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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Features

Outgoing SGA president reflects on rewarding, challenging tenure


Current SGA President Cameron Barrett leaves office April 1st and Allison Lawrence will take his place. | Corbin Ayres/The Cougar

The office of the current SGA president is lived in. Canned tuna, diet cola and shirts are tossed around haphazardly. On the desk, a deodorant tube sits next to a “Cameron sucks – APPROVED” slip of paper.

This is Cameron Barrett.

Barrett, the 22-year-old native of New Caney, is currently wrapping up his second master’s degree in finance. He finished his first master’s degree the summer after taking office. Aside from being an “overachiever,” Barrett also commutes most days from his grandmother’s home in New Caney to the University.

“I didn’t want to start adulting at 20,” Barrett said. “I knew that I was going to graduate in two years, so my mindset was I’ll go ahead and plough through a master’s degree and go into the workforce around the same time as my high school cohorts — just with more education.”

Before coming to the University of Houston, Barrett attended the Kingwood branch of the Lone Star College System, taking dual-credit classes in high school.

Prior to his election as president, Barrett unsuccessfully ran for a senator position in the 53rd Administration, in which he says he was “demolished.” Despite that loss, he persevered. His path to the presidency was one of the most competitive, eventually ending in a runoff election in which he beat the incumbent president, Winni Zhang.

During his tenure as president, Barrett has pioneered a few initiatives, one of the most notable being a major election code reform that limited the possibility of two-term presidents.

“If we didn’t have term limits I wouldn’t (have) run again anyway,” Barrett said. “Running for the position is very stressful, and I think that SGA elections can be a lot more personal than other elections because you’re running against fellow students.”

Despite the difficulties of campaigning, Barrett has managed to balance work and school relatively well, though he admits it posed a challenge.

“When I was running for SGA president and my first month of being in office, I was in a one-year program for applied economics,” Barrett said. “I wasn’t anywhere close to getting kicked out, and I ended up just fine — you know, whatever, I’m a genius.”

Though his grades didn’t suffer, his attendance did. During the election, Barrett wound up missing multiple classes — as well as a week and a half of work, about $700 — to go out and campaign.

His experience with the runoff election would eventually lead to an overhaul of the runoff election system at the time.

“The last day of the runoff, I campaigned from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and then the following day, which was the last day of voting, I campaigned from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. again,” Barrett said. “That’s with an hour drive back (home) and an hour drive to campus.”

It was a dangerous and exhausting situation, Barrett said. The new SGA voting system, which was voted into practice April 25, eliminated extended voting periods for runoff elections all thanks to Barrett’s near death experiences.

The last 10 months have been fruitful for the 55th Administration, bringing to campus a multitude of bills meant to help and protect students. Among the most notable are the Homeless Student Relief Act, the Transgender Inclusion Act and the Food Inclusion Act.  

“It’s been tough to figure out what to do next,” Barrett said. “I feel like we really have accomplished what we set out to do and so much more. But we got the Taco Bell on campus to reduce their value menu by 25 percent, so that’s cool.”

Though he didn’t run for president again, Barrett did win the position of graduate senator at-large for the Students Unite Party in this year’s SGA election.

“I think as SGA president you’re always going to upset some people, but I think overwhelmingly we’ve done a good job of rebuilding the administrative relationship,” Barrett said.

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