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‘There’s a lot we can still do’: SGA President reflects on term, focuses on final stretch

“I think we’ve been the best administration in years, specifically in terms of involvement,” Rizk said. “I’m very happy with student involvement in university committees, policy decisions, and SGA initiatives.”|Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Student Government Association President Benjamin Rizk still has plans for the remainder of his administration. 

From organizing galas and food drives to revising the SGA election code and overseeing a Supreme Court reform, Rizk still has a few items left on his executive agenda. However, while these items may be attainable, others may be impossible to accomplish in the time Rizk has left for his administration.

“Being president has been a good learning experience, especially learning what is within my limits,” Rizk said. “There’s a lot we can still do. We just have to keep on working to find solutions.”

A major priority on Rizk’s agenda is reforming SGA’s judicial branch by instituting three-year term limits for justices, reducing court membership from nine to seven justices and having the SGA attorney general appoint justices instead of the president. Rizk  believes delegating appointment duties to the attorney general will eliminate conflicts of interest between the president and the supreme court. 

“For the last ten years, SGA presidents have misused and have been derelict in their duties to appoint individuals to the SGA supreme court,” Rizk said. “It is obnoxious that the SGA president, who is supposed to be in charge of advocating for policy decisions, is also associated with appointing court justices. The attorney general is simply more qualified to appoint people who are impartial.”

Another event that Rizk’s administration is organizing is the Parking Citation Food Drive. Instituted by SGA in 2019, the food drive allows students to settle parking fines by donating food to other students.

However, with his term ending in early April, Rizk said he understands his limits and how some parts of his agenda were overly optimistic. 

For instance, one goal of Rizk’s was to implement sweeping reforms to SGA’s campaign funding guidelines, something he may now have to leave for another administration. His intent was to work with the University to set up a fund candidates could draw from during their campaign — a measure intended to curtail external funding from political organizations. .

 Another area that Rizk feels he could have done better in is campus sustainability. Particularly, Rizk had hoped to revive the campus community garden and a recycling incentive program called Recyclemania during his administration. 

The campus community garden was a program  intended to grow produce to donate to local food pantries in low-income areas around the city. Recyclemania, last organized in 2020, was a recycling competition to promote waste reduction on the campus. 

“What I want to see for future administrations is a collaboration with waste facilities on campus to increase sustainability at UH,” Rizk said. “The University has been going backward for the past six years when it comes to this.”

Another project Rizk struggled to complete was the campus-wide Wudu stations, which proved difficult to implement despite spearheading a resolution that created a task force to do so. 

“Ultimately, you can’t install Wudu stations in buildings funded by state money,” Rizk said about the difficulty of creating accessible Wudu stations around campus.

According to Rizk, the University can install these stations only in buildings funded by non-state entities.

Whether through committee involvement or direct engagement with his administration, Rizk hopes to accomplish most of the remaining items on his agenda by maintaining student engagement in SGA. 

While committee appointments have been consistent in Rizk’s administration, the number of vacant seats in the SGA Senate provides a different perspective. Currently, there are 25 seats vacant in the Senate with 23 active senators. Additionally, a few posts in his administration have become vacant, such as the Director of Outreach and Attorney General.

Still, Rizk claims that his administration was one of the most active in terms of student involvement and engagement — more so than the two previous administrations under Joshua Martin and Arsalan Darbin. 

“I think we’ve been the best administration in years, specifically in terms of involvement,” Rizk said. “I’m very happy with student involvement in University committees, policy decisions, and SGA initiatives.” 

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