On Tuesday, The University of Texas at Austin’s Student Government met for their weekly assembly meeting. The attendance was relatively high, and there was a Zoom option for those wishing to attend online. The meeting lasted a little over an hour, with one resolution being considered and one passing. There was also an election that took place for the Legislative Policy Committee Chair. The agenda can be found here. The following is what the Student Government talked about for their October 19th 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. Next was time for special guests to present, where Ethan Smith, the former Housing Policy Co-Director, presented his thesis on UT Housing and Dining that emphasized creating more bed space for students. The goals of his proposal are to get the on-campus affordable housing plan formally considered by the University and to set up an affordable housing endowment from dorm profits. The plan calls for 5,000 new beds on campus since UT’s current capacity is 7,200 beds, and research shows that UT will need 12,000-13,000 beds to house undergraduates, plus housing for faculty and graduate students, in the future. A number of questions were asked of Mr. Smith about the profit margins for the dorms and whether more beds are essential.
Next was the Open Forum. A student came to speak to the assembly about the UT Housing and Dining Eco2Go Program. Throughout her presentation, she criticized the program for not being accessible to poorer students. Students with unlimited meal plans still had to pay the $7.50 fee each time they used the container. Students had to clean the container themselves despite paying the fee each time. She also contrasted the Eco2Go program and the disposable containers used throughout the residence halls last year during Covid and at the beginning of this year. There were a few questions from representatives who were not aware of the issue about whether or not the containers were reusable.
Next was the election for the Legislative Policy Committee Chair. The chair works with the clerk and the Speaker of the Assembly to work on legislation and their management. There were two nominations for the position: Representative Castillo Hernandez and Representative Gandhi. Hernandez emphasized his experience within student government and his work crafting and implementing legislation in the Student Assembly. He said that he wants to get more involved with Student Government and work with representatives to ensure their legislative priorities are completed. Representative Gandhi mainly emphasized his desire to make the legislation more specific so that resolutions were not as vague with their wording. He also wants to work on organizing the legislation better and making sure that legislation is more standardized. He argued that he was a good fit for the position because of his experience in the assembly and his experience interning in the Texas legislature. One question was asked to Representative Gandhi about having some wording intentionally vague to get around certain policies, such as Covid policies. Ultimately, the election roll call took place, and Representative Castillo Hernandez was elected as the Legislative Policy Committee Chair.
Next was new resolutions that came before the assembly. The first legislation discussed was AB 07 In Support of Allowing Students to Make Sustainable and Covid Conscious Choices Without Financial Barriers. The bill creators said that the focus of the legislation is the Eco2Go Program and the legislation “petitions UHD (University Housing and Dining) to reinstitute the regular to-go options that were present before the Eco2go program, or alternatively, to reduce the price of participation to allow more accessibility to students.” With students with unlimited meal plans paying $7.50 from their dine-in-dollars for each time they want to take food out of the residence halls and students without meal plans paying $12, the resolution calls for UHD to return to the old program in place. They also emphasized that the Eco2Go program endangered students due to Covid-19. During the Q&A, representatives asked if they had reached out to anyone about the issue at UHD, but they had not. The Government Affairs committee chair then offered the bill creators to attend a meeting with the Vice President of Housing and Dining to discuss the proposition. This resolution will be voted on next week.
Next on the agenda was unfinished business from last week. AB 07 Amending the Code of Rules and Procedures to Reflect New Assembly Election Procedures was up for a vote. The bill seeks to make the election process easier and shorter for Student Assembly meetings. The bill mainly changes the Q&A section to three questions with a maximum of two minutes per answer. It also motions to unanimously consent a candidate when they are the only one running, like last week’s Ethics and Oversight Committee election. It also puts voting in alphabetical order for chair elections. An amendment was added from its introduction last week and a clause in the frequently asked questions section. Ultimately, there were no questions from the representatives, and the legislation passed unanimously.
