What follows is a partial transcription of an interview The Daily Cougar conducted with SGA presidential candidate, Michael McHugh. Each of the SGA presidential candidates will be featured in our “Candidate Q&A” series this week.
The Daily Cougar: What are three things you think voters should know about you?
Michael McHugh: My experience; I’ve not missed an SGA meeting in three years; I served as a senator; I’m the current chairman of the bookstore advisory committee; I’ve written more pieces of legislation than almost every senator this session — among them being a medical amnesty policy, a nondiscrimination policy and a grade replacement policy. I’ve served as one of the largest advocates in favor of the new stadium (referendum) we just had out there throughout the whole election with Mack Rhoades, Jared Gogets and the Houston Cougar football team. That that was one of the strongest issues of the semester that I’m most proud of. We need Tier One facilities to have a Tier One University.
I want to usher in a new era of change for our University. I feel we are at the dawn of a bright new era for our University, as I expect this to be one of the most prestigious public research universities not just in Texas, but in America as a whole.
I’m more in touch, I feel, than the other candidates. I’ve lived in Cullen Oaks, Moody Towers, Cougar Village and the Quadrangle. I’m now even a commuter, so I’ve lived in a diverse number of settings that I feel make me most in touch with our student body. I share the same struggles and hardships they do and I think we all can agree that one thing we want to see out of our student government is more.
TDC: What do you think the last administration could have done better?
MM: I think one issue is still communication, that was one of the big things they wanted to do last year. I think they’ve changed for the better; we have done more social media. I agree to that. I think we could be more expansive in getting our name out there to the student body. Most of these members of SGA think everyone knows who they are, and the truth is, sadly, that they don’t.
I think that most of the time SGA spends too much time focusing on internal affairs such as bylaw reform, committee and parliamentary procedures and not enough time actually getting out there and dealing with the direct needs of the students.
TDC: You’ve mentioned some of the ways you’re qualified. Aside from that, are there any ways you stand out from the other candidates?
MM: Well, I think that one important distinction in this campaign is that I represent real progress and change for our University. I represent a departure from unstable budget cuts, dramatic increase in our tuition and fees and I seek to restore the credibility to the UH SGA as we act as a fundamental liaison between the administration and the student body.
But I think before we do that, we must challenge our student body to change first and decide these issues.
TDC: How would you make sure you’re accurately representing the student body?
MM: First is to let them know we exist; I think we can do a better job at that. The way we can accomplish that is to make them actually want to attend meetings; show how this stuff really does impact them.
TDC: And how do you plan on letting them know that these issues impact them?
MM: The way the current system works is students have to approach their student government if they have a problem. I say the student government should be doing more to approach the students.
I think we should have the president and senators at least try to visit every student organization if they can — or at least the most populated ones — once a semester and have more town halls and promote them better.
TDC: What made you decide to run for president?
MM: I decided to run because I kept getting approached by hundreds of friends over the last year since my previous run. They really believed what I stood for. They saw my passion — how much I cared. I put service before self in the election last year.
I energize people because I’m not afraid to talk about issues that really matter. I’m not afraid to talk about issues that other senators don’t want to get their hands in. I think the proof of that can be found just by looking at some of the bills I introduced over the last year.
TDC: If you’re elected, what do you plan on doing?
MM: A great way to start would be with parking. For every three passes given out, only one space is guaranteed, so every student who has to pay $250 for a pass only has a one-third chance of finding (a parking spot) on campus.
Most of us wait one hour before class to try to find a parking space, countless numbers of students are late because they can’t park their car. We have many professors who have strict tardy policies.
If you’re one or five minutes late, they might mark you tardy, and three of those tardies might equal an absence.
I don’t think that anybody’s academic success should be hindered because we can’t get an adequate parking plan in place.
TDC: You’ve held a position on the senate before, but for the last two semesters at least, you’ve played a more peripheral role. Why is that?
MM: It’s no secret that I’ve always wanted to be back on the senate. Unfortunately, I guess elections have consequences. I ran for president last year. I couldn’t run for senate again, and I think that played one of the largest roles in why I never was able to be a senator again. However, I never miss a senate meeting. I still always show up. I still always introduce legislation because I strongly believe in the agenda and blueprint I’ve written for UH and I believe that it’s going to help bring us closer to Tier One.
TDC: So it was just that you ran for president and that disqualified you from running for senate?
MM: Not at all. If I could have been in the senate later, I would have. It’s just that there were never enough vacancies.
TDC: Sum up what you’d like to do as president.
MM: I’ll say that if I’m elected president I promise to resolve our demanding parking crisis, establish a 24-hour library policy, implement a campus-wide bike share program and freeze tuition and fees over the next year.
In light of detrimental budget cuts, I also promise to donate my entire would-be salary to financially disadvantaged students by establishing a scholarship fund at the University of Houston.
For more information on this and other candidates, go to thedailycougar.com/tags/sga2012.