Students should have their voices taken seriously in Student Government

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Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Jon Stewart is hilarious. But I wouldn't want him to be president of the United States.

Similarly, Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, the Texas Travesty candidates for Student Government president and vice president, have been entertaining for us all, yet they should not be elected to lead SG. SG is the official voice of students. If you want your voice to be taken seriously, vote not for joke candidates but for leaders who will listen to you and represent you well. These leaders are Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi.

Though I am not involved in SG, I am a student leader who has seen SG work from the outside. I have seen SG succeed, and I have seen SG fail. For example, SG is the reason the Student Activity Center exists. SG has created study spaces accessible to students at all hours. SG allows student leaders to advocate on behalf of students from all backgrounds to the Capitol, UT System Board of Regents and the city of Austin.

Despite these accomplishments, SG is at times disconnected from the student body. Jones saw this disconnect and launched a campaign for president with a very open and sincere theme of "Let's Talk Texas" to involve the rest of the student body. This campaign is the first I have seen in SG to emphasize student input as the top priority. Furthermore, the platform points Jones and his running mate, Dargahi, have gathered include important issues such as increasing student safety, quality of campus life, and building bridges across communities.

The primary role of the SG president is to navigate between the students, faculty, System chancellor and regents, University president, alumni and all other involved parties to convey student concerns and wishes. Next year is pivotal, with an Austin mayor, Texas governor and UT System chancellor all with less than one year of experience in their positions. Jones is the only candidate who has already established the essential relationships with administrators, faculty and staff. These relationships are crucial for an incoming SG president, who needs to effectively advocate for students during this time of extreme change.

That is the reality of how SG operates on this campus. The portrayal of Rotnofsky and Mandalapu as reformists who are going to make SG relevant to all is false advertising. It is impossible to reform a system unless you’ve been there — as an insider — to see that system fail and succeed. The candidate who is elected to lead SG needs to have experience within the system and knowledge of how the University works. Jones is that candidate.

Jones has the experience within SG, serving previously as chief of staff for Horacio Villarreal and currently as speaker of the Assembly. He knows how to work within the system while also understanding the issues and necessary changes to improve student life on campus. Dargahi brings a different perspective, with a brief stint in SG as an agency director and a wide variety of outside experience through other organizations. This team would not need a semester to learn the ropes. Jones’ wide experience, paired with Dargahi’s fresh perspective, would catalyze the changes that we want to see on our campus.   

Many people have latched onto what they believe are ideological inconsistencies in the campaign’s rhetoric. The most notable of these is campus carry, on which Jones’ stance has been misrepresented. When the Texas Senate introduced SB 11, a bill enabling campus carry, a group of students, including myself, grew concerned and reached out to Jones to help us voice our opposition formally through SG. This resulted in AR 30 being passed in SG, urging lawmakers to consider student safety by opposing campus carry, a sentiment echoed by Chancellor William McRaven.

AR 30 could not have succeeded without Jones’ support. Jones and Dargahi are the only candidates who have the experience, relationships and understanding necessary to work with the Texas Legislature to effectively lobby for the student body.

I have seen a lot of student leaders in my time at this University, and no one is more passionate about the University, about making a difference at UT and about reaching out to the many student groups here than Jones and Dargahi. If you care about the future of our University and want our student voice to be taken seriously, vote for Jones and Dargahi on Wednesday and Thursday at utexasvote.org.

Kruijs is a Plan II and public health senior from The Woodlands. She is not officially involved in the Jones-Dargahi campaign.