On Tuesday, The University of Texas at Austin’s Student Government met for their weekly assembly meeting. This Student Assembly was the first in-person meeting since the beginning of the pandemic. The attendance was relatively high, and there was a Zoom option for those wishing to attend online. The meeting lasted more than an hour and a half, which has been longer than in recent weeks. Here is what the Student Government is talking about for their September 28th Student Assembly meeting.
The meeting began with the Land Acknowledgement, which is a statement read at the beginning of each in-person meeting to pay respects to various indigenous peoples and communities who had previously occupied the land of Texas. Then there were multiple special guests. One of them was from Events and Entertainment who advertised some upcoming events on campus. Then Suseth Munoz, Vice President of the Senate of College Councils, spoke to the assembly to encourage them to work with Senate councils and internal Senate on projects. Next, another speaker advertised that the nontraditional student scholarship is now open. And to be eligible for the scholarship, you have to be a student that falls into one of the following categories: external transfers, students over 25, first-generation students, veterans, and parents. And lastly, first-year representatives, who were recently elected, were also in attendance as guests and will be sworn in at the next meeting.
Now onto the resolutions that were taken up during this week’s meeting. The first resolution was ‘JR 21-07 In Support of Unifying UT Students into a Single Congressional District.’ This resolution calls for the campus of UT and West Campus to all be included in the same congressional districts since redistricting is currently taking place down in the capital. The resolution was also fast-tracked (normally, the voting process takes two weeks: one week to introduce the resolution, and the next week the resolution will be voted on. But fast-tracking can allow for a vote to take place the same week it was introduced). The resolution says the following as to why this resolution is necessary: “The UT community has been divided into several districts – much like the City of Austin as a whole – due to partisan gerrymandering. The Austin area was cracked into as many as 6 congressional districts in order to dilute the power of the community. While we are supposed to have a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” as stated by President Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, it is difficult to argue that our legislative branch follows that vision when the legislators themselves are purposely dividing and conjoining communities in order to better suit their own political needs.” The resolution also included two of the following images to showcase UT’s current surrounding congressional districts and the proposed plan:
This map is from The Daily Texan highlighting the four congressional districts surrounding the University of Texas at Austin (Graphic: Megan Fletcher)
This is a suggested map that incorporates communities with student concentrations into a single congressional district.
This resolution has ample questions from the representatives, and the authors explained that they had been working with state legislatures — one of whom is introducing a bill in the state legislature to follow a similar congressional allocation plan, who have stressed that showing student support for such a proposition is vital to gaining support in the legislature. Ultimately, after multiple extensions of the question and answer time, the resolution passed unanimously.
Next on the roster was ‘AB 06 Amending the Code of Rules and Procedures to Create a New Operational CNS Dean’s Student Advisory Committee (DSAC).’ This resolution calls for creating a College of Natural Sciences Dean Advisory Committee that would give students the ability to impact leadership’s decisions on how the college is run. Currently, there is the President’s Student Advisory Committee, but no such committees exist on the college level. This signals that perhaps similar resolutions revolving around other colleges may come about in the future. There were only a few questions, and voting on the resolution will take place next week.
The third resolution introduced was ‘AR 05 In Honor of the 50th Anniversary of Latino Studies.’ This resolution was also fast-tracked. It is a symbolic resolution that honors the creation of the Center for Mexican American Studies 50 years ago. On September 26th, the tower was lit burnt orange with “50” on its sides to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Latino Studies. The resolution passed unanimously.
The final resolution brought before the student assembly was ‘AR 06 In Support of Housing in the Campus Area.’ This resolution calls for the following: “lowering the percentage of median family income that UNO S.M.A.R.T. housing is tied to, no longer restricting supply in the most affordable parts of West Campus, legalizing the building of student housing next to the university outside of West Campus, and updating the city’s Land Development Code to solve Austin’s housing crisis and take pressure off student neighborhoods.” There were multiple questions from the student assembly and the Q&A time had to be extended multiple times to allow for discussion of the logistics and details of the proposal. Ultimately, the resolution will be voted on next week.
Next on the agenda were announcements from the Executive Board. The Advocacy Director notified everyone that the menstrual equity project had placed product orders, so you will probably be seeing tampons in university bathrooms soon. She also said that she will be meeting with Dean Lilly about an MHART oversight committee and will establish a framework for comprehensive community resources for students. Lastly, she advertised the Women’s March that will be taking place this Saturday at 9 AM at the Capitol. Next, the Communications Director let the student assembly know that the first newsletter will be released next week, and they are working on a podcast that will be released on October 1st. The Financial Director stated that the Endowment Governing Board has given out $9,000 to student organizations and that the Excellence Fund money has been disbursed. He also emphasized that the Carreon Scholarship is open and will be closing on October 10th. The Chief of Staff announced that Outpost had secured vendors for the menstrual equity project, and he reannounced the Blood Brigade blood drive taking place on October 13th. Next, the Vice President advertised the Texas Fight Rally taking place on October 6th at 7:30 PM. He also spoke about meeting with the administration soon to discuss a Riverside hub and issues with the Covid contact tracing program. Lastly, the President advertised that the K+E UT COOP Initiative is up and running. She also let the student assembly know about specific positions looking for applicants, such as the Student Regent for the University Texas Board of Regents application opening soon for a two-year position on the board. Also, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is looking for non-voting student representatives (one-year position). And finally, there are five positions open on the THECB Advisory Committee (one-year positions).
Lastly, committees were given time to make some announcements as well. The Financial Affairs Committee let the student assembly know that special project funding is now open for student representatives to take advantage of. The Covid-19 Committee then announced that the Student Government joined the UT Covid Safety Coalition. Once those announcements were completed, the student assembly adjourned.