Keeping an eye on the SG president

When the student body elected Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland as president and vice president in February, transportation was a significant part of the duo's campaign. Rady and Strickland focused on points such as the expansion of uRide, to take students home from the study rooms in the Perry-Castaneda Library, as well as the implementation of Safe Ride, to take students home from the bars on Sixth Street. Earlier this month, Rady forwarded The Daily Texan an email he said he had sent to the Student Government representatives, which listed the initiatives he and Strickland have been working on. Naturally, the Texan fact-checked the list, and although most of what he said was accurate, Rady did exaggerate some of SG's accomplishments, causing some initial confusion about important agreements and contracts necessary for his initiatives to be completed.

Rady has been working with UT's Parking and Transportation Services over the summer to implement Safe Ride. Initially, Rady told The Daily Texan the program had been completed and would begin the first week of school. A few days later, PTS spokeswoman Blanca Juarez said the contract hadn't been signed yet, and without a contract, everything could change. Granted, because Juarez is a spokesperson, she has to err on the specific, technical side when discussing new programs and services, but the fact remains that the program was not, in the literal sense of the word, "complete." PTS director Bobby Stone did say last week that the operational details Rady told the Texan  professional drivers will drive students home, free of charge, from the downtown area Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.  line up with Stone's and Rady's discussions, and on Monday, Juarez confirmed these details. After the Texan asked Rady about the contract, he quickly acknowledged that it hadn't been signed at that time, and that he had "jumped the gun." While his exaggeration could demonstrate his excitement about the program more than any intentions to mislead people, future exaggerations like this may pose a problem.

The 24/5 PCL uRide program, which gives students rides home from the PCL between midnight and 3 a.m., is another transportation program Rady is working with, but his main objective here is to expand the program to West Campus. When Rady said uRide had been expanded, the uRide company hadn't signed the contract yet, meaning this expansion wasn't finalized, though on Friday, the company sent the contract to PTS, according to Juarez. 

In his email, Rady said, "We have also found a way to create sustainable funding for the endeavor fund, an endowment, through a new agreement with the Co-op. The agreement will give us a percentage of revenue from the sale of some new blazers they are putting in stock." This sounds like the agreement is finalized and secured, but when the Texan asked him for more information about the Co-op agreement, he immediately said an agreement with the Co-op hadn't been signed. Hulan Swain, University Co-op corporate secretary, said the Co-op and SG have discussed such an agreement, but she had nothing to tell me "until (and if) we have an agreement." The fact that Rady quickly clarified what he meant by "a new agreement" is nice, but it's interesting that he phrased it like that in the first place, and that Swain included the phrase "and if" in her response. 

Rady also seemed a little too earnest when he said the UTexas app for Android will be released around the first week of school. Mike Horn, UT's director of digital strategy, said it is unclear how much time UT and the four student developers require to finish the contract. One of the students who developed the app, Anurag Banerjee, said the developers and the Information Technology Services department still need to finish some "departmental legal work" before signing the contract, but they are on track to finish by the first week of school. So, while it sounds like UT will release the app by then, the lack of a completed contract means no one can guarantee that the app will hit the Google Play store by the time Rady said it would. 

The rest of Rady's email, which discussed less concrete issues that require more development, seemed pretty devoid of overstatements. Rady mentioned more banners and branding on campus, which was one of the campaign's platforms in the spring. He and Strickland have submitted a design to the University, and Kathleen Mabley, director of brand marketing and creative services, said UT is exploring the feasibility of banners around campus.

Another work-in-progress is a process called the Strategic Student Vision, which SG, the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly are working on. Rady said this would be a survey for students to contribute ideas for how to improve campus. Mark Jbeily, a member of the President's Student Advisory Committee, said the process' objective is to identify student life and academic issues, which will create continuity and "allow administrations to carry on shared goals."

Vice provost and registrar Shelby Stanfield said last week that a few months ago, SG representatives met with him to discuss improving the course schedule, so the schedule now includes a link that eliminates the need to write down each unique number and then manually enter it into a different window to register for a class. SG also worked with Harrison Keller, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, to increase the visibility of course instructor surveys during registration.

Another initiative is first-time parking ticket forgiveness, which Strickland has discussed with PTS, but this one doesn't appear likely to happen. Stone, the PTS director, said for permit holders, each year PTS dismisses up to three failures to display a parking permit — in other words, PTS already has a type of parking forgiveness program implemented. Stone said he is still considering Strickland's ideas, though.

SG also appears to be trying to focus on some initiatives that aren't limited to just UT students. In June, the presidents of Senate, GSA and SG signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Invest in Texas, a student-led campaign that advocates for higher education during the biennial legislative session. This is in the preliminary stages, though. SG still needs to discuss and vote on the platform and budget, according to Rady.

Another organization that involves the whole state is the Texas Students Association, a group of student government leaders from Texas colleges and universities. The association has not been active recently, and although Rady said it is planning to be active during the next legislative session, it is unclear how likely the association's re-emergence is.

Texas Exes and SG are working on an advocacy program that will pair one student from each of the 31 Senate districts in Texas with that district's senator, along with an alumnus from that district. The idea behind the program is to help students engage with alumni and allow the students to meet with the senator periodically throughout the legislative session, according to Daniel Becka, Texas Exes director of advocacy. Rady said the program will probably release the application in September. 

Overall, Rady and Strickland seem to be attempting to follow through on many of their campaign promises. Rady seems to mean well, but his exaggerations certainly give us pause and will keep us watching him over the coming year.