Getting started on realistic change

Mehraz Rahman and Colton Becker

We get it. Student Government is traditionally associated with solving inconsequential problems. That’s a reflection of the fact that many of the priorities administrations have taken on have focused on less systemic issues. Months ago, when we started reaching out across campus for voices to include in our platform, we did so intending to solve the most pressing problems in the most feasible way. We know we can’t protect all DREAMers at this school or end rape culture in a year. But we will take tangible steps to improve the quality of life of every Longhorn as much as humanly possible.

Interpersonal violence prevention impacts lives. Since the 2016 CLASE study showed that 15 percent of women at UT have experienced rape, there has been an uproar of students rightfully demanding action. UT is now more transparent, but if we can’t talk about sexual assault and harassment, how can we hope to prevent them? We will implement primary prevention through Consent Workshops in FIGs. These workshops create a safe environment for peer education about crucial concepts like consent and healthy relationships. In addition to primary prevention, we would improve UT’s best risk reduction program: SURE Walk. It’s an outstanding campus resource that has seen incredible growth. We want to sustain this program and ensure its accessibility to all students, so we will work on the development of an app and a source of permanent funding.

Our campaign is the only campaign with a platform that encompasses primary, secondary and tertiary methods to eliminate sexual assault. We deserve better from UT, and this is our chance to change the culture.

Mental health, though invisible, impacts everyone. When Mehraz had bronchitis this past week, she emailed her professors, asking for extensions on assignments and the opportunity to make up for lost class time. Her professors were understanding, and she was able to concentrate on recovering without worrying that her classes would interfere with her health. But when she has asked for a day off for her mental health, the only support available was an email with an “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do” and a link to the CMHC website. We need to focus on mental health just as much as physical health because it affects our well-being just as much. Students should be able to prioritize self-care and mental health without negative repercussions.

If we win, we expect next year to consist of major priority shifts. SG bureaucrats will stop taking over ideas from involved Longhorns and appropriating the project as their own. All our initiatives will focus on what progress we can make on the most pressing issues. We will start ad-hoc committees for the initiatives that take longer than a year, because we care deeply about the long-term well-being of this school, not what we can list on our resumes. We will pressure the administration to prioritize student safety, including implementing Longhorn EMS. And we will take tangible, reasonable and feasible steps to address what really counts. Let’s get started.

Becker is a nutrition senior. Rahman is a Plan II and marketing junior.