The University of Houston Student Government Association closed the summer with various accomplishments, from reforming the parking appeal process to contacting federal legislators on behalf of UH students and improving communication with the student body.
“The summer is a great time for us to work, and I feel really good about what we have accomplished thus far,” said SGA Vice President Turner Harris.
“We have an outstanding team behind us and we’re all looking forward to the upcoming semester.”
Working with other Texan politicians
SGA officers contacted representatives across the nation to communicate that now is not the time to increase interest rates on student loans. Legislators decided against the hike in interest rates on June 30, a day before rates were set to rise.
“We’ve had a very productive summer with SGA, and we’ve gotten a lot of things accomplished,” SGA President Cedric Bandoh said.
SGA was also able to collaborate with other Texas college student governments to revive the Texas Student Association, Bandoh said. This will allow them to discuss matters important to all students enrolled in Texas public universities.
The SGA was able to pass resolutions, construct new bylaws and amend the SGA constitution, said Stephen Cronin, speaker of the SGA Senate.
The summer Senate, Cronin said, passed the SGA Governance, Accountability, and Integrity Reform Act of 2012.
It passed the act because the older bylaws were outdated, Bandoh said. By condensing these bylaws to be more concise, SGA made them easier to understand and thus, to abide by.
This bill will improve the way SGA members govern themselves. The change to the constitution will redefine the Court of Appeals to ensure fair SGA hearings.
In addition, SGA completed a resolution that updated campus smoking policies. According to grant guidelines provided by the Cancer Prevention Research Institution of Texas, UH must be tobacco-free in order to qualify as a smoke-free campus and receive the grant money.
The CPRIT grant will be used to ensure that students — residential or not — who smoke have designated areas for smoking, that smoking receptacles are in close proximity to buildings and that visible signs are placed around campus.
Other developments include a parking fine reduction plan, which will lower parking fines if they are paid in a timely manner. Students who pay a citation within 24 hours will receive a 75 percent reduction, and those who pay within 48 or 72 hours will receive reductions of 50 and 25 percent, respectively.
SGA also worked with UH Dining Services to keep food prices low, since students are utilizing the food trucks while the University Center is under construction.
As the UC is undergoing construction, SGA members have been attending meetings to provide insight on furnishings and development. SGA will also motivate students and alumni to donate to fundraisers.
They have worked with the city and Harris County to discuss repairing Cullen Boulevard as well.
Connecting to SGA online
Another accomplishment was the construction of an updated website. The new SGA website offers better functioning and navigation, which will keep students better informed.
“We want to draw students to our website to get information,” Bandoh said. “We want to step up our transparency and accountability, which is one thing we pushed for during our campaign.”
The website will detail upcoming events, photos, blogs, agendas and legislation. The website will also feature a news feed linked to their social-networking pages.
Bandoh has established a social-networking account that he plans to use to keep students informed by tweeting about his attendance in meetings and the agenda. This will allow students quicker access to information as well as an opportunity to discuss things with Bandoh in real time.
An additional web service that SGA worked on is the MindMixer, which allows ongoing communication between students and SGA members.
“MindMixer is essentially a virtual town hall service,” Turner said. “Our MindMixer will be geared towards continuous improvement of the UH main campus at large.”
According to Turner, the MindMixer will be a more efficient way for students to express concerns and ideas, an improvement on in-person town hall meetings previously held by SGA.
“We like the online model because it gets rid of the time constraint on students – we can receive their feedback 24/7,” Turner said. “It also democratizes the process of idea collection and lowers our overall cost of collecting these ideas and feedback.”
The SGA plans to continue working on these issues and more in the fall. To learn more and keep up to date with the SGA, visit www.sgawordpress.cougarnet.uh.edu.