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President voices support for Palestine, Senate approves new bills at recent SGA meeting

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Wednesday, during the Student Government Association meeting, the president commented on the war between Israel and Hamas and the Senate passed three new bills. 

During his report, SGA president Benjamin Rizk expressed his support for Palestine. In addition, bills were passed that mark key changes on campus life — new regulations on the Sugar Land Shuttle, wage increases and plastic bag elimination.

“In the issue of war, never let fear of what people might think about you determine who you are and how you’re going to be able to navigate what’s right or wrong,” Rizk said. “We should boycott places like McDonalds and Starbucks.”

According to Students for Justice in Palestine HTX, the goal of the sit-in is to raise awareness of the ongoing boycotts of McDonalds and Starbucks due to their support for Israel. 

New Legislation

The UH Sugar Land Shuttle Transportation Bill was passed in support of the new restrictions placed on the Sugar Land shuttle to be enforced in spring 2024. 

Problems first emerged when students began using the shuttle as a park and ride and because of the high volume on the shuttles, the University first implemented restrictions to begin in October. However, after student complaints the University met and reversed their initial restrictions. 

“For students to be cut off in the middle of the semester was not a good call because parking permits were basically sold out and students couldn’t change their classes,” College of Technology Sen. Anahi Ortega said.

The new restrictions include priority seating to those enrolled in classes at both Sugar Land and main campus and those who live on main campus with classes located in Sugar Land. 

However, those who do not meet the priority seating requirements will be able to board if they purchase a bus permit or already have a parking permit. SGA has promised to provide student volunteers to help with implementing the requirements. 

Additionally, the Microwave and Vending Options Expansion Act was passed by the Senate. The bill supports increased access to microwaves and vending machines on campus. They plan to implement a map icon on the UH Go app that shows the locations of microwaves and vending machines.

According to the bill, increased access to microwaves and vending machines around campus will work to decrease wait times for the existing machines in the Student Centers.  

“Hopefully this bill will not only help students know where vending machines and microwaves are, but encourage the university to buy more vending machines and increase promotion of their locations,” Ortega said.

The $10 Student Minimum Wage Act was also passed by the senate in which it was restated that the minimum wage for student employees will be set at $10 an hour.

The Senate previously passed the The Supporting Higher Wages for Lower Income Campus Staff Resolution as part of the Students Unite campaign promise to raise wages on campus. The division of Administration and Finance is responsible for holding all University departments with student workers to the $10 standard.

In addition, the Plastic Elimination Act was read to the senate for the first time. The act states that plastic bags will no longer be offered in campus market stores starting Jan. 1, 2024. The bill also states that reusable straws will be offered in campus market stores. 

The Food Service Advisory Committee, composed of student leaders, voted to approve a transition plan that will slowly phase out plastic bags and offer paper bags and reusable totes. 

“We want to phase out plastic bags slowly so students can adapt to the change, so at first paper bags will be available, but eventually they will be phased out as well,” Rizk said. 

Student appointments

Rizk was appointed to the University Hearing Board which is composed of three students, one staff, and one faculty. The board conducts the discussion between students or groups who were allegedly in violation of the Code of Conduct

According to Rizk, the board was having difficulty filling the student positions and had serious concerns of not meeting quorum. 

“If they did not meet quorum then I would feel like I was failing the university,” Rizk said.

The senate questioned Rizk’s commitment to his role as president as expressed concerns of time conflictions. However, according to Rizk, the responsibility of his role on the hearing board will not interfere with his responsibilities as president. 

Carlos Hernandez, previously Senior Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, was appointed as Chief Justice. 

“In the Supreme Court we handle judicial review changes and I am confident that the decisions I have made uphold the integrity of the bylaws and constitution,” Hernandez said. “I always hold my own views to the side when making decisions”

Chidera Onuorah was appointed to a senate seat for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Science and Jaden Kirvin was appointed to the Student Housing & Residential Life Advisory Committee. 

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