Student leaders prepare to lobby Texas legislature

Seventy student government delegates from 13 Texas colleges and Universities met for a Texas Students Association Summit this weekend to discuss pressing higher education topics to lobby at the next legislative session.

"We definitely hammered down issues to focus on," UH Student Government Association Speaker Pro Tem Kelly Evans said. "Everyone is really on board to support some solid foundations."

At the end of its three-day conference, the Texas Students Association settled on two requests to take to the next state legislative session in January.

The group will ask for state tax-free textbooks for students and legislative support for a bill to freeze tuition rates at Texas public universities for two years, which was filed Oct. 10 by Texas Sen. Juan Hinjosa.

"These are pressing issues for all schools," UH Student Government Association Vice President Jonas Chin said. "We haven’t gone into specifics yet, but rest assure we will definitely continue looking into them."

The Texas Students Association, resurrected by UH student government leaders this summer, focuses on working in small committees designated to address various topics of interest. The UH chapter, in collaboration with schools such as Sam Houston State and Stephan F. Austin has focused heavily on campus safety, funding and student regent positions.

Chin said TSA would also work on closing some loopholes of the student regent application process.

As it stands now, Gov. Rick Perry’s office appoints student regents after reviewing the top five applicants. TSA student delegates want SGA to have more input in the selection process.

Before lobbying this legislative session, TSA vows to continue communication through the duration of the month and into December. The group will gather in early January to finalize their initiatives.

In addition to their statewide efforts, UH SGA members will host tonight’s Walk in the Dark – a night designed to improve campus safety. Participants are encouraged to meet at 6 p.m. in front of the University Center for the nighttime walk across campus grounds.

"This is a chance to voice their opinion for security on campus directly to officers," Chin said. "They can bring up any concerns they have about certain areas…. If students see something and want to walk through (an area not included in the walk) they can mention it to the police, and they will be willing to do it."

Members of the campus community will be shuttled to various campus areas along with officials from the UH Department of Public Safety and Plant Operations to determine which campus areas are insufficiently lit or prone to higher criminal activity.

Walk in the Dark is scheduled to end at 7:30 p.m., at which time SGA will hold its next Senate meeting in the Mediterranean Room, University Center.

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