Life + Arts

Budget Baddies, part 1: The engineer

Even when faced with challenges, such as the rejection of their recommendations by the administration, Kadi and his team persevered. | Raphael Fernandez/ The Cougar

Budget Baddies is a series chronicling the lives of the individuals representing the student body on the Student Fee Advisory Committee. More information on the ongoing dispute between the committee and the Board of Regents can be found under The Cougar’s “SFAC” tag. 

Standing in a room filled with student protesters begging for change, one student made an unwavering impression at the Board of Regents meeting.

“I’d also like to voice my extreme displeasure with President Khator’s response to our recommendations,” said mechanical engineering sophomore Yusuf Kadi. “Not only is the decision reckless and callous, but it goes so far as to threaten funding for critical academic advisors.”

At the meeting, the Board of Regents discussed the proposals put forth by the Student Fees Advisory Committee, which became a battleground for competing priorities within the university community. The rejection of budget recommendations by President Renu Khator sparked controversy — particularly concerning the allocation of funds away from Athletics to other student organizations.

Kadi, as chair of SFAC, took the lead on defending the committee’s recommendations. When it came time for Kadi to deliver his speech to the Board of Regents, he did so with a sense of purpose and determination. Despite his lack of experience, he rose to the occasion, drawing on months of preparation and a deep understanding of the issues at hand. Sleep-deprived and nervous, perhaps, but also confident and professional.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the board, I implore you to be good fiduciaries of our student fees at a university where one out of two students are receiving need based Pell Grants, this money of ours is sacred and should be treated as such,” Kadi said.

Even when faced with challenges, such as the rejection of their recommendations by the administration, Kadi and his team persevered. Months of hard work and dedication had culminated in that pivotal moment, and while the outcome may not have been what they hoped for, it only served to strengthen their resolve.

“The speech honestly seems insignificant when you compare it to the months and months of work we put in prior,” Kadi said. “We were kind of blindsided by her decision which fueled a lot of frustration, but we were determined to not back down.”

Born to Algerian parents, Kadi’s upbringing instilled in him a strong sense of heritage and resilience. His family’s background, deeply rooted in Algeria’s history, serves as a source of inspiration for his journey. From Barbary pirates to Algerian war heroes, Kadi’s lineage reflects a tapestry of stories that have shaped his worldview.

“Growing up, I was always tinkering with stuff, building things and taking them apart, so I think I was always meant to do engineering,” Kadi said. “Talk to anyone who knows me and they will tell you I’m always bouncing around the walls, and my parents always stayed supportive.”

It wasn’t until Kadi’s involvement in student government that his true passion for effecting change emerged. Running for a senate seat in the Student Government Association, Kadi embarked on a journey that would redefine his college experience. Through rigorous research and campaigning, he gained invaluable insights into the needs and concerns of his fellow students.

“Campaigning changed how I saw the show school and the student body because I got to talk to so many different people and understand their perspectives,” Kadi said. “Which then made me have a good understanding of what the student body is happy and dissatisfied with, so I could advocate for them.”

It was during this time that Kadi discovered SFAC, a platform where students could actively influence university policies and initiatives. Recognizing the potential for change, Kadi set his sights on becoming a part of this dynamic committee.

“I feel like on a lot of other committees it can feel like you’re just creating false suggestion boxes, but with SFAC I felt like if you put in the work, you could actually influence how things are done,” Kadi said. 

Upon joining SFAC, Kadi wasted no time in advocating for student interests and pushing for tangible improvements on campus. Armed with a keen eye for detail and a relentless drive for progress, he delved into the intricacies of university governance, challenging the status quo and championing innovative solutions.

One of Kadi’s key motivations was to foster a deeper sense of connection between students and their university. He believed that by amplifying student voices and actively engaging with the community, they could create a more vibrant and inclusive campus environment.

“The recommendations that we made were aimed at engaging the students on campus and helping student services because programs like CAPS need to be preserved,” Kadi said. 

Beyond his role in student government, Kadi remains deeply involved in various campus organizations, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He sees these extracurricular activities not only as opportunities for personal growth but also as platforms for collaboration and innovation.

“As a freshman I would stay on campus until midnight sometimes, just being involved with stuff because I really wanted to maximize my experience as much as I could,” Kadi said. 

But what set Kadi’s journey apart from previous efforts was the driving force behind it. Unlike past groups, Kadi and his colleagues were driven by a genuine desire to make a difference, fueled by frustration with the status quo and a commitment to transparency and accountability. They were not content to simply fill positions and go through the motions; they wanted to enact meaningful change and challenge the way things had always been done.

“In the past, other SFAC committees just went through the motions, but we wanted to make real change. It’s kind of sad that what we have done is seen as groundbreaking, when other committees should have been just as engaged as us,” Kadi said.

Reflecting on his journey, Kadi acknowledges the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows, but he remains undeterred. The rejection was just a bump in the road, a reminder that change doesn’t come easy. But with each challenge comes an opportunity to learn and grow, and Kadi is more determined than ever to continue fighting for what he believes in.

As Kadi continues to leave an indelible mark on the University of Houston, his legacy will endure as a beacon of inspiration for future generations of students striving to make their voices heard and their visions realized. And while his journey may have started with a desire to make a difference, it has become so much more—a testament to the power of perseverance, passion and purpose.

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