UT Senate finishes most productive year yet

Sara Schleede

UT Senate of College Councils reached a milestone this year by passing eight pieces of council legislation — more than any previous administration. 

Senate advocates for the student body’s academic interests through internal and council legislation. Council legislation is drafted by members from the 20 college councils while internal legislation is drafted by executive board members or at-large members.

“I would love to take credit for (our achievement), but it was really a testament to the strong executive boards and leadership teams on each college council,” former vice president Luciano Barraza said.

Senate also passed more than 20 pieces of internal legislation, which upcoming Senate President David Jenkins, an English junior, said is among the highest amount passed in recent years.

Barraza, an advertising and government senior, said this is thanks to the positive relationship between Senate and administration. 

“We found some success working with certain administrators that were strong advocates for students,” Barraza said. “To me, that’s what kept our push going throughout the year.” 

Notable legislation included the creation of a centralized testing center and the development of supplemental materials for international students taking U.S. government classes, Jenkins said. Austin Reynolds, the former Senate president, said the centralized testing center will be functional in the Perry-Castaneda Library as soon as this fall.

Passing legislation does come with roadblocks, such as working over extended timelines and cooperating with administration, Jenkins said. 

“It’s difficult to keep up the persistent effort to make a change happen,” Jenkins said. “While we have a lot of really productive relationships with administrators through Senate, every once in a while there’s an initiative that the students really want that the administrations say is too difficult.”

Senate often continues projects from previous administrations and sometimes leaves projects for the future. Such long-term initiatives include a social justice certificate that will be offered in fall 2022 and an increased effort to address gender identity, such as allowing more gender options in Canvas and encouraging the use of preferred pronouns in the classroom.

Reynolds, an English senior, said the long timeline that comes with projects in Senate can be frustrating because legislation authors often do not get the gratification of seeing their work implemented into tangible change. 

“Overall I am really proud of what we were able to achieve,” Reynolds said. “I think it’s a testament to how much students love this University, regardless of the burnout that comes with working on projects that are so slow to come to fruition.”

As Senate enters a new administrative era, Jenkins said he is excited to see the momentum continue.

“The organization year by year has really upped its game in regards to the legislation we’ve produced,” Jenkins said. “In years past, it could be said we did not produce enough or as impactful of legislation as we could, but we’ve become a body that … produces very meaningful legislation and does very consistent work.”