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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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SGA passes resolutions to support black community


Student Government Association President Jasmine Khademakbari discussed how SGA's relationship with the Black Student Union has improved from previous years at a virtual Senate meeting. | Donna Keeya/The Cougar

Student Government Association President Jasmine Khademakbari discussed how SGA’s relationship with the Black Student Union has improved from previous years at a virtual Senate meeting. | Donna Keeya/The Cougar

The Student Government Association passed two pieces of anti-racism legislation and a procedural act at a virtual Senate meeting on Wednesday.

The Say Their Names Resolution, co-authored by SGA President Jasmine Khademakbari and Undergraduate Senator-at-Large Kenneth Davis III passed, listing different actions SGA endorses for students to condemn racism, as well as steps SGA plans on taking to support the black community at the University and the surrounding area.

“This is to show that SGA is in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Davis III said. “These are some initiatives that we are willing to bring forth on campus to bring that inclusivity to the black community.”

SGA recommends members of the University to stop racist sentiments when seen, educate themselves on the history of racial inequality, exercise the right to protest, sign petitions, hold elected officials accountable and to donate.

In the legislation, SGA pledged to partner with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, administration and other student organizations to promote advocacy and awareness for issues black people are facing.

Additional commitments included meeting with UHPD to discuss racial profiling, advocating against gentrification, increasing efforts to hire more black and brown faculty members and more.

“There are some schools that completely get rid of names and school names on resumes for that initial hiring process, which is really important,” Khademakbari said. “There have been studies conducted about people who have more black-sounding names versus people who have more white-sounding names, and having the people who have more white-sounding names get preference in the hiring process.”

Khademakbari emphasized how SGA has been working directly with the Black Student Union to speak out against racism. This collaboration between the two organizations is a drastic shift from 2016 when the BSU president spoke out against racially-loaded statements made by the SGA vice president.

“As of today, African American students do not feel welcome, comfortable, represented, valued or even acknowledged at the University of Houston,” then-BSU president Kadidja Koné said at the time, according to The Washington Post

Despite not being involved with SGA at the time of the controversy, Khademakbari said she apologized on behalf of the administration before hers. 

“Since then, I’m happy to say I’ve been working personally with John Sowell, he’s the president of BSU,” Khademakbari said. “His (vice president) Brian has been in all the conversations that we’ve had with administration.” 

The next piece of legislation that passed was Resolution in Opposition of Racial Injustice in the United States, stating the current SGA administration asks national, state and local government officials to advocate against racism. 

The resolution continued to ask other student governments across the country to pass similar legislation to hold officials more accountable.

SGA plans to send a copy of the resolution to Mayor Sylvester Turner and other government officials representing Texas. 

The Elections Adjustments Act was the final piece of legislation passed, not relating to social or racial issues. The act co-authored by current attorney general Cameron Barrett makes revisions to the SGA bylaws and election code.

Some of the changes include moving the general election voting period from Monday at 12 a.m. to Thursday at 11:59 p.m. and allowing filers three days after an incident to make a complaint to the attorney general or judiciary. 

“It’s a lot of procedural stuff in there,” Barrett said. “It’s a lot of taking what I learned in the previous election and trying to apply it to make the subsequent election run a little smoother.”

The Senate passed Kaitlyn Austgen to be Barrett’s successor, appointing her as the next attorney general. Austgen has spent the past year working directly with Barrett as deputy attorney general.

Austgen feels confident that her job as deputy attorney general has properly prepared her to take on the attorney general role after Barrett graduates out of his position in August. 

“In addition to learning about the procedural side of this, I’ve improved my understanding of the more nuance(d) aspect of this job,” Austgen said.

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