SG outlines semester initiatives

London Gibson

Giving a voice to underrepresented students and improving campus mental health and safety are priorities for student body president Alejandrina Guzman and vice president Micky Wolf as they go into their first semester as the leaders of student government.

Guzman said she hopes to remind students that they have the ability to take an active role in University decisions.

“Students have a lot of power here at UT,” said Guzman, government and Mexican-American studies senior. “I feel like we kind of forget that it’s our campus, and as soon as you speak up, they’re listening … Fun fact: Everyone is in student government.”

In response to student concerns voiced after the death of freshman Harrison Brown in May, Wolf, a Plan II and business honors senior, said student government is working to improve mental health on campus by obtaining a naming grant for the Counseling and Mental Health Center. A grant would provide the center with the necessary resources to treat students, he said.

“The irony is that you normalize the conversation, people understand now that it’s okay to go seek help, and we don’t have the resources that are entirely necessary to provide that type of help,” Wolf said. “A naming grant would be a transformational gift.”

Guzman and Wolf also designed a seven-point on-campus tragedy plan of action to improve safety on campus after the events in May, some of which was completed over the summer.

In the past, UTPD’s text message alert system only sent out messages for emergency-level incidents that posed an ongoing threat to campus. The policy has been adjusted so a message is sent out for every emergency-level incident, whether or not it has been contained. UTPD has also acquired additional funds for a new dispatcher and dispatch system and the Provost's office will now be distributing a crisis resource sheet to every faculty member at the start of the semester, Wolf said.

Guzman and Wolf’s other initiatives will begin as soon as next weekend with UT’s first annual First Generation Kickoff. Guzman said her goal in organizing the event was to empower first generation college students at UT and provide the support they may need for the upcoming semester.

“Our main goal … is to let them know that as a first generation student, it’s going to be real, it’s going to be difficult, and you have supporters here, you have resources here,” Guzman said.

Wolf said partnerships with the Multicultural Engagement Center and the Gender and Sexuality Center will allow underrepresented students to have more impact on student government decisions.

“I think that we have a student government that has a better relationship with other parts of campus than most years ever do,” Wolf said.

Additionally, student government may be larger this year than it has ever been before with about 150 open positions, Wolf said. The openings include new roles such as policy directors, or people focused on specific policy issues on campus.

Guzman said she believes open-mindedness is student government’s biggest asset this year.

“We have our doors open,” Guzman said. “We understand that with this great responsibility, we have the honor to be in these conversations with University leadership, and bringing (student) issues to the forefront.”