Proposed Student Government bill would help protect students

Andrew Parks

Students across the Forty Acres think very differently about many things, but there’s one thing we all agree on: Student Government at The University of Texas at Austin has some changes to make.

This was the common theme of many campaigns for SG office last Spring. And the scandalous debacle that took weeks to resolve in the wake of those elections underscored that need.

For months now, your representatives in SG, from President Helgren to the newest members of the general assembly, have been promising you that change. And I am pleased to announce that last week, the first wave of those reforms was introduced on the floor of the assembly.

Assembly Bill 9 creates the position of SG attorney general. This is a common position among student governments at other universities, including TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech and OU. At those schools, attorneys general are tasked with everything from conducting ethics investigations to representing students accused of academic violations in their disciplinary proceedings.

Here at UT, we currently have no such position. When our students are accused of academic violations, they’re appointed no counsel. They have a right to an advisor, and the Student Ombuds and Peer Ambassadors are required to inform them of that right in giving them an overview of the process, but that’s as far as they’ll go. When it comes to actually obtaining an advisor to be present during the hearing, our students are left to do so on their own. For many students without the means or family connections, that simply is not an option.

When our student government is caught in scandal, it takes weeks and a second set of elections to resolve it. Our students are left wondering what the outcome will be. There is no internal set of procedures in place to ensure an orderly investigation and resolution, and no SG office tasked with carrying them out. There is no one in SG tasked with advising the executive branch in conducting their duties of office in accordance with pertinent rules and regulations, proactively preventing these complications. 

AB 9 promises solutions to these problems which are in place and working at other universities. In addition to creating the office of attorney general, it creates a full staff of advocates capable of representing and counseling students, arguing before hearing officers, academic councils and the SG Supreme Court, conducting legal research on behalf of SG officers themselves and tracking vital records that ensure transparency in the governing process.

You were promised change. Change is coming. This is the first step. As the SG law school representative in the general assumbly and the chairman of the Rules & Regulations Committee, I am proud to co-author this legislation, and I humbly ask you to show your support for this bill by contacting your representatives in the assembly and urging them to support it as well.

Together, we can build a stronger, more responsive Student Government that better serves student needs. Let’s get to work. Hook ‘em, Horns.

Parks is a second year law student from Port Neches. He is a law school representative.