Vice President of SGA. “We are here to help the student body any way that we can and we are always willing to listen to any concerns,” Edmonds said. “Our office is always open.”

Jack Dobbs

Inside the office of Student Government Association executive vice president Garrett Edmonds sits a Croslet record player. A self-proclaimed old-soul, Edmonds’ office bookcase is stocked with a collection of vinyl albums ranging from Merle Haggard to The Temptations to Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

“I always had a tough time relaxing,” Edmonds said. “But I found collecting vinyl [records] and listening to one while reading helps me relax.”

Edmonds was elected into the SGA office of executive vice president in April, running on a joint-ticket with Harper Anderson and Stephen Mayer as a freshman.

“I think, for me, my favorite part [of SGA] is being able to interact with students on a personal level,” Edmonds said. 

Edmonds spent his freshman year as chair of the Campus Improvements Committee. He said in the position he was able to work closely with faculty and members of the administration such as Vice President of Student Affairs Brian Kuster. 

“I think that in roles of leadership, you have to learn that if you want to ensure things get done, you have to be able to understand how an administrator thinks,” Edmonds said.

During Edmonds’ time as chair of Campus Improvements, he named junior Matt Barr as his secretary. During that time, Barr said in an email the two worked closely on various projects such as the Campus Safety Walk. The event was designed to raise awareness on various areas of WKU in need of general improvements in student safety and to provide a means of remedying those faults.

In addition to developing a professional relationship with Edmonds, Barr got to know Edmonds personally.

“Garrett never makes promises he can’t keep,” Barr said. “He does his best to make sure everyone understands the situation and why he made the decision he did. He’s an honest, hardworking and good-hearted individual.”

Barr also worked with Edmonds on repairing various crosswalks around campus. 

“Sidewalks were fixed in several areas, and many maintenance projects are still underway,” Barr said.

Edmonds serves on the Student Life Foundation’s Board of Directors, which provides oversight for housing residents and sponsors renovations and updates to the various student facilities on campus.

Edmonds has also spent time as an intern for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative grassroots organization founded in 2004, which was created and is funded by David and Charles Koch. Some controversy stems from the organization’s tax-exemption status, as well as its continuous efforts to energize various Libertarian Party organizations nationwide, which some view as an extremist right-wing political party.  

“When I was a freshman, I was looking for internship opportunities as a way to count for course credit,” Edmonds said. “Personally, I am indifferent towards the organization. I do my work for them because I enjoy working with constituents.”

Edmonds, a double major in political science and agricultural law, believes his work for Americans for Prosperity has helped him tremendously. 

“It has given me the experience to be able to go up to somebody and have a good discussion with them,” Edmonds said.

Last year, some bills related to real world topics were discussed in SGA. One such bill pertained to Dreamers and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.  

“I voted ‘no’ on the first DACA bill,” Edmonds said, “It was basically a bill that said, ‘we are telling the Congress of the United States how to act,’ and in some ways I found that inappropriate.”

Conner Hounshell, a senator and a candidate for student body president whose ticket ran against the Mayer, Edmonds and Anderson (MEA) ticket, found Edmonds “no” vote controversial. Hounshell said he met Edmonds when he first joined SGA in Fall 2017. This encouraged Hounshell to recommend him for the position of Campus Improvement chair.

“He expressed strong passion for SGA, and what I thought was passion for SGA’s core mission-to represent all students of WKU,” Hounshell said. “My opinions of him have completely changed after. On the surface, Edmonds has opposed every act of diversity in SGA.”

A revised DACA bill came up for discussion and vote soon after the first one. Edmonds said he voted for the second DACA bill because the wording was improved and he felt it was directly helping students. 

A bill concerning LGBTQ students was presented before the SGA senate as well. The bill suggested separate housing for LGBTQ students from other WKU students. Edmonds said he abstained from voting on this bill.

“I abstained from this bill because I just felt like it would look like we were segregating a group of students,” Edmonds said. “I think by letting students room with students with different identities and backgrounds, we help to engage students with different backgrounds.”

SGA does not keep records of voting done at it’s meetings.

Sophomore Mark Clark, chair of the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, said in an email that Edmonds had not contributed to CDI while Clark had been involved since Fall 2017. He added Edmonds “demeaned” CDI and the committee’s work during the campaign. 

“He claimed to want to work with us in one breath, and belittle us in the next,” Clark said.

During the election season, Edmonds’ ticket included intense controversy and debate over the use of Pepe the Frog as a campaign symbol. Pepe the Frog is classified as a hate symbol by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

SGA Judicial Council disqualified the MEA ticket from the executive elections as well as from any senator positions because of the use of the meme days before the election. Then Chief Justice Annalicia Carlson informed the MEA ticket in an email that Edmonds was aware of the meme meaning and still decided to use it.

“After being temporarily disqualified, he stood in front of a large SGA meeting, crying and apologizing for his ‘ruined’ image, never once apologizing to people of color and other minorities offended by the chalking,” Hounshell said.

After another meeting, the Judicial Council suspended the campaign rather than disqualify them, which meant they could not campaign but could still be elected. 

“I hope that the students know that the [SGA] Judicial Council let us back in the race because they found that we had no malice intent,” Edmonds said. “It was something we were just unaware of.”

Edmonds said he regrets hurting or offending people with the meme. “If I could take it back, I would in a heartbeat,” he said.

Despite the past controversies and tensions, Edmonds said he is optimistic about the future of SGA.

“I think SGA will always be able to accomplish stuff,” Edmonds said. “I think we always have an ability to get something done, it’s just that there’s never a compromise in what needs to be done.” 

Reporter Jack Dobbs can be reached at 270-745-0655 and [email protected]