Student Government aims to promote accessibility, inclusivity through new initiatives

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Student Government has identified an area that could be home to a third reflection space on campus, in addition to opening up other services to students at the beginning of the semester. Muslim students have been advocating for a new reflection space, and SG has established two in the PCL and the Union.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to make the organization more inclusive and accessible, the Student Government opened Longhorn Legislative Aide to transfer students, pinpointed an area for a potential new reflection space, and began to plan new election programming.

“We have an abundance of resources and opportunities in this organization, and we wanted to make sure students could take a more active role in utilizing those resources,” Student Body President Colton Becker said in an email. “We want members of our organization to feel like they do have the capacity to make change, and we’ve made an effort to ensure they have the tools they need to do so.”

Communications director Sarah Boatwright said the SG Executive Board revitalized their website and increased social media usage to eradicate “information barriers” between students and SG members. She also said development for new election initiatives is underway.

“Our efforts to make opportunities more available also dips into reformatting the election process,” Boatwright said in an email. “Members of the executive staff have been working on a workshop for students interested in running for student body president and vice president to attend. Workshops for their campaign members are also in the works. We’re hoping that going forward, more students will feel prepared and excited to tackle the SG elections, rather than ambivalent or intimidated.”

SG’s first-year student program Longhorn Legislative Aides will now accept transfer students. The decision came after complaints from transfer students and a realization that the program’s success was connected to the ability of all first-year students to apply, said Mehraz Rahman, student body vice president, in an email.

Along with changes to government-centered policies, SG has identified an area in North Campus that could be home to a new reflection space, where students can, for example, pray or meditate. The proposal for the space is under administrative review. There are already two reflection spaces located in the PCL and the Union, and Rahman said many Muslim students used to go to a space in the old electrical engineering building before it was demolished and rebuilt without a reflection space.

“(The demolition is) what sparked the need for a reflection space in the engineering area of campus and what moved many students to spend their time the past few years advocating for the creation of one,” Rahman said in an email. “This is something that many Muslim students have been working on for the past few years, including me, many members of the Muslim Students’ Association and Hira Vayani.”

Rahman said student inclusivity and accessibility is “a top priority” for SG and “should be a top priority for everyone.”

“One of the main phrases we use to describe Student Government is that it is the ‘official voice of the student body,’” Rahman said in an email. “We advocate on behalf of the student body to the UT administration, the Texas State Legislature and even the Federal Government. If the voice we’re trying to uplift and represent to these entities isn’t as accessible and inclusive as possible, then we are not truly representing the interests of the entire student body in our advocacy.”

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Student Government did not create reflection spaces on campus. A previous version of the article stated that Student Government had created the spaces in the PCL and the Union. 

 

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