Interview with Matt Belcher, candidate for President. His opponents are Rob Elsaid and Korey Hummer.
Note: the first 6 questions were asked in a group interview, along with Adam Pauley, Kelsey Queen, Grace Hurney, and Spencer Stevens. The remaining questions were asked one-on-one.
* * *
Chris Slater: What’s your SGA experience?
Matt Belcher: My sophomore year, I was elected as a Senator. I served as Housing chair, and have served on numerous other committees. I am now the current Business Manager to the SGA, and I serve on CUSAC as well as the Budgetary session committees. I also had a small hand in planning the Spring Fling of last year.
CS: What attracted you to the SGA?
MB: What initially got me interested in it was, I was involved in a high school SGA and a lot of things weren’t very productive, we weren’t very good at advocating for what the students wanted in high school. When I got to Concord, I stayed out of it my freshman year, because I didn’t really know, I was trying to “feel out” how this SGA was going to act. Once I saw that they were a productive SGA, and an SGA that did move forward for students, I got involved as a Senator and started working my way up, with my eventual goal to become President.
CS: Why did you decide to run for your position?
MB: With dealing with the administration on several different issues, I began to see that it wasn’t very black or white as our previous administrations had painted it. A lot of the times, they’ll be interested in helping students and helping improve student life. And, that’s something that I really found interesting. Being in the Business Manager role, I don’t have a lot of ability to vote on different things of different natures. I don’t have the ability to voice my opinion on different natures of different things. I’m pretty much just limited to the money. The role of President interests me because I feel that I’m best suited for that position to be able to best lead the student body, forward with change, hand-in-hand with the administration as long as they’re willing to participate in what’s best for the student body. I feel that I can work well with administration, as well as the students. And, I also want to work there in a respective manner, but not letting the administration forget, that the students are the reason they’re there. The students are the reason we’re here. We should try and make the best life possible for the students on this campus?
CS: What will you do if you’re not elected? Have you made those plans yet?
MB: I’ve already tried to work on a few different things that I’ve promised, like a “Welcome Back Weekend.” I’ve already spoken to a couple different people in Admissions. They’re willing to work with me, as long as I’m willing to put something together. Should I not be elected, I want to push forward with that idea, with the ability to invest student funds into a project that will 1) create a better student life, 2) be able to take student revenue and create scholarships. I’d like to turn that, as well as a few other plans, smaller plans that I have, over to whichever candidate should win and hopefully they’d take it from there.
CS: What are your thoughts on your opponents campaigns?
MB: I think we all have something different. All Presidential candidates have something different to bring to the table. And, I think it’s important that students realize who has the most experience dealing with legislative and executive matters. And, I think it’s important for students to take note of who can prove what they’ve done, who can prove that they are progressively moving forward for students. I think that’s a major point, because anyone can say that “I’m going to do this, or I’m going to do that,” I can even say “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.” But, as far as I know, I’m the only Presidential candidate who is promising to come back around and check in with the organizations to ensure that they’re happy, different parts of the organizations and different students, with random surveys to show that we as the SGA are doing our job for the students. When we speak before students, we are essentially applying for a job, a job that the majority of the student body can give us. And, I feel that it is best that we check back in with them to make sure we’re doing our job correctly.
CS: What are some areas the SGA is doing well in, and what do you think they can improve?
MB: It’s a particularly interesting time to be in SGA, especially at the end. A lot of our executives and legislatives are scurrying to get last-minute things done. Something I want to comment on, this is Gary Thompson, he’s actually doing a very good job with the “Going Green” initiative. He’s actually talking with a lot of organizations, trying to find volunteers to collect trash. At the beginning of the [academic] year, we allocated $3000 to buy recycling bins for the Student Center. We were thinking we were going to have to rethink this because of the lack of people to take the materials to be recycled, but it appears now that that may be moving forward a little quicker than we had thought. That’s something I would really like to comment on. I also think that the Executive Board has been really good, in terms of cohesion and working together. Something I would like to say that we should do better on is that we should all try and work better in a manner to where we don’t have issues coming out to the paper, we don’t make the organization as itself look bad. That brings down the name of SGA, it makes people even hesitant to come to SGA, and it also makes us look like we’re not doing anything for the students.
CS: One of the first times we saw you in the SGA was when Wes Prince appointed you using the Maxwell Clause as Vice President. What are your thoughts on that whole situation? [The Maxwell Clause allows the SGA President to make executive decisions over extended breaks, without the approval of the Senate]
MB: That was a mess. I was a Senator originally, by popular election. Wes Prince had approached me said he’s be appointing a Vice President and asked if I’d like to apply for the position. I said yes, graciously. I went through the interview process, as well as a few other qualified candidates. And, in the end, he made a decision. There’s a little bit of controversy over this. Some people say that he made the decision to first appoint Brad Garner, and then changed his mind to me. I don’t know for sure, either way. That’s a better question for Brad Garner or Wes Prince himself. But, in the end, it came down to me. He wanted to appoint me. Over [winter] break, I had begun working on Spring Fling, because of Marshall [Campbell, then-SGA Advisor]’s advice, saying that if we waited we may not be able to get certain events and the price will go up on those events. So, over the Christmas Break, I took a lot of duties of negotiating contracts and all that.
