Guest column: CLASS Senator reflects on trials and self-improvement brought on by 2012 SGA election controversy
Have you ever done something you felt you could never forgive yourself for? I have. Two years ago, I participated in the Student Government election fraud controversy that rocked the student body.
Though I played a minor role in the event, my conscience weighed heavily on me. I felt I had let down my family, my classmates and myself. Unsolicited, I came forward with the information I had and became the key witness in the student trial that eventually reversed the 2012 student body election results. I could have remained silent and avoided the situation altogether. Ultimately, I was compelled to do the right thing and get the truth out.
When the dust finally settled, I fell into depression: before, I was admired among my colleagues; after, I could hardly look at myself in the mirror. I had gone against everything I stood for, all in the name of a friendship that, in hindsight, wasn’t worth it.
After a time, I enrolled in group therapy on campus and found I wasn’t alone. Other students just like me had made mistakes and were coping with regret. Through therapy, I realized if I ever wanted to have a positive impact on campus again, the first step to moving on was forgiving myself.
When last semester’s student elections arrived, the very same students who had heard my confession before the 2012 trial urged me to run for student government. I was shocked and humbled by their support. My classmates and friends still believed in me. Despite my mistakes, students believed in my ability to impact our University. After careful consideration, I ran for student body senate and won my seat as a senator of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
Since my time as a senator, I’ve represented the student body at the Texas Capitol, collaborating in an effort to defeat an anti-LGBT amendment that would have impacted funding for Texas universities. I’ve co-authored legislation in hopes of increasing student retention and graduation rates. And yesterday, in keeping with a promise I made to myself and the students who helped elect me, I introduced a bill to reform our election code in hopes of preventing future instances of election fraud and increasing voter participation. None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the supportive community I’ve found at our University.
I share my story with you now because I feel I’ve learned a lot through this experience and I feel compelled to share it. This experience has taught me that you have to be true to yourself, even if it means admitting you did something wrong.
In order to grow and make a difference in life, you have to be able to admit your mistakes and forgive yourself. Most importantly, I want you to know that if you find yourself in a time of trouble, no matter how bad you think it might be, no matter how public or private a mistake, you can make a comeback.
James Lee is a political science senior and the current senator of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and may be reached at [email protected]