Next was Ex-Officio Reports, but there were none for this week. Following that were Executive Announcements. The Advocacy Director said that she had met with Dr. Craig and Dr. Brownson to discuss the MHART program and went into more detail about the various stages of the program. The program’s goal is for social workers to respond to specific UTPD calls on campus. There will be four phases of the rollout so that there are gradually more social workers and mental health advocates that accompany UTPD throughout the program. Currently, there are two full-time social workers who UTPD is training to respond to calls, and by the end of phase 4 of the MHART program, mental health responders would be the only ones responding to a call. The director also said that she will be serving as the student liaison to the program until the end of the semester. She also talked about the Improving Accessibility on Campus Initiative, which focuses on access issues for disabled students. Next, she highlighted her Equity & Inclusion Policy Directors. They are currently creating an interactive map for reproductive resources and making housing and restrooms on campus more gender-informed and trans-inclusive. Lastly, the Advocacy Director then called on the Student Assembly to vote No on Proposition A in the upcoming election.
Next, the Communications Director let the assembly know that she would be recording the second student government podcast episode on Wednesday. She is currently working on Tik Tok ideas and a new Speedway video with UT Outpost. Following her, the Financial Director let the assembly know that the Financial Literacy Program’s first meeting will take place on Friday to integrate information on the platform and website. In endowment news, the Carreon Scholarship deliberations are set for November 12th, and with 670 applicants, the decisions will most likely come out by the end of the semester. Lastly, the director is looking into fundraising events for next semester and is gathering information on previous recipients of endowment money. Following the Financial Director, the Administrative Director talked about how the Hook the Vote Agency will be working with the provost to set up a second voting location for the March elections. They also let the representatives know that the Co-Director positions for the Sure Walk Agency are currently seeking applicants. Next, the Chief of Staff announced that the Blood Brigade blood drive was successful. She will be working with the Texas Exes to get contact information for past Student Government alumni. She will be reaching out to agencies to get updated contact information for the listserv. She edited the assembly on the Menstrual Equity Project, which currently has products on backorder. The Vice President had few new updates, but he will be sending out external committees this week. Next came the President. She was absent from the meeting, so the Vice President presented her updates, which emphasized more people are coming to CMHC meetings if they like to. She is creating a Student Government Games for the representatives, she readvertised the Ribbon Cutting ceremony at the COOP on October 20th, and she advertised the Student Government podcast.
Next up came the Assembly Board reports, which began with the Student Affairs committee. The chair had no new updates so instead recommended a book called Shame of the Nation by Jonathon Kozol, which focused on the prison population. The book that she emphasized is third and fourth-grade standardized testing scores determine that future prison numbers. Next came the Rules and Regulations committee, which is working on a new bill for next week and announced that the Student Government code would be seeing some significant changes shortly. The Ethics and Oversight Committee had no further updates. Next week, the Government Affairs Committee will meet with Dr. Tyus, the Vice President of Housing and Dining, to work on affordable and equitable housing initiatives for future generations of Longhorns. They are also working on a $15 minimum wage for UT students Joint Resolution. Lastly, the Covid Committee has established a date and time for their first meeting. They are making the Student Government Games Covid-safe by using the Protect Texas Together app to ensure that people have done covid tests before participating.
The Speaker of the Assembly gave his report. His font was in gerrymandered districts, which he was eager to point out to the assembly. He will be planning individual meetings with the representatives soon, and he will also be having a follow-up meeting with the McCombs Diversity & Inclusion dean soon. He also readvertised the Latinx Community Initiative.
Lastly, announcements were made by some members at the end of the meeting. Ethan Jones, the Vice President, told the assembly to go vote early for the upcoming election. He then told everyone to vote No on Proposition A and to vote Yes on Proposition B. After him, Representative Sinnathamby announced that the CNS Advisory Committee form will be sent out soon for people to apply to. After these announcements were made, the meeting was adjourned.
Sterling Mosley is the Managing Editor of The Texas Horn. He is from Prosper, Texas, and currently attends the University of Texas at Austin as a junior. He is getting a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, History, International Relations & Global Studies, and Government and is minoring in Portuguese, Business, Spanish, and Security Studies. Sterling is an officer at the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at UT, the Vice President of International Relations & Global Studies, co-president of Intercultural Conversations, Internal Director of Students for Central and Eastern Europe, a member of the Senate of College Councils, an officer in UT Young Historians, a co-team lead for the Innovations for Peace and Development Research lab's Governance Team, and a member of the lab's Political and Economic Sovereignty Team. Outside campus, Sterling has worked with the Borgen Project as a political intern and volunteered with the David Purdue campaign in the Georgia 2021 runoff elections. Currently, he is an intern with the Leadership Institute’s development department in Arlington, Virginia, and is participating in the Heritage Foundation's Academy program.