Tayler and Alex campaign on mental health, first-generation students

Anna Canizales

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of Student Government executive alliance candidate profiles before the election on March 2 and 3. Read the rest of the profiles and submitted columns from all of the candidates here

Student body presidential and vice presidential candidates Tayler De La Cruz Kennedy and Alex Jackson will focus on accessibility and inclusivity for first-generation and disabled students.

Kennedy, who is president of the University Residence Hall Association, and Jackson, who is an resident assistant on campus, want to make campus accessible for students with disabilities and provide consistent and affordable mental health care. 

“We want to bring a full-time care counselor to each individual dorm on campus,” mechanical engineering junior Jackson said. “If the cost restraints are too great, we can downsize that to (groups of dorms.)”

Kennedy, a government and history junior, said students often cannot afford outside therapy that they need. She said students should have a trained professional available in their residence halls 24/7 instead of only being able to go to their RA at all hours.

“You shouldn’t be putting that stress on RAs, either,” Kennedy said. “They’re students too, and they’re trying their best.”

Jackson, a first-generation student, said first-generation students have a disadvantage because they do not know how to access the financial, housing or educational resources that other students do.

“(Being a first-gen student) made my experience at UT a lot more difficult because I (was not) familiar enough with the advocacy groups and resources on campus,” Jackson said. “We have not done a good enough job as UT as a whole at providing (accessibility to resources) to the first-generation incoming classes.”

Jackson also said most of the older buildings on campus are inaccessible for students with disabilities. Kennedy said many students do not realize how difficult it is for students with disabilities or injuries to access buildings on campus. She said their experience in Residence Hall Council opened their eyes to these problems.

“We had friends that were disabled and they would say, ‘We can’t go there,’ or ‘I can’t live here,’” Kennedy said. “UT isn’t as inclusive as it should be.”

Kennedy and Jackson also emphasize sustainability and healthier food options in dining halls. Kennedy said she is working with the president of University Housing and Dining to improve food options, including those in vending machines. 

“(Our top priority) is representation for those that are not usually represented on and off campus,” Jackson said. “We’re representing not just the 3,000 people (who live) on campus, but also those 50,000 off campus.”