Getting students more involved

Natalie Butler

Whether you spent your summer taking classes, traveling the world, working at a new job or braving the Austin heat, it is time once again to buy our books and learn our syllabi for new classes. On behalf of the Student Government, it is my pleasure to welcome new incoming students to the University of Texas at Austin and to welcome returning students back to the 40 Acres for what should prove to be an exciting year.

While you were away, Student Government was working hard on many of the goals that Ashley Baker, our team and I shared with the campus last spring. I’m happy to say we’ve made progress.

One of our biggest goals has been to get students more involved in budget decision-making on campus. We have made some great strides in this area. Working with the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly, we’ve been advocating since April to get student representation on the University Budget Council. For the first time, starting Sept. 1, a student will be a member of this important group on campus. This is a great step forward for all students and will ensure that students have a say in decisions for years to come.

On top of that, we have helped to improve the safety education programs for student organizations; we are consolidating information about room reservations and funding for student events; we are finding ways to keep our campus safe and accessible; and we are planning a new campus tradition: The Longhorn Run 2012.

This list is only a small sample of how we have spent our summer. But we have a lot more to do. Not only do we have many more goals to accomplish, we are opening Student Government back up to you, the student body. This is going to be a year unlike any other. Student Government has a new structure that will allow us to do even more for campus. We’ve launched a new and improved website, and I hope it will help bring transparency to our organizations find the help they need. Student Government should not be sitting back waiting for students to come to us, so this year we plan on coming to you. We want to engage students like never before. As we start the 2011-12 academic year, know that Student Government is a service and a resource for you and every student here at UT. It is our job to serve you, so our doors are always open to any student who wants to ask a question or voice a concern.

As the year goes on, here are a few things we will be tackling: improving parking options for students, planning Safety Week 2011, increasing the power of the student voice across campus, hosting a leadership summit for students to give input and shape our goals, keeping college affordable and ensuring the quality of our education and student services, identifying ways campus can better serve underrepresented students, improving our academic experience while protecting UT’s legacy and many more.

If you want to learn more about our plans for the year, come to the Gregory Plaza tonight at 5:30 p.m. for our Agency Fair and Kickoff meeting. There will be free food, fun and an address from Rep. Dan Branch, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. We’ll head into the Student Activity Center at 7 p.m. for our first meeting of the semester.

This year is going to be one of the best and most exciting UT has seen in a long time. We’re continuing to pursue our goal of being the top public University in the nation. We’ve launched a unique television network dedicated to everything it means to be a Longhorn. We’re getting students more involved in campus affairs and increasing the power of the student voice. We’re making plans that will impact the legacy of the University for years to come. We’re using Student Government as the hub and the official voice for all students here at UT. And we want you to be a part of it.

Butler is student body president.