Speaking with a united voice

Viviana Aldous

Student Government is once again a member of the Texas Student Association, thanks to a resolution passed Tuesday night.

TSA is a nonpartisan organization that aims to bring together students from public and private colleges and universities across the state to achieve common goals. The association was established in 1948 but disbanded in 1993. After 15 years, student governments across Texas restored TSA in 2008.

The goal of TSA is to take students’ concerns to the state Legislature, Kevin Sanders, president of the University of North Texas Student Government Association, told The Daily Texan last month.

TSA represents more than 500,000 college students in Texas. Its member schools convene about once a semester to identify issues affecting students across the state and then form a platform to take those issues to the Legislature.

The organization was most effective in its lobbying efforts during the ‘60s and ‘70s, when it brought student issues into policy discussion. In the 1970s, TSA even employed a paid lobbyist to push student issues at the Capitol.

However, after UT was elected to the TSA administration in 1984, it passed a new constitution that banned TSA lobbying activity and required unanimous member-school approval to support other lobbying groups. As a result of this single-school veto, the organization was essentially crippled as a lobbying tool.

When the agendas of its various member schools diverge, TSA loses its lobbying power. As a major player in the reborn organization, SG will need to ensure that the interests TSA members address remain nonpartisan. While SG is intended to represent the voice of the UT student body by advocating for its issues, such as domestic partner benefits, TSA and its member schools need to focus on issues that appeal to all Texas college students in order to be effective.

Now that SG has taken on the role of representing UT at a more statewide level, it is up to the student assembly to make sure TSA stays focused on what most affects students today: higher education budget cuts.

The upcoming budget cuts will affect students at any university or college that receives state money, regardless of students’ political views or their school’s location or size. These cuts result in fewer faculty positions, fewer course options and, ultimately, a diminished quality of education.

UT’s political power is not as strong as it could be. Most students either vote in Austin or in their home districts. Neither group generates substantial political clout; those students voting in Austin only affect a few select districts, while those voting at home do not constitute a large enough percentage of the vote to swing an election.

Lobbying for student interests through TSA will have a much stronger impact on issues such as budget cuts. TSA has the potential to play the major role in state politics it once did. With a collective voice representing most college students in Texas, the association can bring student issues to light at the state level.

With these prospective budget cuts threatening higher education in Texas, a unified student front is a necessity during the upcoming legislative session.

Likewise, those schools that have not yet re-joined the association should consider joining with their fellow Texans. There’s power in numbers. The more students that join TSA, the more TSA can help students.