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What More Can UNT’s Student Government Do Without Student Participation?

As the 2019 Fall semester at the University of North Texas (UNT) commenced, the Student Government Association began elections and their fifty-third senate session. With a detailed SGA Constitution available listing their bylaws and amendments, they clearly strive for the most open membership to allow for a diverse and well-represented group embodying UNT. At these senate sessions, resolutions are often passed, such as F2019 R6 enforced last semester. This resolution served to deal with the short-comings presented by former UNT System Assistant General Counsel, Caitlin Sewell, after her problematic When Hate comes to Campus lecture. The SGA demanded to stand-up for the student body, arranging a sit-in at the school board meeting dealing with the aftermath. The entire goal of the SGA is campus betterment and optimal educational student life, but struggle to make bigger waves with such little student interest and participation. 

I believe the SGA can amp up campaigning and gain more media visibility. With a very detailed website, they provide insights on resolutions, electoral board discussions, and meeting minutes. Typically using Twitter to communicate with students, we believe there are better mediums to get the word out. We believe that emails should be sent to students from the SGA, to notify us of elections ahead of time. Texas Woman’s University in Denton has a very organized website entailing the whole election timeline for everyone to access, how and where voting is held, along with the exact times and how election results will be announced. With multiple social media sites, phone calls, online voting provided and distinctly announced, UNT could take inspiration from TWU’s active approach. 

With the student population of UNT peaking at 39,193 in 2019, one would expect much more student participation than what was accounted for, with only 2.7% of the student body voting in the latest elections. According to their constitution, the senate has 45 seats open to encompass senators for all colleges at the University. Currently, 14 of these seats are vacant. With only 31 senator positions being held, only half (16 seats) are needed to pass legislation and resolutions. This undermines the student body from full representation, and few students are having a say in declaring quorum. 16 senators representing such a magnanimous student body is underwhelming and sparsely covers the 14 colleges UNT offers. 

Sending out notifications through Canvas may be a key way to increase student awareness. We all often check Canvas thoroughly, so receiving electoral information through an SGA tab on there will help students become educated on what is happening politically on campus, use their voices, and encourage voting. I believe this will allow for increased student involvement and let us learn more about the current senate session we are in, our senators’ actions, and what legislation is being dealt with. Campaigning needs to be made easier for SGA as well, as they are not allowed to in the dorms (without Housing permission), any UNT libraries, restrooms, or the Union building’s fourth floor. Reducing campaigning provisions will allow for widespread advocation, therefore informing students of who is running for senate positions in each respective college, detail their platforms, and revamp voter support. 

I believe that the student body would greatly benefit from the SGA incorporating these changes, expanding outreach on campus. The student body can only ensure positive improvements in our school environment if they are well-informed. Other than changes implemented, each student must actively participate for the effects to be seen throughout UNT. The SGA and student body must intertwine and coincide in mutual support henceforth to enhance the University.

Hi, I'm Sanjana Iyer! I am a proud 20-year-old Indian-American, born and raised near Boston and moved to Austin, TX before high school. I graduated from Lake Travis HS in 2018 and am aiming to graduate a year in advance from UNT in 2021 with a Digital/Print Journalism degree and a double-minor in Criminal Justice and History. Traveling, singing, adventuring, nature, sports, and music are some of my greatest passions. I enjoy Kpop and Anime as well. I am a huge advocate for animal, environmental, minority, and women's rights. I am also an Isha Meditator, along with being one of the main vocalists for Sounds of Isha (Austin Branch). I tend to live by the phrase "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" and highly believe in a carefree, free-spirited yet spiritual, aware lifestyle. ~ Aspire to Inspire
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