President works to rebrand SGA



SGA President Jillian Scannell, a senior, smiles while her photo is taken, Sept. 4. After winning the election that produced the biggest voter turnout seen in years, Scannell began her presidency with the intent of making herself more available for all students.

Zoe Stern, Cynic News Reporter

When SGA President Jillian Scannell, a senior, learned there would be a photographer at her interview, she didn’t know what to wear.

She decided to go classic with a UVM T-shirt, showing support for the school.

Despite previously being an SGA senator, Scannell never imagined herself being SGA president.

“I didn’t really see myself getting into this role. But I mean I’m really thankful for it and grateful for it, and I’m liking it so far,” Scannell said.

After winning the election that produced 2,861 votes, the biggest voter turnout seen in years, Scannell began her presidency with the intent of making herself more available to all students, she said.

During her presidency, Scannell wants to change the role of SGA.

“We have a longstanding history, a lot of traditions and ways we used to do things but now it’s time to modernize SGA and almost rebrand it,” Scannell said.

A focus on climate

Scannell is passionate about the environment and is an environmental studies major. She was once an intern who worked to put together the Vermont Youth Climate Summit.

She plans to incorporate the passion she has for the environment into her presidency.

Instead of waiting for new President Suresh Garimella to take action on climate change, Scannell put together a report of suggestions, so his job would be that much easier, she said.

Sustainability doesn’t just come from environmental groups, it comes from a number of groups that at times don’t seem to connect with each other, Scannell said.

“What I found [during my research] is that a lot of good things have been done,” Scannell said. “But departments don’t know about what other departments are doing.”

Based on her research, Scannell has helped create a climate strike for organizations to come together.

The strike is occurring Friday, Sept. 20.

“[The strike is] more about holding a space to have a discussion about the climate,” Scannell said. “We haven’t really been talking about it on campus and everybody’s been really siloed.”

Scannell also wants to help not only organizations but students and faculty to come together to solve issues. The climate strike is just one example of that.

Bringing students back to the table

Students and the administration have been struggling to see eye to eye for years, and Scannell wants to help bridge that divide, she said.

Despite achievements by both students and administration, the two groups still feel quite separate, Scannell said.

“[So] being really intentional and taking that job seriously as in making sure that that gap is bridged,” Scannell said. “If students are not feeling heard, we should directly bring that to the administration and be like, ‘students are feeling hurt, what are you going to do about it?’”

There is the gap where SGA works with administration and SGA works with students, Scannell said. She wants to make it so students and administration are working together.

Bridging the divide between students and administration is a large task, but within that role, she wants to finish work on Safe Ride Home and Rally Cats’ Closet and Cafe.

Safe Ride Home, a pilot program, which would allow students to call a cab within a four-mile radius of UVM for a subsidized fee, is in the final stages under Scannell.

The program has been in the works since 2015.

As part of her goal to push ideas that former presidents have started, Scannell plans to continue the mission of getting a food pantry on campus and combining it with a thrift shop.

“[Vermont Students for Environmental Protection] holds a thrift shop once a month,” Scannell said. “In an effort to sort of destigmatize the idea of a food pantry we’re gonna call it Rally Cat’s Closet and Cafe. It’ll be half food pantry, half thrift shop.”

The project was started in the winter of 2018 by senior Ethan Foley, former SGA president.

The project grew out of a growing concern over food insecurity on UVM’s campus, Foley said at the time.

In two surveys given to the UVM community, 17% to 25% of undergraduates identified as food insecure, according to a November 2018 Cynic article.

Being in SGA allows Scannell to be part activist, part legislative body.

“We’re able to have a dual role and now we can pass legislation and have that administrative piece,” Scannell said. “But then we actually have the role and the ability and the power to do something about it.”

Changes to internal SGA structure

Scannell wants to encourage senators to get involved with organizations and get their faces known to the student body, she said.

“When I was a senator nobody came to my office hours. I just took it as a time to do homework,” Scannell said. “So now we’re making them do those elsewhere. So I had a couple of senators yesterday go with me to the Interfaith welcome back party and they talked to people.”

Visiting Interfaith gave senators one of their office hours of the week and encouraged Scannell’s idea of “intentional engagement.”

“I’m really passionate about building relationships on campus,” Scannell said. “Which I think will then make it easier for my senators to get projects done because we already have a lot of built relationships.”