There’s a reason 80 percent of our campus does not vote in UT Student Government elections. It is indicative of those who do not see themselves in campaigns, doubt the organization creates change that reaches their communities, or believe that their identities are exploited for the sake of votes. We have not been immune to these convictions.
Despite our vexation, we recognize that the positions of Student Government president and vice president hold weight and have the potential to harness substantial progress, as they are the link between the administration and the student body. Student Government is here to foster community and increase support. But before we can discuss improving the Longhorn experience for all, we must focus on those who are systematically disadvantaged.
While we all arrive at UT to further our academics, our college experience draws on so much more. However, there’s not an equal playing field for all students. The commute from Riverside. Limited halal and kosher food options. Lack of representation in Student Government. Barriers to campus resources. These are issues faced by the most marginalized groups on our campus, but they are so readily overlooked. We have a responsibility to advocate for students who feel like they are on their own, or that they do not have a space at our school. Once we can accomplish this, then life here on the 40 Acres will enhance for all. When we improve the lives of one community, we improve the lives of all communities.
This is not something we came into UT knowing we wanted to do. When that’s the case, it becomes more about the candidates themselves instead of the issues that need to be tackled. Our time at this university has given us the opportunity to work with people whose lives differ from our own, and after peeking into the vast array of identities that exist here at UT, we have seen the level of dissatisfaction across the board and the desire to ameliorate.
The more we learn, the more we see that tradition and the “old way” of doing things are simply not reason enough to continue down that path. As two women of color, we understand the experience of being disenfranchised both on and off campus. We have spent our time at UT advocating for our communities, but have both been thwarted as the administration often turns a blind eye. This is why it is crucial who occupies these roles—because the student body president and vice president cannot be ignored. The positions provide a microphone. We intend to use it loudly.
Our names are Guneez and Hannah. This is what our New Texas looks like. We can’t wait to hear yours.
Ibrahim is a sociology and design senior. McMorris is a political communication and African and African diaspora studies junior.