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Monday, September 16, 2019

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55th Administration meets for the last time, reflects on term


SGA President Cameron Barrett thanked his staff and senators for the energy and attitudes they kept up throughout the year during his final Senate meeting as president. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

With the smell of free pizza wafting through the air, the 55th Senate of the Student Government Association met Wednesday night for the final Senate meeting of its tenure.

Four of the five bills that were brought to a vote during the meeting passed. The last bill, The Sanitary Restrooms Act, failed due in part to concerns over increasing the amount of waste the University produces.

In addition to passing the final legislation of the administration, the meeting also featured comments from SGA President Cameron Barrett on the conclusion of his term.

“It seems like an anomaly of the last four years that we can have all this discussion and things on our agenda and still get them done,” Barrett said. “Vote yes and no and disagree with each other, but it’s not like we take that outside of this chamber, and I’m just so happy that we got the Senate we did this year. I really hope this year isn’t an anomaly. I hope it’s the precedent, and I really hope the 55th Administration morale can transfer over to the 56th.”

Environmental concerns win

“Do you have any solution to (the sustainability concerns)? Because it is producing more paper waste as opposed to increasing custodial traffic in those areas,” said College of Natural Science & Mathematics Sen. Isabel Pen.

The Sanitary Restrooms Act aimed to respond to student concerns about clean toilet seats by providing students toilet seat covers in each stall. Speaker of the Senate Kim-Briana Lorine authored the bill because students were coming to her saying they line the toilet seats with toilet paper to avoid having to touch the seat, she said.

This was apparently clogging toilets.

“The Student Center Policy Board said that it may not be a good idea to put the toilet seat covers,” Lorine said. “They would not be able to be flushed away and be more unsanitary, but this is a feasible solution for other high traffic areas of campus.”

Lorine said students were concerned about implementing the covers in the Student Centers specifically because the water pressure in the buildings is too low to handle flushing toilet seat covers. She instead planned to assist students in the other campus buildings that were capable of handling flushed covers.

Senators were worried about the actual usability of the covers and the environmental impact they may pose.

“I just looked it up real quick, and I can’t find any scholarly articles since this was last minute. From everything I can read, toilet seat covers don’t work,” said College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Senator Kaitlyn Austgen. “They don’t prevent diseases because they’re too porous. I mean, they’re paper. They’re entirely too porous to prevent any bacteria from getting to you.”

Many of the most frequented bathrooms on campus have stopped providing paper towels. Pen said that her concerns were not just with the environmental cost of introducing paper toilet seat covers, but also for maintaining the cleanliness of those restrooms.

“I would much rather have a clean bathroom than to just line my toilet seat with a piece of paper,” Pen said. “I don’t know if y’all use those, but sometimes they don’t always work the way we want them to.”

Final legislation

The Expanding Security at Technology Bridge Campus Parking bill was the third bill presented Wednesday night, but the last one to pass in the 55th Administration Senate. The bill had grammatical errors that sent the Senate Chamber into 15 minutes of discussion about whether or not to vote as planned or send it back for revisions.

“This is more than just a simple grammatical error. This is not just a misplaced word — it’s a full paragraph in the wrong part of the legislation,” said College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Sen. Michael LaCourt.

LaCourt’s concerns centered on the parts of the legislation appearing in the wrong place on the bill itself.

The Senate ultimately passed the bill after giving the authors of the bill time to make the revisions during the meeting.

The bill, which would help get more security cameras and lighting in ERP parking lots, mistakenly implied that these measures had not yet been taken. On the contrary, Vo had begun addressing the issues through a collaboration with the University of Houston Police Department.

As a direct result of the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication Water Bottle Filling Station Act, authored by Vice President Davis Darusman, UH Facilities request is currently being processed to add another filling station at the college.

Despite UH’s designation as a smoke-free campus, cigarette smoking is still an issue. The Cleaning Up Melcher Act is intended to place specific trash cans for cigarettes outside Melcher Hall, where students have been dropping their cigarette butts on the ground.

The act faced some backlash, with senators wondering why the campus should cater to those participating in prohibited activities. One of the authors of the bill, College of Business Sen. Jack Morgan, said he had talked to UHPD and security, but they were unwilling to ticket students seen smoking.

If you can’t stop people from doing something illegal, you might as well make it the most clean and safe way possible, which I believe is with those smoking receptacles,” Morgan said.

Wednesday’s meeting additionally saw the first reading of the Social Media Exposure Act, which would create images for SGA and its members to post on social media and increase awareness of the organization’s activities.

The Senate unanimously passed the Supporting More Vegan Options in Moody Dining Commons Act. While the act will not directly produce changes to the dining options, it shows support for Chartwells — who provides Dining services — adding vegan options.

SGA also updated its bylaws to allow the Senate to request a full list of staff from the executive branch, along with their job duties. It also limits senators from serving on more than two standing committees and will not allow anyone but senators to write legislation that needs to be voted on by the Senate.

The Senate also made its final two appointments. Addison Staples was voted onto the University Hearing Board, and Syed Naqvi was appointed as the Solicitor General for the Department of Justice.

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