Student Government looks back, ahead on legislation
The 57th Student Government Association administration spent the Summer and Fall 2020 terms working to increase on-campus inclusivity and addressing national issues like racial justice and the COVID-19 pandemic at a University level.
In July, SGA approved the Muslim-Inclusive Reflection Spaces resolution which calls for the inclusion of carpeted floors and shelves in reflection spaces on campus to accommodate students who engage in worship on the floor.
The addition requests were passed on to the University architect and the design team in charge of the reflection spaces.
“We want to make sure that every prayer space on campus is inclusive for Muslims,” said SGA Chief of Staff Sterling White.
After the Black Lives Matter movement experienced a resurgence over the summer, SGA started the fall semester by enacting legislation intended to tackle racial injustice on campus.
The Say Their Names Resolution condemns systemic racial violence and lists direct political action the organization planned to take, while the Resolution in Opposition of Racial Injustice in the United States advocates for racial equity on campus and across the nation.
As the pandemic continued into Fall 2020, SGA approved the Coog Strong, Mask On Resolution. The document confirms support for the University’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, including wearing masks on campus and on-campus COVID-19 testing efforts.
Student work groups also began implementing legislation passed in the previous academic year, including the Policy Reforms Act. The legislation aims to prevent a disproportionate police presence at some student organization events over others after Black student organizations reported feeling overpoliced.
“Some student organizations felt like they were being over-policed, or more policed than others,” White said.
Collaborating with the UH Police Department, the work groups strived to ensure equal policing across University events and encourage providing explanations as to why increased security would be necessary at certain events.
Additionally, the Equity for Students with Disabilities and CSD Support Act called for the prioritization of voices of students with disabilities and supported the expansion of accessibility measures for students with disabilities.
The legislation also advocated for the fulfillment of staffing and funding made by the Center for Students with Disabilities, as well as disability inclusion training.
Going into the spring semester, SGA is working on key legislation and to support the establishment of new programs to help students feel welcome on campus.
White hopes to implement a program to help transfer students engage with the UH community, similar to a peer mentorship group established for international students in Fall 2020. The International Student Support Act created the program, in collaboration with the International Student and Scholar Services office.
The program aims to address the specific needs of international students who may contend with challenges, such as cultural isolation and social differences, and to create meaningful relationships between them.
“To be able to see the international student program take off and for people to actually enjoy this semester with this group when they can’t really be enjoying it normally, has been really fulfilling,” White said. “I’m really excited to hopefully do the same for transfer students.”