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SGA’s 61st admin executives prepare for first days in office, expect smooth transition

The 61st administration’s President-elect Diego Arriaga (left) and Vice President-elect Austin Craig (right) begin their tenure on April 1.| Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Despite their tenure not beginning until April 1, Student Government Association President-elect Diego Arriaga and Vice President-elect Austin Craig are already planning their first actions as SGA executives. 

On top of attending meetings with UH department heads and administrators, some of Arriaga’s and Craig’s early duties include planning their administration’s first 100 days in office, selecting candidates for their executive cabinet, and meeting with elected SGA senators. For the president-elect, having meetings with senators is crucial to having a stable transition between presidents. 

“Other than meeting with the vice presidents of all the departments, we’ve also been getting to know our senators a little more,” Arriaga said. “We’re trying to get to know each other and have a little friendly competition, but building unity beforehand.”

The importance of meeting with the newly elected senators is compounded by the party split within the 61st administration senate.

Unlike the 60th administration, the composition of the Senate is split, with Arriaga’s opposing party, Students Unite, occupying a majority of available seats. To Arriaga and Craig, this split in the senate does not arouse much concern and hopes that senators of all parties will forgo initial party loyalties in favor of mobilized action in SGA.

“Other than meeting with the vice president of all the departments, we’ve also been getting to know our senators a little more,” said President-elect Diego Arriaga. “We’re trying to get to know each other and have a little friendly competition, but building unity beforehand.”| Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

“We’ve already been in contact with senators from Students Unite, and we preached to them that this is no longer about party loyalties,” Arriaga said. “Right now, we’re working together for the student body.”

Arriaga also encouraged senators of all parties to cooperate with each other to create more legislation under his administration. 

Students Unite senator-elect and Speaker of the Senate-hopeful Sebastian Ballesteros foresees some conflict with the president-elect’s party, specifically regarding executive appointments and Arriaga’s executive agenda. However, he hopes that meeting with Arriaga and Craig frequently will prevent a clash between SGA members during the first SGA meeting of the 61st administration.

“The split in the Senate is important because we ran on our agenda, and our agenda is better and more precise,” said Ballesteros. “There’s been talk between the party of making sure that we’re unified as a party, but also making sure that we talk to the other side as well.”

In addition to meeting with future senators, meeting with administrators allowed Arriaga and Craig to clarify plans for their first 100 days in office, which so far include events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and working with UH Parking and Transportation Services to lower student parking permits.

However, changing their approach to implementing major campaign promises, such as increased UHPD presence, became a priority after attending a meeting with the department, according to Arriaga and Craig. To the president-elect and vice president-elect, increasing safety awareness on campus will be a more efficient way to improve safety for students rather than increasing UHPD operations.

“We realized it’s less about increasing security but about improving it,” Arriaga said. “We’ve learned that there’s quite a lot of security at the University and that it’s more about improving it and teaching the students how to increase security themselves.”

Other concerns for the upcoming administration include attention to the Student Fees Advisory Committee, specifically their selection process for potential candidates.

“We want someone who can toe the line,” Arriaga said. “We don’t want someone who doesn’t have a backbone and goes along with everything the administration wants, but we also don’t want people who are gonna fight the administration on everything.” 

The 61st administration also claims to promote SGA involvement in activism by helping the current administration create a new University committee to better serve student workers on campus.

According to both Arraiga and current SGA President Benjamin Rizk, the transition between the two administrations has been running smoothly, and they hope that speaking with each other about SGA will create a tradition of easy transitions for future SGA presidents.

“It’s been a great transition, probably the best transition in the last four or five years, even though I wanted their opponents to win,” Rizk said. 

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