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Saturday, May 25, 2019

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GUEST COLUMN: Why you should vote in the SGA election


I’m Cameron Barrett, and I have been the Student Body President since April 1, 2018. I don’t blame you if you do not know who I am or who the rest of the people within the Student Government Association are, as it is difficult for even the vice-chancellors of the University of Houston to reach all 46,000 students with any particular message.

However, there are many people on campus who believe SGA is useless, and who don’t vote because they think it doesn’t matter who represents them. This couldn’t be more wrong. Who the SGA president is matters, and it matters a lot.

Throughout this I hope you consider what I wrote, and I hope it convinces you to at least take the time to seek out each of the presidential/vice-presidential candidates and make an informed decision. Below are a few good and constant motivations to vote in each Student Government election.

Paid Positions

Perhaps the most tangible reason you should care about who becomes your SGA president is that they are paid, by you, through your student fee bill each semester. Below is a list of annual salaries afforded to various positions, each year, that the elected SGA gets to decide.

The Student Government leaders also manage and determine how to properly distribute another $33,000 dollars in discretionary spending. This is money that is 100% controlled by your Student Government.

The SGA president also appoints a majority of members of the Student Fee Advisory Committee. This committee makes the baseline and initial determination for how your Student Fees (the $260 ‘student service fee’ you pay each term) are distributed each year (this represents 20 to 25 million dollars).

If you care about how your student fees are spent, you should care who is in your Student Government.

Important meetings with important people

As SGA president, I meet with leaders of the University each week through our regularly scheduled weekly, biweekly, or monthly meetings.

I meet with the Auxiliary Services leadership every other week, the head of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services every other week, the provost every four to six weeks, the Administration and Finance division every month, and I meet with the chancellor of the University of Houston School System/president of the University of Houston two to three times per semester, including summers.

Across hundreds of meetings, every devolved division, and nearly every department of the University of Houston, the SGA president has a lot of influence and power, both implicitly and explicitly through consistent meetings with administrators who govern all aspects of student life/university policy including, but not limited to: dining, housing, university finances, all academic policy, etc.

When the University of Houston was looking for a new food service provider, the 53rd SGA helped form the contract. When the University adopted grade replacement, that came from the Student Government. The Student Government helped design the Student Centers and pass the referendum that created the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.

The 55th Administration, my Administration, extended thousands of dollars of financial relief to students struggling with hunger and homelessness, provided paid positions to students through starting a safety escort program, worked with facilities to expense $110,000 to repair our sidewalks, etc. For more, check out the legislation this administration has passed and my executive orders.

To put all this in perspective, I created a chart which can help show what financial impact the policies of just my administration has caused:

A changed campus

If students didn’t vote for me in 2018, homeless students wouldn’t have gotten reduced meal plans, a safety escort program would have never been established, national dinning franchises on campus would still use Styrofoam, and hundreds of students wouldn’t have been registered to vote or been provided transportation to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

This only includes the calculable items. We did a lot more that we just don’t have the numbers on, like: lowering the cost of menstrual products, lowering the cost of value-menu items (Taco Bell), the books students utilized from the textbook exchange, etc.

That is just a fraction of what this administration has done, and yes, I’d like to think this administration has been uniquely productive in both policy and outreach, but all SGA presidents are in those same meetings, and make those same decisions, which include the same people of power and influence at this University.

All University of Houston SGA presidents have the same opportunity to make change on campus, so if you find yourself disappointed in the job of the current SGA, be sure to keep voting in our elections, if you find yourself happy with the job of the current SGA, keep voting, and if you’ve never really thought about it, I hope I gave you a few good reasons to start voting. Vote in our elections, and, if it’s for you, volunteer for a candidate you believe in.

I hope this has convinced you to participate in the Student Government’s election process. If you have any questions, please visit us online at uh.edu/sga, or email me at [email protected].

Voting ends today. To vote, just log into Access UH, go to Get Involved, and click “vote now.”

Go Coogs!

Cameron Barrett, 55th Student Government President

Cameron Barrett is the Student Government Association President and a graduate student.

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