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Monday, November 19, 2018

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Zhang runs for re-election with Spirit RED, similar goals


SGA president Winni Zhang believes student government is a force for change. | Drew Jones/The Cougar

The incumbent Student Government Association president, Winni Zhang, is running for re-election this year as the candidate for the Spirit RED party, which is focused on better access to health services, a more intuitive advising system and improved parking on campus.

The SGA election, which takes place Feb. 27- March 1, comes at a moment of increased engagement and attention to governing matters as a whole in this country, and that excitement has trickled down to campus. As leader of the executive branch, Zhang looks back on her tenure positively and hopes to build on the gains she’s made heading into the next year.

“I feel good. We made three campaign promises, three big campaign promises last year,” Zhang said. “One was to improve mental health services on campus and health services as a whole. The second was to improve parking, and the third was to implement the open textbook network here at UH. All three have made major progress.”

Zhang mapped out what she wants to accomplish should she be re-elected and reflected on the progress she’s made during her tenure. She lauds the efforts to raise mental health awareness on campus and wants to continue growing CAPS.

Zhang said that all garages on campus will have guidance systems to help drivers find spots this fall, and for the next two years there will be a pilot program introducing zoned parking.

She also hopes to introduce Skype advising and mobile advising via an app for students to stay up to date on their degree progress reports.

One issue that is important to Zhang is tackling sexual assault on campus. She’s working with the University to correct its blind spots when it comes to reporting. She wants the school to increase training for UHPD, who are the front line of assault-related events, and for UH to hire a dedicated sexual assault nurse examiner to work with victims.

She’s worked to create a sexual assault task force to evaluate a variety of issues concerning sexual assault and praises UH President Renu Khator specifically for mandating that all faculty and staff have to attend live training sessions for sexual assault.

Zhang said she takes her critics head-on.

“Criticism is always welcome,” Zhang said. “I’m not going to do this job perfectly, because nobody’s perfect.”

Zhang’s administration has faced criticism for a semester filled with miscommunication within the governing body. Zhang wants to increase the transparency of SGA by letting students have access to the organization’s budget for clarity on what its funds — provided by student fees — are used for.

She recently livestreamed a day of herself so that her friends and followers could get an inside look into what she goes through day to day.

Zhang also wants to ensure a more consistent process for introducing and voting on bills — multiple bills introduced were vetoed due to improper font.

She values the voices of those who push her to do better and sees her role as a force for change that SGA brings about. She said some in the organization can be caught in the insular nature of their positions and sometimes miss the higher purpose.

Zhang’s view of her own leadership is guided by the words “service above self,” and her hope for members is to dream big together and remember the larger picture.

When she’s not in her role as president, Zhang said that her friends give her a welcomed break from her duties. She recently reconnected with her love of playing the piano as a form of stress relief. She’s an avid music listener and makes playlists for her eclectic tastes.

“There’s 10 different genres lined back to back,” Zhang said. “There’s some Drake, some classical music; it’s really weird.”

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