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SGA adds new committees and initiatives, with first meeting on Sept. 11

SGA adds new committees and initiatives, with first meeting on Sept. 11

SGA adds new committees and initiatives, with first meeting on Sept. 11
September 10
09:00 2019

Following the first summer under new leadership and staff, the UNT Student Government Association will begin the fall semester with its first meeting on Sept. 11.

The current SGA session includes the addition of several new university-wide committees, and leaders of the organization plan to move forward with multiple new initiatives in the coming months.

SGA President Yolian Ogbu said she and her staff aim to change the nature of SGA into a platform for training student organizers as well as a vehicle for student change, regardless of opposition.

“This administration’s different because we’re kind of, for lack of a better term, bulldozing the certain expectations of what it means to be professional,” Ogbu said. “I think it’s kind of like pushing buttons. It’s trying to ask questions. To not take no for an answer.”

Student advocacy committees

By forming “student advocacy committees,” – interest groups coordinated entirely by volunteer students – SGA administrators hope to see greater student involvement in creating initiatives.

SGA leaders said the groups would be free to research issues and develop plans of action to address problems independently.

“People might not want to be interested in a lot of issues, but if they are single issue people, like if they care specifically about environmental issues on campus, we have a committee for you to solely work on that,” Ogbu said. “For the first time, it’s going to be completely all about students figuring out how to work together without necessarily needing some kind of structure from a so-called adult.”

Eight committees will be established pending SGA senate approval: women’s resources, disability inclusion, mental health coalition, equity and diversity, city and state relations, campus and student safety, non-traditional student affairs and student employment advocacy.

According to SGA by-laws, at least one senator must serve on each advocacy committee, though other committee positions could be filled by students outside SGA.

Keeping promises

New initiatives and events sponsored by SGA will appear in the coming weeks, and Ogbu wants to keep up the momentum from her successful campaign for SGA president alongside SGA Vice President Hillary Shah.

“I’m a big proponent of doing what [is] promised,”Ogbu said. “Everything we talked about in the past couple of months in our campaign, whether it’s having frank conversations about minimum wage, about introducing interesting new policies and proponents to make sure that there is more of the inclusion aspect in diversity [or] to make sure people have safe spaces.”

Ogbu and Shah announced a plan to raise the minimum wage for on-campus student workers during their SGA election campaign last fall.

Brightyn Patterson, SGA’s strategic planning co-director, said she and other SGA staff are continuing their work to make that plan a reality.

“The number one question with [wage increases] is where are we going to get the money from, or what budget do we have to cut,” Patterson said. “We have looked into departments not utilizing work-study enough. Once they utilize work-study to its full capacity, we would actually have a nice amount of money in each department for everyone to get that raise and hire more people as well.”

Members of SGA staff will meet with UNT President Neal Smatresk to discuss wage increases on Sept. 19, though they say an immediate deal with Smatresk is not likely.

Soon after, on Sept. 20, SGA will hold a student strike to raise awareness for climate change issues. The Denton Climate Strike, organized in partnership with student government at Texas Women’s University, will begin with a march to the Square at 10 a.m.

Patterson and SGA Chief of Staff Hanlyn Tyler also detailed other planned SGA projects, like an apartment survey and database so students can research apartments. There are also plans for a mass voter deputization, voter registration events and a small party on Sept. 24, National Voter Registration Day.

13 Senate seats unfilled 

Currently, 13 SGA senate seats remain unfilled, with the College of Information lacking senate representation altogether.

Since elections have already occurred, the Senate defers to directly appointing applicants to Senate positions. Ogbu said those positions will be filled, and that 11 applicants have come forward to occupy unfilled positions.

“We’re trying to get as many people to come out to our events to learn more about SGA and how to get involved,“ Ogbu said. “I’m a big proponent of once people see something works, they are going to want to be a part of it…I think it’s honestly going to happen when we prove to them that this is an organization that’s going to make a lot of impact.”

Last year, 17 senate seats remained empty, pushing SGA leaders toward recruiting freshman senators.

Honors College Senator Angie Whistler said she dealt with distrust in past SGA sessions, but thinks the upcoming session will offer welcome change in the Senate.

“More than anything, I’m looking forward to the immense opportunities that are in front of SGA this year,” Whistler said. “We have a serious momentum of passion and determination from the campaigning last spring that I truly believe is going to change this campus for the better.”

Whistler credits the efforts of leadership during last week’s recruitment events as a major part in building SGA’s relationship with the student body.

“We’ve seen more engagement from students, especially freshman, than I’ve heard of in years,” Whistler said. “Not only that, but the real excitement is there as well. I’ve seen it firsthand as a mentor in the intern program. The applicants we’ve seen are passionate, receptive, and more importantly, compassionate.”

In the midst of decisions from university higher-ups, Whistler said students can still rely on SGA to represent their voice.

“This year SGA is determined to empower the student body, their voice and their vote in what happens on our campus,” Whistler said. “Our role is going to be to bridge the gap between the administration, their actions and our priorities as a university.”

Featured ImageSGA senators meet at the University Union on April 24, 2019. File Image

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Carter Mize

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