Jack Johnson came to Elon University from across the country in Manhattan Beach, California, to visit a friend. He toured the campus on a sunny day in his final years of high school. After one tour, he was sold on the school.
Now, as a junior leading his own admissions tours, he sees Elon wasn’t as perfect as he once thought it was. Today, he sees a clear difference between what has been advertised and what is reality.
He said his campaign platform, “Real Elon,” hopes to show what Elon is “stripped down from all the glitz and the glam."
As a tour guide, he has a behind-the-scenes view into what makes Elon and believes the campus has room for improvement.
In high school, Johnson took easily to student council in high school, which prepared him to run for student government at Elon. In his second year of college, he ran for a seat on the executive council as SGA Executive Secretary and won.
Rodney Parks, university registrar, taught Johnson in his Elon 101 class. From his freshman year, Parks saw Johnson was "destined to do great things at Elon."
“He was one of those students with natural leadership abilities and always looks for ways to make things better at both an individual level and as a campus leader," Parks said in an email.
Johnson is brother of the Elon chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. When Johnson ran for executive secretary his sophomore year, former president of Beta Theta Pi Matthew Stranzl said his brothers were engaged with his campaign and volunteered to help him.
“Everyone genuinely gets excited for him,” Stranzl said.
Since being on SGA’s executive board, Johnson has been passionate about increasing school spirit and accomplished many of his goals. By heading the One Phoenix Committee, the student government's event planning committee, Johnson led the programming behind the Elon Ball and Homecoming week.
“It's a monumental effort, but seeing all the students come together for such a phenomenal event, it's a blast,” Johnson said.
Julia Field, junior class senator, worked closely with him on the One Phoenix programming committee. She said right after Homecoming week, Johnson wrote thank you notes to each of the committee members for their work.
His work on the One Phoenix Committee took up much of his time last semester, according to his friends and colleagues in student government. But Johnson’s girlfriend and Class of 2019 Secretary Elyse Cowles understands his drive and passion. She said he is the most motivated person she knows.
“Sometimes, I have to encourage him to take a step back and take some personal time,” Cowles said.
In the fall with Johnson seated on the executive board, student government reformed their budget system. Rather than student organizations proposing a yearly budget, they would request funds for each event.
Johnson said he wants SGA to be “the student body’s toolbox.” He believes SGA's new reformed budget system will allow students to gain more access to funds.
Johnson hopes to use senators and finances in SGA to improve bias reporting at the university. Elon defines a bias incident to be “conduct, speech or expression motivated, in whole or in part, by bias or prejudice.” Recently, students have critiqued the way bias is reported at a recent rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day called the "Privilege Protest."
“I'm going to work hard to make sure the student voices stay infused in decisions around policies like that,” Johnson said about the bias reporting system.
The previous administration under senior and current Executive President Kenneth Brown Jr. was focused heavily on engaging Elon in conversations about diversity and inclusion. Brown was a keynote speaker at the protest, calling attention to white privilege on campus.
“Hearing him speak at the privilege check and reading his message was really powerful to me, and it really made me ponder what it means to be president,” Johnson said. “I want to take a lot of those messages and take kind of a preemptive strike against that level of intolerance.”
As president, Johnson hopes to collaborate more by promoting events within the Gender and LGBTQIA Center and The Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education.
“We have a divided student body,” Johnson said. “We have pushes toward inclusivity that fall on deaf ears.”
Johnson believes the Elon community fails to connect with the surrounding town and county. As president, Johnson hopes to build stronger bonds with the local Elon community. He said attending town hall meetings regularly will help build connections that currently don’t exist. Johnson desires to “create a dialogue” between student organizations and the town.
"I hope to bring in the less involved students on campus to this discourse while also allowing others to see what that side of campus sees on a day to day basis," Johnson said. "It's about just seeing the world through other's eyes and that level of empathy. We'll make our campus better."
Mackenzie Wilkes contributed to this reporting.