First legislative assembly meeting calls for change within assembly environment

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Speaker Jakob Lucas, left, Advocacy Director Nikita Telang, center, and Vice President Amie Jean laugh in the first Student Government meeting of the semester in the Student Legislative Assembly on Jan. 28, 2020. Their main objective was to evaluate the climate of the assembly. 

Photo Credit: Alberto Serna | Daily Texan Staff

In this semester’s first legislative assembly meeting for Student Government, student leaders gathered to discuss the climate of the assembly.

Kerry Mackenzie, chair of the ethics and oversight committee, conducted a survey of the environment of the assembly last semester, which found that students described the assembly as welcoming but inefficient and difficult to navigate. Mackenzie, a government and plan II sophomore, said she held informal conversations last semester about how representatives felt about their interactions within the assembly, conducted an online survey and later decided to conduct formal interviews because she found people felt disrespected or stressed in the assembly.

Mackenzie said she plans to use the survey information to implement changes and make the assembly a more respectful and engaging place. The changes include small breakout groups for discussion and the incorporation of deliberate dialogue trainings to facilitate discussions. Mackenzie plans on sending out another survey at the end of the term. 

“I’m pretty certain that these things will at least be a step in the right direction,” Mackenzie said. “It’s important to remember that all of the recommendations came from the students themselves in their surveys and their interviews.”

The Speaker of the Assembly report encouraged assembly members to strike a balance between passion and perspective and run again for the next term. Jakob Lucas, speaker of the assembly, said in the report that Student Government is a vehicle for change and promoted continuing that influence on the student body.

Lucas said the assembly meeting was relatively short and focused primarily on the report since the legislative assembly was in the middle of finishing up previous legislation and getting started on new legislation.  

Lucas said the legislative assembly runs differently than the executive branch of SG because there is a greater variety of goals and agendas to be addressed and that a lot of legislation was wrapped up at the end of last semester, so this particular assembly meeting was mostly focused on getting back into the swing of things. 

“I hope to see people excited to start the year strong,” said Nikita Telang, student government advocacy director. “With all the responsibilities that the executive board and those students especially have, they’ve done an incredible job of pushing forward and sticking to what they told students they were (going to) do.”