The members of the Senate found out that I was negotiating these contracts and doing different things in the Vice President capacity, and they were very angry about it. A lot of letters went out, a lot of blogs went out against me for Vice President. Among other things, Wes Prince had decided to go ahead and appoint me using the Maxwell Clause. And, then he had a change of heart and decided to not appoint me using the Maxwell Clause and go ahead and have the Senate approve me if they chose to do so. He e-mailed a letter to the Executive Board, which leaked out from his Executive and members of the Legislative got it and posted it. It was a large mess, largely because nobody got the real story. No one came to me and asked, “What exactly are you doing? Why are you doing this?”
I was operating strictly on Marshall’s advice. He had dealt with events in the past as Student Center Director and the advisor of SAC, which is now SOAP. So, I figured he had experience in different projects. And, I trusted that if we did wait we may lose specific events to students. We may not get the best prices on events for students, which would affect the number of events we can bring. And, that’s important because if I have a $15,000 budget, if the price goes up on these, the number of events goes down. If I’m earlier, lock in lower prices, I can get more events for the students here are Concord. When I started working on those, I got few things accomplished here and there, but again, legislation found out and it became a mess. Once the e-mail was sent out to legislature, they got very angry. Another blog was posted, comments were on that. Then, I went before the Senate to be approved as Vice President. The Senate ultimately voted no. I think it was 22-11. Once they voted no, I served as the Interim position, until Wes could find another person. Mainly because the contracts were already underway, Spring Fling had not been approved yet, nothing had been sealed and done. As Interim, I continued to plan Spring Fling as the Vice President would, until Wes decided to appoint another person in the Vice President’s position. It was later on that Wes decided to appoint Ashley Hicks as Vice President and I moved back down to Senator. And, that was really the sum of that.
CS: There seemed to be problems getting the Budgetary committee organized both semesters. Why was that?
MB: I use an Excel spreadsheet to organize everything, as far as the budget. That way, I continuously know how much money’s in the account, how much we’re spending, and how much we can afford to allocate. When we print off the sheet for this last budget, I’m not sure what you mean by the fall - I may need you to elaborate there. When we printed off the sheet, on this last Budgetary session, it was simply just a lack of time. I looked at the clock, and saw that it was 3:15, and was like, “Oh, I’ve got to go print this off.” It was really just a lack of time. When I printed off the sheet, I brought it in and due to some technical errors, some organizations showed up twice; just some minor typos.
CS: In the fall, it took longer to get the budgetary started. I think it happened in October?
MB: When the budgetary session kicks off, it is actually something right after that, as soon as we return, we pretty much have to get the budgetary process rolling. I received no formal training from the office of Business Manager. And, actually, former Business Manager [Curtis] Kearns had left a lot of reimbursement forms not finished. So, I not only had to clean up organizations who did not receive their money last year - they waited the entire summer to receive their money - they just sat on different desks or whatever. Either former Business Manager Kearns did not initial something or it did not get there in time, different numerous reasons. And, it was not all Business Manager Kearns. It was things with the Business Office, small technical difficulties. And, those things kind of had my time tied up during the beginning.
Again, we really didn’t notice that budgetary was upon us, so we voted to suspend that portion of the bylaws to move forward with the budgetary in the proper order. But, really, the majority of the time I moved into office was cleaning up last semester’s re-allocation. You can ask Alpha Sigma Alpha, for instance. That was one example. I think they had over four or six hundred dollars that they had not received yet, because it had been processed, but not sent all the way through. APO was another one. Different organizations were still trying to get their money. And, that was an issue. I wanted to get them their money before I allocated more money. And, then we also had $10,000 that had rolled over from the previous semester, specifically allocated to certain areas. And, that had to be readjusted. I had to speak with the Business Office about that, and say, “This is going here, that’s going there,” and different things of that nature. Getting everything lined up from last spring semester really took up a lot of time at the beginning of last semester.
CS: It seemed like you were unprepared to answer questions about the budget at this meeting -
MB: A lot of people assume the Business Manager has the authority or say in the budget. That’s not really true. It’s actually a really weak position, as far as those people who want to say “I control the money, I do this.” The Business Manager, if you operate by what the Bylaws tell you to do, you’re simply there to 1) monitor funds and 2) hold the Budgetary committee. I try to aim with my appointed positions, because there’s a number of candidates that are appointed by popular vote by the senate and then there are two positions that I, myself, appoint. After looking over the people the senate had elected themselves, I appointed two people I felt would add diversity to the committee. My main goal was to try and accomplish a true representation of the student body with these. I want someone who is Greek, I want someone who is non, who knows about these organizations, but not about these. I want there to be a well-round committee. When we go into debate, it’s all closed session. When we go into debate about things, a lot of different reasons get talked about.
