North Texas Daily

SGA leaders discuss transportation, transparency at State of Undergraduate Student Body

SGA leaders discuss transportation, transparency at State of Undergraduate Student Body

SGA leaders discuss transportation, transparency at State of Undergraduate Student Body
October 16
20:00 2021

Student Government Association President David Skinner and Vice President David Muñoz-Sarabia led the Wednesday night State of the Undergraduate Student Body and addressed current issues affecting students, such as transportation, transparency and participation.

Muñoz-Sarabia discussed recent changes made at the Denton County Transportation Authority, such as the potential cuts to Connect Routes, used by students for free rides through their student IDs and the introduction of the GoZone program 

“This program works like Uber, Lyft and other paid-to-ride services,” Muñoz-Sarabia said. “There are questions about this service. How much will students pay? What about safety precautions in place? How will this affect students who rely on paid-to-ride services as a source of income?” 

Muñoz-Sarabia also spoke about his goal to increase SGA senate membership and fill up all 45 seats, not including other positions such as intern mentors, support staff and advisors. 

“Reaching a full senate will provide a more accurate representation of UNT,” Muñoz-Sarabia said. “I will continue to take steps to make sure the Senate is more accessible to the student body, such as the hybrid model. By providing a digital option for our senate meetings, we can best reach our constituency.” 

Skinner also hopes to implement a plan to address on-campus biking and how it has been affected a year after bike-rental service VeoRide shut down operations in Denton, as well as address the payment structure for parking passes. In April, Transportation Services announced a free bike loan program set to launch fall 2021. 

As part of transparency, Skinner broke down how SGA received money from student service fees.

“Of the total amount SGA gets, $104,690.12 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year,” Skinner said. “With that money, we are able to develop programs, hire staff and have meetings to ensure [student] interests are heard at UNT.”

There is also a running expenditure list put together by Chief of Staff Casey Jimenez. 

Skinner also expressed hopes to continue to create and cooperate with student committees representing minorities and mental health and discussed the potential creation of an organization called the Eagle’s Council.

“If you’ve been in multiple organizations, you can see the disconnects between them,” Skinner said. “So, we want to have some entity that can help breach those barriers and get organizations talking to each other in a way that’s meaningful and impactful to their constituencies.” 

President Neal Smatresk also spoke at the meeting and discussed a number of initiatives aimed at reducing student financial burdens, including reducing the costs of textbooks and providing methods to pay those taking unpaid internships.

“I’m creating a $300,000 pool and I’m offering 300 students [with unpaid internships] $1,000 scholarships,” Smatresk said. “Many of the students who will take these unpaid internships will have quit a job in order to take that internship to reach their professional goals.”

 Smatresk revealed over $70 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund distributed to the university had been awarded to students, with $35 million more expected next spring. 

 He also reported the average debt for students to have decreased from $26,000 to $24,000, following earlier reported percentage drops in students who graduated with loan debt.

Both Muñoz-Sarabia and Skinner also discussed increasing student participation, with trends from previous semesters pointing to declining participation. There are currently 18 SGA senators, including the newly elected Senator Lauren Allen, while seven have previously dropped out. 

“If we’re talking about a more conceptual perspective, we live in a new era,” Skinner said. “Students need to realize that representation is important when the university addresses the new order. When we try to communicate with students, whether that be our town halls or coming to our senate meetings, we’re trying to stress what you believe and think is important. It’s about telling us what [students] think is important.” 

Featured Image: SGA President Devon Skinner speaks at the State of the Undergraduate Student Body on Oct. 13, 2021. Photo by John Anderson

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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