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Sunday, January 29, 2023

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Progress report: 59th SGA administration hosts fundraisers, pushes for athletic involvement, more


Outside of SGA senate chamber

SGA aims to finish on a successful note. | Felipe Harker/The Cougar

After a tumultuous 58th administration, Joshua Martin became the 59th UH Student Government Association president. As his one year term will wrap up in April, Martin and other SGA members are working to end their administration on a successful note.

During last year’s elections, Martin ran on his desire to increase transparency in the association, noting the historic recall election from the year before. He also discussed his hopes to implement a point system to reward students for their involvement in the university and to increase campus safety.

After the events of the recall election from the year before, Martin and his administration have worked to increase transparency between not only the administration themselves, but also student government and the students.

“I know within the 58th administration before ours, there was a lot of turmoil and a lot of bad taste between the student body administration and SGA as a whole,” Martin said. “So I think that in the 59th administration, we did everything we could to kind of refurbish our relationship with administration. And I think that we’ve done a great job by accomplishing that.”

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, causing many to worry about reproductive care, SGA Speaker of the Senate Ariana Azizi reached out to Favor, a company which provides safe and easy access to birth control, other sexual wellness resources and skincare items.

Because of the partnership with Favor, students are able to access discreet and affordable birth control, and pick it up at the Wellness Center or Women and Gender Resource Center.

During Breast Cancer Awareness month, SGA partnered with Zeta Tau Alpha to raise money by charging $5 to give students a ride to class.

Voting

Martin has stressed the importance of voting, namely in the gubernatorial elections. To help spread voting awareness, numerous events were held during the year, including a forum which hosted some candidates on the ballot and a few mayoral candidates for this year’s upcoming election.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held the Mayor’s Early Voting Challenge, in which Turner challenged UH, UH-Downtown and Texas Southern University to see which campus could hold the largest early voting turnout. UH won this challenge with nearly 5,000 voters, also certifying over 100 students to be a volunteer deputy voter registrar.

Sponsoring “2,000 Votes 2022,” UH SGA worked with local universities and registered over 2,000 new voters.

“Another thing I’m really proud of is how active we were with registering students to vote,” Martin said. “I know that was one of the things that we really want to tackle.”

On Election Day, SGA held Election Day Mania, encouraging students to vote and supplying them with food, entertainment and organizations such as UH Democrats and Concerned Veterans TX. Over 6,000 students voted on campus.

Fundraisers

At the beginning of the fall semester, SGA worked with G-Unity, a foundation established by rapper 50 Cent to benefit organizations working with underprivileged communities. Together they hosted a celebrity basketball game, donating all proceeds to the foundation.

To help the less fortunate over the holiday season, SGA raised over $1,000 of supplies to support the on-campus food pantry, Cougar Cupboard, and food insecurity in Houston Independent School District.

Promises fulfilled 

During his run for presidency, Martin suggested implementing a point system to reward students for their involvement with the University. He worked with athletic director Chris Pezman to create a point system for athletics, hoping engagement as UH is soon to join the Big 12.

Each time a student attends a game, they will earn points which can later be redeemed through the UH Athletics app.

“We’re really fortunate for the partnership that we’ve been able to build with athletics, and I think they can just get even stronger with UH going into the Big 12 next year,” Martin said.

To carry on their promise of helping sexual assault victims, the 59th administration worked with Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, former SGA senator Jack Jordan and former UH SGA president candidate Isaiah Martin to create the Full Support Partnership.

Free rape kits, legal support and a 24-hour sexual assault hotline is available due to this partnership. The current administration also became the first administration to have a sexual assault clause added to syllabuses, including a link with resources UH provides.

“I have to say at the top of our accomplishments is improving resources for survivors of sexual assault on this campus as we intended to do when we were campaigning,” said SGA vice president Derek Layne. “I’m proud to be able to say that we have changed SGA for the better and restored the integrity of the organization.”

Looking back on his successful work, Martin has noted what he aims to do before his time in office ends. The main action Martin is working towards is adding resources to the back of Cougar Cards, such as a help hotline.

“There’s only so much you can do in a year, so I’m really hopeful that’s something that we can hopefully try to get through before we’re done,” Martin said. “And if not, it’s something that I’m hoping could be continued to grow next administration.”

Martin and his administration are also working on passing the Safety First Agenda, a partnership between SGA and the UH Police Department to promote campus safety.

Through this partnership, active shooter drills, CPR training and other training resources. SGA will also soon be handing out strips to test drinks impacted by any outside substance.

“If I could sum our administration up in a really short phrase, I would say that we changed SGA and that we flipped student government back to the hands of the students,” Martin said.”

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