Senate of College Council releases legislative priorities, initiatives for 2021-22

Lauren Abel, News Reporter

The Senate of College Councils released the 2021-22 Senate Platform in late August, which details goals and areas of focus for legislation this semester, although many initiatives are carried over from previous semesters.

The platform includes seven major subtopics: tuition and budget transparency, racial justice, gender and educational equity, curriculum reform, community building and engagement and internal reforms. Policy drafting coordinator Echo Nattinger said this is the first time the Senate has released a breakdown of their legislative priorities at the beginning of the semester. 

“We first talked about the big areas of focus … and then we drilled down into really specific initiatives and policy ideas that we wanted to either continue from previous years or start from scratch,” Nattinger said.

Nattinger said to develop the initiatives the Senate looked at student needs and issues that had been lobbied for in the past that still needed work.

“In past years, we’ve operated with short-term goals,” Nattinger said. “But starting this year, we want to … define a durable, long-term mission for Senate so that while we’re fighting for these short-term, specific issues, we also have clear in our minds a long term, sustainable goal.”

One of the initiatives carried over previous years is the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee, a biannual tuition transparency initiative, Nattinger said. The committee was originally proposed in 2010 to allow for student and faculty input on proposed changes to UT’s budget, according to Senate archives.

This year, the Senate plans to create a report on student sentiment toward UT’s budget and present it to the Board of Regents with recommendations from the Senate, the platform states.

“Our vice presidents had a very productive meeting with administration earlier this week regarding CTBAC,” Nattinger said. “The administration was very receptive, very eager to get involved and very eager to hear student feedback on tuition and budget issues.”

Initiatives surrounding racial justice, such as abolishing “The Eyes of Texas” and divestment from UTPD and APD, were originally included in the 8 Demands for Transformative Change that was released in June 2020. 

Support for minority language courses, another legislative priority, was originally introduced in Fall 2021. However, the focus on implementing Vietnamese language instruction and expanding additional minority language courses is a new initiative, Nattinger said. UT students started a petition to reinstate Vietnamese language courses in September 2020 after it was removed from the course schedule in spring 2010, according to previous reporting by The Daily Texan.

“This year we’re really trying to organize support around smaller, lesser-known language departments,” Nattinger said. “We also developed an internal initiative around this to actually start holding information sessions for minority languages.”

This year, the Senate plans to prioritize community building and engagement, since the organization has a history of harming marginalized groups on campus, equity and inclusion director Sameeha Rizvi said. 

Rizvi said the Senate aims to act as a resource for marginalized communities to help uplift them instead of being a resource for people in power.

“Senate has worked in the past to build better relations amongst communities and, namely, more marginalized advocacy groups, however our efforts have never really been sustainable,” Rizvi said. “In order to make a more sustainable effort, we need to prioritize it as a goal.”