Student leaders collaborate on Texas Cafeteria for fall organization planning

Texas Cafeteria, an informal collaboration between student organizations, has allowed student leaders to share resources and unite behind social movements amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The group released a set of guidelines for student organizations in the fall, including  all-virtual programming, reduction or waiver for dues and requirements, and alternative or community-centered forms of service. Twenty-six student organizations have committed to follow the guidelines. 

The University will release specific guidelines for student organizations when students return in August, according to the Protect Texas Together website. Student-focused buildings, including the Texas Union and the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center, are expected to open on Aug. 20, according to the website.

“There's a need for an informal conglomerate of all the student leaders across campus that really helps direct communication, sharing resources and emphasizing this idea of solidarity and collective care,” said Brett Dolotina, co-founder of Texas Cafeteria. 

Dolotina, a public health and biochemistry senior, said the Texas Cafeteria Slack workspace has 259 members, representing 65 undergraduate and graduate student organizations around campus. 

The guidelines also recommend student organizations build a mutual aid pod. Mutual aid pods outline the ways members can provide resources, such as picking up groceries for each other, according to the guidelines.  

Jay Anand, membership vice president for Texas Blazers, said he will bring a car to campus and will use it to help fellow members as a part of their mutual aid pod. 

Anand said Texas Blazers plans to hold a completely virtual recruitment process for the safety of their members and applicants. Anand said it’s reassuring to see other organizations making the same decisions.

“The University’s guidelines for student organizations have been pretty vague,”  said Anand, an accounting and history senior. “Having a space where people can talk to one another transparently about what they're struggling with or how they're trying to figure out org decisions going forward and having guidelines that recommend safety above everything has been really helpful.”

Sara Jane Ross, government senior and head of recruitment for Texas Spirits, said Texas Spirits will not have any point requirements for current members and anticipates virtual recruitment in the spring but will not recruit during the fall semester. 

Ross said Texas Spirits recently established a mutual aid pod that will provide a way for the group to remain connected without having in-person programming. 

“Creating more formal mutual aid pods gives you a chance to solidify that network and make it more accessible to new members or people who aren't plugged into the culture of the organization,” Ross said.

Yessmeen Moharram, co-founder of Texas Cafeteria, said the group is an informal space for support that shows students have the power to do everything they want seen on campus. 

“When the administration doesn't necessarily pull through, if we have structures in place like mutual aid and people are already used to supporting one another in multiple ways, then when a new problem arises there's already that expectation of protecting each other and taking care of each other,” said Moharram, a theater and dance and radio-television-film senior. “It'll be a lot easier to tackle anything that comes our way.”