Senate of College Councils hopes to expand FIG resources and dean-student relations

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Academic policy co-chairs David Jenkins and Katie Horstman converse about Senate Resolution 1604 will require FIG seminars to inform freshmen about the available mental health and personal safety resources.
Photo Credit: Ravi Teja | Daily Texan Staff

The UT Senate of College Councils approved two resolutions Thursday to improve Freshmen Interest Group presentations and implement dean student advisory committees in each college on campus.

SR 1604 will require FIG seminars, which help incoming students during their first semester, to inform freshmen about the mental health and personal safety resources available on campus.

These resources include, but are not limited to, the CMHC website, MindBody Lab, 24-hour crisis hotline, SURE Walk and safe navigation plans on campus, according to the resolution. FIG student mentors are provided a list of these resources and may use them at their own discretion, but this resolution will require FIG seminars to present all this information.

“Typically students find out later in their time on campus about mental health services that are available,” said Senate president Sergio Cavazos, a government senior. “In working with the CMHC, we really want to change that culture, and we think that starting off with FIGs and really educating freshmen as to what the resources are will help prevent that.” 

English sophomore David Jenkins, academic policy co-chair of Senate, said CMHC and the First Year Experience Office for FIG have already expressed their support for the initiative.

“We totally understand that a lot of FIG mentors are already on top of this,” Jenkins said. “The FIG seminars are a bit more of a small environment than you would get in an orientation atmosphere, [so] they’re a little bit more viable to have to pay attention to the resources that are being presented.”

SR 1605 implements individual Dean Student Advisory Committees within each college at the University.

According to the resolution, each DSAC would be modeled after the President Student Advisory Committee, which advises UT President Gregory Fenves on issues and concerns of students. Each DSAC would serve as a line of communication between students and the deans of their respective colleges.

Senate vice president Austin Reynolds, an English honors and sociology senior, said DSAC was implemented in the College of Liberal Arts after freshman Haruka Weiser’s death last semester.

“Just having that direct relation with the dean you’re able to cut out all the bureaucracy and talk about real issues,” Reynolds said. “I don’t know if they have ever had an opportunity to put a mission for students or work with students in a close way, so I’m hoping [to] see a closing [of] the gap of the relationship between deans and students through DSAC.”

Reynolds said the president and vice president of each Senate council will serve on their respective DSACs, but the committees are also open to members of Student Government and Graduate Student Assembly.

Senate policy director Bishop Wash, an advertising senior, said DSACs are a great way for deans to be held accountable and for everybody to be interconnected.

“When colleges come up with initiatives, they sometimes put it where it’s not the best for students,” Wash said. “[DSAC] is going to be a great tool for deans to be able to make those decisions and not waste time or waste energy or waste people or power.”

A new piece of legislation, SB 1603, was fast-tracked and passed to create executive summaries for Senate legislation.