Forum: Reach out, speak up to Presidential Student Advisory Committee

Zachary Stone

Every month, President Fenves sits down with 12 students on PSAC. This group, formally known as the President’s Student Advisory Committee, “serves as the principal body of communication between students and the president.” Informally, we make sure President Fenves considers the impact his major decisions have on the student body. For PSAC, President Fenves selects two students nominated by each of UT’s legislative student organizations: Student Government, the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly. The presidents and vice presidents of these groups also sit on PSAC. Our members hail from all walks of life and share a desire to improve our university. When we meet, President Fenves asks and answers questions; the students ask and answer questions; people change their minds. The meetings are candid.

At Friday’s PSAC meeting, we discussed graduate students’ healthcare disappearing over the summer, the regents’ approval of a hypothetical 2 percent tuition increase, new buildings having gender-neutral facilities, the rhetoric of Gun Free UT, and “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” — a Senate initiative where men walk around campus in red pumps to bring awareness to the culture surrounding sexual assault. We also talked about “Campus Dildo Carry” and amnesty for students hospitalized for drug overdoses; President Fenves seemed intrigued by both.

We don’t have the traditional student-establishment divide. The advances for which activists have fought for decades — most of which could be boiled down to an ethic of inclusiveness — are a baseline assumption in the room. Thinking back to the days when Heman Sweatt was denied admission to Texas Law for his race, the long traditions of student-establishment relationships have been a fight against “the man;” President Fenves is an ally.

When students hold opinions which could benefit from President Fenves’ blessing, it’s our job to lobby on your behalf. But we’re not just an advocacy group; we don’t always go in with a debater’s mindset. It’s also valuable to help the president understand the campus environment – even if we don’t have an agenda, argument, or petition for change. Traditionally, student views are expressed at Student Government, Senate and Graduate Student Assembly; PSAC is a dialogue between those organizations and the president. But that’s not a catch-all. Even last year’s historic Student Government elections reached only one-fifth of the student body, and we’d like to reach more. You don’t need to be an elected representative to have a meaningful opinion or experience. If there’s a way to make this university better than it already is, or if there’s something you think that President Fenves should be aware of, reach out.

Stone is one of the two Student Government appointees to PSAC. He is a Plan II Honors, economics, English, government, and history senior.