And, when it comes down to it, in the end I really can’t provide one reasoning as to why this organization received so much money or that organization received that money. I’m there simply to moderate the Budgetary committee itself. The Budgetary committee makes the recommendation to the Senate and then the Senate adopts it. I can name off different reasons, but I can’t give specific reasons as to why this was done. Reasoning and things like that, I really can’t speak for the six or seven people that were there. It was kind of difficult to be put on the spot to give a committee’s reasoning, when I simply chaired it.
CS: Korey Hummer, he’s also a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, are you two running a friendly campaign against each other, or is there any kind of divide between the organization?
MB: [long pause] Korey Hummer decided to run for President shortly before the polls closed. His decision to run was news to me, considering he had not really been a part of the executive or legislative branch. He has a few of our fraternity brothers backing him. I do know that Mr. Kearns and Mr. Matheny are helping him with his campaign. As far as the organization itself, I don’t know. I like to think that most, the majority of our brothers will stay impartial. And really try to make a fair vote, not based on who they like, but who’s going to do what’s best for the student body. As far as a divide in the organization, based on this issue, I don’t think so. I think that they will look at the issues that we address in our Presidential campaign and vote accordingly.
CS: Some TKEs have held some high-profile positions in the SGA in the past. Have you ever had any communication with people like DJ Boland, Jared Tice, or Keith Pruitt?
MB: Keith Pruitt, I talk to on a normal basis. I like Keith. His opinions on things are usually fair. He has a lot of experience in SGA and TKE as well. So, a lot of times I’ll be going through some issues or I’ll be having some ideas - some controversial inner thoughts or something - a lot of times I will go talk to Keith. He’s still right here on campus, he still comes around. I go to his house frequently. Less frequently with the campaign now, all that we have to do. And, Jared Tice, I’ve also spoken to him on numerous occasions. He’s actually still involved heavily with the fraternity. So, I see him every once in a while and I’ll ask him about fraternal issues, as well as SGA issues. So, yes, I speak with Mr. Tice and Mr. Pruitt quite frequently.
CS: Has running for President affected your Business Manager duties in any way?
MB: No, because I have to finish this job before I can take on the duties of that job. While the campaign is tiring, while it is extremely time-consuming to run a successful campaign, to make sure that the students know what you believe in and what you want to do, I simply cannot leave my duties as Business Manager. I don’t want the next Business Manager to tie up loose ends that I’m leaving. No, I don’t feel that my Presidential candidacy or campaign has affected my work as Business Manager in any way.
CS: You’re running on a ticket. Does it have a name?
MB: The New Deal Ticket. In the past, a lot of administrations have been more focused on the administration of the university, as opposed to the student body. We are an organization, and we operate on a budget that is better than most Student Government Associations on most campuses. There is no reason that we should continue to try and monitor the administration of this university. I feel that they recognize that the students have to be here for them to continue to operate. I feel that we should create an AD HOC committee that focuses on university policy passing through, ensuring the students are protected. And, ensure that this is something the students would want or, whether they want it or not, that they don’t disagree with it. That committee, under my presidency, will ensure that that voice is heard.
CS: Last year, the ticket with Ashley Hicks - the Fix It Ticket - looked like it showed some flaws, in people who running just to get their names together, with Bill [Lewis] and Curtis [Kearns] as an example of that. Is that the case with this ticket? Are you guys united, or is this just a political move?
MB: I know what you mean about the Fix It Ticket. Unfortunately, there were some inner struggles regarding ideas. Fortunately enough, this year, the thing I think our ticket has that I think a lot of tickets in the past hasn’t had is that 1) we challenge each other. We will not let each other make decisions that we feel will hurt the student body or that we may not feel is the best for the student body. We all have something to bring to the table. Like Mr. Pauley and I, we’re both Business Majors, but I’m a management administrative - and maybe marketing, it just depends on how my classes work out - major and he is a finance major. Although we are from the same business realm, we both have different emphasis inside of that. And, I think that’s important to have, so that you can accurately represent people from a broader scope.
CS: That’s everything I have at the moment. Is there anything you’d like to mention?
MB: Ummm… I do want to address posters. Emily Nordman, right now, there’s some debate over her candidacy. We lost the minutes from last semester; all the minutes are gone. We’re currently trying to recover some of them. It’s a very difficult process, we’re tracking down former Secretaries as well. And, there’s a little bit of debate over whether she has the semester experience [required to run for her position]. And, we’re trying to prove that up. Attorney General [Bill] Lewis has set a very high bar for us to meet, but hopefully with working with our advisors, with working with Bill, and working with what few records we do have, we’ll be able to satisfy our burden of proof. And, then when that’s done, we’ll begin printing flyers. We don’t want to print a lot of them, because for every piece of paper we use, we also have to ensure that it’s taken down and recycled, so you’re going to see a lot of black-and-white flyers from us. Just the fact that she’s in question right now, we’re really not sure if we should print the flyers with her face on it, with her ideals on it, with the things she’s ready to fight for, because we don’t know if she’ll be able to run. So, that’s important. So, once we figure out every thing there, we will go into production of posters of everything else.
* * *
For more information on Matt's campaign, check out the Facebook group "Matthew Belcher for SGA President."