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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Columns

It’s time for the SGA election and you should care


Pictured: The presidential candidates in the upcoming SGA election. Each candidate brings a different plans and vision for the students and for the campus. | Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

It’s that time of the year again: your social media is filled with professional headshots of friends with long explanations of why they’re running for whatever position, and it’s impossible to walk through Butler Plaza without being handed fliers you’ve already received five times.

It’s time for the Student Government Association election.

And, based on the 2018 election results, 92 percent of you will not care. Because why should you? SGA seems to be just a bunch of twenty-somethings trying to play House of Cards for a resume booster. SGA is just another registered student organization providing practice for future politicians.

While this notion is not totally untrue — there have been bad apples and some members of SGA clearly in it for themselves — SGA can do a lot of good for the UH community. SGA is a legitimate body of students that has a direct line to the administration.

You have a significant impact on SGA’s funding through your student fees, which is included with your tuition and fees each semester. So you pay for SGA to fund their initiatives, and you pay the stipends of the SGA leaders.

Even if you are not involved in SGA in any capacity, your dollars certainly are.

SGA can actually do things that help you, even if you never hear about those changes or realize those impacts.

History of help

For one thing, especially in this past administration, the SGA has done a lot for students. During the 2018 midterm election, SGA gave rides to more than 800 students who could not get to the polls. That impacted the local election.

In November, SGA passed the Homeless Student Relief Act. Because of this, fifty homeless students will receive a 70 percent discount on meal plans. That’s 50 students whose lives are a little easier because of SGA. Though this may not affect a lot of people, the campus is a better place for it.

The biggest change I’ve seen at UH during my time here happened because of SGA. For years, students had complained about the food service provider, Aramark. There was a long struggle between the University and Aramark.

But in the spring of 2017, UH terminated its contract with Aramark thanks to the work of SGA representatives listening to students and hearing their concerns. Since then, the food service provider has been Chartwells Higher Education. This would not have been possible without SGA.

Student fees

The SGA — and this is probably the most important job it has — appoints student members of the Student Fees Advisory Committee. Some of you may not know what is it, but SFAC is one of the most important committees at the University.

SFAC members determine what happens with those $260 in student fees you pay at the beginning of each semester. These fees go to fee-funded organizations like Frontier Fiesta and Homecoming, and toward University departments like the AD Bruce Religion Center and Athletics. The last time SFAC met, the committee gave out $23 million to the various organizations, both student and professional.

SFAC has 10 members who decide where your money goes. SGA appoints five of those positions. So, and this may be backward logic, SGA has a 50 percent say in where your $260. That’s a pretty important job, and you can help decide.

A real representative

Lastly, the SGA president is the member of the student body who is our representative to other schools and to the administrators who use the president as direct insight into the student body. Whenever an SGA representative goes in an official capacity anywhere, they carry the reputation of the student body.

I want to be well represented. Whenever someone hears of the University of Houston, I want them to think of the Harvard of the South. I want them to know how amazing the student body that flows through and inhabits this University is. One way to accomplish that is to have good student representatives.

One day, you will meet someone and say you went to the University of Houston. Their response may depend on the meeting they had with an SGA member. You want that to have gone well.

Go engage

There are many more reasons to actually care about the election, and I can’t name them all. This is just a very subjective list of why I think you should care about SGA.

In the end, I can’t make you care. We’re still all going to get tired of the glossy pieces of paper thrown in our faces. The Cougar will still keep you up to date on the on-goings of the election and the esteemed Third Ward Night Court, which deals with any complaints received during campaign season.

So go out and engage. Get to know the two presidential candidates and their teams. They’ll be more than happy to talk to you, especially since someone will be approaching them for a change. And let’s do our best not to have another national scandal.

Opinion Editor Jorden Smith is a political science and creative writing senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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