Desmond LeBlanc Declares His Candidacy for the SGA Office of Vice President of Legislative Affairs

Desmond+LeBlanc+Declares+His+Candidacy+for+the+SGA+Office+of+Vice+President+of+Legislative+Affairs

Veronika Lee, Editor in Chief & écrivaine

Native New Orleanian Desmond LeBlanc wears many many hats at UNO. Born and raised in the Lower 9th Ward, LeBlanc was raised by a single parent — his father died when he was 11 years old. Already an SGA senator, he is also a political science/pre-law major and  member of  UNO Theta Phi Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, the Privateer volunteers at his alma mater, Warren Easton, on their Governance Committee under the Board of Directors and serves on the Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. If his schedule wasn’t already busy enough, LeBlanc has just announced his candidacy for Vice President of Legislative Affairs (VPLA) for SGA.

What does that mean exactly? According to LeBlanc,  the VPLA is the presiding officer of the Senate who acts as the presiding officer over all the meetings of the Senate, signs all legislation that passes the Senate, promotes organizational efficiency and cooperation, and then some. This role also serves as the departmental leader for the Legislative Department and oversees all the Senate Officers among other things outlined in the SGA Constitution, Code of Laws, and Senate Rules and Procedures.

LeBlanc is no stranger to the workings of SGA – having been a part of the group since his transfer to UNO. He states: “Since my Sophomore year, Senate has always been my passion. I enjoy working with other like-minded students who all have the same common goal; to serve the student body. Since joining SGA and being apart of Senate, I have authored and sponsored several bills and resolutions. These pieces of legislation have impacted our students in some way positively and I am so pleased to say that it is because of my leadership and my peers that these things happened..”

At this time there are 50 seats in the senate. Only about 50%-60% of those seats are filled. LeBlanc’s goal is to fill the senate 100%.

“These seats are available and I want to make sure that our students are represented and everyone’s views are being heard. One initiative that I will work with administration on is the removal of the ACT requirement. I feel that our students should be able to receive a quality education from a public institution without the fear of not getting accepted because they did not do so well on the ACT. This is something that I am very passionate about and I hope that with the support of our University President and his administration, this goal is achieved.”

Driftwood asked Desmond about his thoughts on SGA and UNO in general.

What do student fees for student government currently go towards?

Student fees that SGA receives are allocated towards funding student organization events, it also allocates funds to SAC so that they can continue to put on the great events that get our students excited about college life. Senate also is allocated funding to use for bills that are written by senators and students to fund events that they would like to have. Those funds are also used for scholarships and the Student Travel Fund, which is a greatly used fund to send our students to conferences and such. If you would like to know more about where the funds go to, visit the SGA website for more details.

Do you believe it is fair that students are being billed for UNO facility fees such as recreation and library while campus is fully inaccessible? 

I think our university has done and is doing a wonderful job for the students during this pandemic, while no one is perfect and I do not agree with everything that the administration has enacted, I feel that they are doing the best they can with what they currently have. Now, as far as the fees are concerned, I do believe that the university should implement some sort of refund for all students no matter their situation. It is important that our university stays open however so if the refund would prevent us from finishing the year, then I say no to the refund but make sure that you are providing us with the best resources so that we know our funds went to good use.

Full disclosure – sometimes the elephant in the room is that SGA has a very high budget – one that exceeds many university student governments of similar size – Princeton University student government’s budget for a student body of about 8,000 students is roughly $100,000 less than ours. Can you explain certain funds being allocated towards a coordinator at $35,000?

Funds such as the coordinators salary are considered restricted and mandated that we fund by the administration. This is something that we have no problem with. Our coordinator (Joy Ballard) is amazing and we all admire the amount of time and commitment she has given us. Sometimes we joke amongst ourselves that we should give her more because she does an amazing job with Student Government and we really appreciate her. Make no mistake about it, while we are fortunate to have a very nice allocated budget, these funds are pretty much used up by the end of the year. While I understand that institutions such as Princeton has a similar population size as us, we are The University of New Orleans, we do things a little differently down here than they do at Princeton and our students benefit so much because of it.

Do you think that after potential coronavirus budget restructuring that the financial situation of SGA will change in any way?

We are planning like normal. So as of right now, everything is still being projected as if we are going to return in the fall. If and when we are given information regarding a budget restructuring, we will plan accordingly. I think this is the best way to do things at this point.

One final question – when do you and how do you find time to sleep?

Nothing but God’s Grace and Mercy gets me through the days. It is not easy. But, I feel my calling is to serve others. So I sleep every night peacefully knowing that I am pursuing my calling. The nights get long sometime, but when it is all said and done, it was well worth it.

 

While elections have already been held, everyone will be confirmed Wednesday, April 29 during the SGA senate meeting. Desmond LeBlanc encourages all to join in as the VPLA, will be confirmed Wednesday, April 29 as well.