Student Government to focus on COVID-19 accommodations, tuition transparency this fall

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government will focus on student safety and work with the University to listen to and accommodate a wide range of students this fall while operating remotely, student body president Anagha Kikkeri said.

“We have partnered with the University to distribute student safety kits with masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers and informational pamphlets,” government senior Kikkeri said. “We want to ensure that students have easy access to these resources.”

Kerry Mackenzie, SG speaker of the assembly, said SG will focus on affordability and equity, as the pandemic has created financial obstacles for many students. 

She said SG will release a social media series with recommendations on staying safe as well as a summary of University information on COVID-19.

“We wanted to have a place where students could look to remember everything that’s going on, especially because forgetting just one of the health behaviors we’re expected to be following can have such a large negative impact,” said Mackenzie, a government and Plan II junior.

 

Winston Hung, student body vice president, said all SG operations will be fully online by the time school starts, and they will try to make meetings adaptable and inclusive for students staying at home. 

“Student engagement is probably the biggest challenge that we’ll have to face, just because Zoom fatigue is real,” said Hung, a chemical engineering and finance senior. “With people here and people at home, it’s definitely hard to focus on one specific area. (Our) platform was to engage the student body, specifically those who were most disengaged from Student Government, and I think that that priority still stands.”

Hung said SG conversations with administration have continued to emphasize students’ physical, economic and mental situations, as well as tuition transparency.

“Tuition isn’t something that can switch overnight, but … we’ll definitely be continuing those conversations in a lot of different formats,” Hung said.

SG and the Senate of College Councils released a joint letter earlier this month asking for more transparency from the University and the UT System Board of Regents with tuition and extra fees.

“A lot of students have been burdened economically right now and are confused about why tuition has remained the same,” Mackenzie said. “My number one concern right now is affordability for students, specifically just understanding where tuition is currently being allocated and how it can be transparent and hopefully responsive with aiding students in the future.”

Kikkeri said SG is also pushing the University to move more classes to online or hybrid settings and create a more concrete list of triggers that would cause University closure. 

“Many of the University’s plans rely on trust, with no plans on enforcement if that trust is broken,” Kikkeri said. “We are pushing for safer practices throughout the UT community, so the risks of outbreaks seen at other schools will be less. The student body has made it very clear what changes they want to see, and these demands have given me a plan for action this semester.”