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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: SGA, Task Force work toward protecting students


SGA unveiled plans to improve campus security, create more Senate transparency and prevent further parking problems at Wednesday’s meeting.

President Kenneth Fomunung announced Wednesday that the UH Security Task Force has proposed to build surveillance towers around campus. UH Police Chief Malcolm Davis has thought about ‘strategically placing’ four towers in parking lots that experience the most crime, such as the one surrounding Robertson Stadium, Fomunung said.

Fomunung also said the Task Force had a productive conference earlier that day, as several options for improving campus safety were discussed. Ideas include surveillance towers, decorative see-through fencing to outline the perimeter of the campus and access gates in parking lots.

The Task Force, appointed by UH President Renu Khator, is also considering closing gates during ‘off periods,’ when activity reduces significantly. The Senate expressed a desire to improve security while maintaining a welcoming campus.

‘The concept is to try to have something that is not so exclusive,’ Fomunung said. ‘We do not want to look like we are an unfriendly community or institution. That is why we are thinking of the see-through fences around the parking lots and the towers.’

Possible boundaries for the fence include plants that would discourage criminals from preying on students.

‘In terms of the boundaries we are thinking of something like hedges, maybe with horns. It’s part beautification, but again, the purpose is to provide security,’ Fomunung said.

Fomunung also announced that the Task Force gave a ‘strong blessing’ to a proposal to implement a volunteer program called SafeWalk, which would serve as a supplement to Coog Patrol. At-Large Senator Sean Tarver and graduate student Micah Kenfield developed the plan, in which student volunteers would escort students from M.D. Anderson Memorial Library to their cars.

On Thursday, Fomunung and Speaker Alexander Obregon requested City Hall for a denial of a private owners’ request to build a retail area with only 27 parking spaces. A city ordinance requires construction of at least 96 spaces. The owner’s land is situated on Calhoun Street at a former Chinese Star restaurant location.

Fomunung said the University does not believe 27 parking spots will be enough for employees and customers, adding more problems to the University’s severe parking shortage.

The owner, who plans to remodel the land into a shopping center resembling the one across the street from the Campus Wellness and Recreation Center, argued that most patrons would walk to the shops because they are already on campus, Fomunung said.

In a move to establish more financial transparency, Obregon announced that the SGA’s Director of Finance will immediately begin to provide a report of all SGA purchases. The Senate is considering implementation of an oversight committee, which would review purchases of more than $250.

The Senate also unveiled a different seating arrangement for their meetings. Beginning August 5, all senators will face students and sit with colleagues from the same college.

‘This way, students will know who their representatives are, and they will actually address the Senate,’ Obregon said.

Obregon also revealed the creation of a ‘press conference’ forum, giving students and media members a chance to ask questions to any senator or executive. Obregon said the addition, which will be on the agenda of every Senate meeting, should prevent students from feeling too intimidated to address their representatives.

The forum will undergo a trial period for the summer, but is expected to reach full implementation this fall.

More committee appointments are expected at the Senate’s next meeting, 7:30 p.m. August 5 at the Mediterranean Room inside the University Center Underground.


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