Seven Student Government representatives resigned this semester in response to allegations that SG is failing to represent the UT student body.
In a resignation letter, two former SG representatives detailed their experience in SG and accused the student-led organization of not being representative of the UT community. Katherine Jensen, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology and one of the authors of the letter, said incidents of racism and a lack of reaching out to a larger scope of students is why she and others resigned.
“There were a variety of situations which I saw what I understood to be really inappropriate and racist and marginalizing comments and behaviors by Student Government representatives,” Jensen said. “They would explain those attitudes under the false and inaccurate guise of representing the student body.”
SG Speaker Tanner Long said some of the members who resigned were having trouble meeting the attendance requirement, which only allows room for three absences. Long said he also believes six out of the group of seven students were encouraged to leave once their resolution “Urging The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) To Divest From Corporations That Are Complicit In And Facilitate The Continuing Occupation And Oppression Of The Palestinian People By The State Of Israel” failed to pass.
“Essentially, they all ran with that goal in mind, which was trying to get that approved through Student Government, and when that failed, they all started resigning shortly after,” Long said. “They all did come from different backgrounds, so I really wish they did stay involved to try to help influence the Student Government and help us be more representative, but I guess once their one platform point failed, they all essentially decided resigning would be the best.”
Jensen said all seven student representatives who resigned are people of color and/or women. Jensen said she and others joined SG as a way to create social and political change across the University, but decided to leave when it became apparent that SG was not interested in making similar changes.
“There is this consistent idea that ‘we represent the student body,’ which is not actually the case,” Jensen said. “Nobody gives a shit. Nobody votes for us.”
A total of 9,445 students voted in the spring 2015 Student Government elections. According to statistics provided by the University on its website, 51,313 students were enrolled in fall 2014.
Kallen Dimitroff, a University-wide representative in SG, said she thinks some of the reasons why the seven representatives resigned has to do with time commitment and absences, but also because of a bigger problem.
“I guess the biggest thing is that clearly their dropping does represent some failure on SG’s part,” Dimitroff said.
Dimitroff said it is hard for Student Government to represent such a large group of students when the majority of them don’t vote, but said if students understood the way SG works, they would take a bigger interest.
“Our campus is so diverse and any 38 people as representatives won’t ever fully encompass every viewpoint,” Dimitroff said. “I think as we exist right now, we need to do a better job recruiting a more diverse group of perspectives.”