Representatives from each of the three UT legislative student organizations discussed the need for public and higher education funding, rising tuition rates and action concerning undocumented students for the upcoming legislative session during a panel discussion Thursday night.
House District 49 Rep. Gina Hinojosa joined Charlie Henry, the co-director of Student Government’s state relations agency, Graduate Student Assembly President Wills Brown and Senate of College Councils President Sergio Cavazos for the panel, which was held by the College of Liberal Arts Council.
These representatives are part of Invest in Texas, a coalition of Student Government, Graduate Student Assembly and Senate of College Council members and 25 other student organizations which represent students by communicating with legislators.
The panel framed a potential platform of issues and demands for the State Legislature, and students were allowed to submit questions for the panel via a Google Doc. One submitted question asked Hinojosa how much of a priority education funding is for the Legislature. She responded that the Senate and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s motives lie elsewhere.
“I think it is a priority for the Texas House in my sense,” Hinojosa said. “It’s going to take us figuring a strategy to be heard there because I don’t think Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities are the priorities of Texas.”
Government sophomore Ardian Shaholi, who submitted a question about tuition regulation, said he didn’t believe the panelists had enough power to persuade lawmakers to increase state education spending.
“Unfortunately, I expected them to say that not a lot of progress will be made in regulating tuition just because since we have a Republican majority in both houses of the State Legislature,” Shaholi said. “It just is an issue they are not interested in, and it will continue to persist as it is now.”
Another student asked how the panelists will protect Texas DREAMers, immigrant students granted relief from deportation by President Barack Obama, from politicians vowing to crack down on illegal immigration.
Cavazos, a government senior, said undocumented students should keep paying in-state tuition under the Texas Dream Act, which the state adopted in 2001.
“All this would do if you remove in-state tuition for undocumented students is prevent access to education, and I think that’s very frustrating,”
Cavazos said legislators should take the politics out of immigration, which he said is a humanitarian issue. He said he lived in Mexico for the first 15 years of his life, and immigrants have a right to a better life from the violence they may be escaping.
“You hear helicopters at night, you hear gunshots … it’s scary,” Cavazos said. “It is life and death, and for you to prevent these students from having access to education is just
The panelists stressed how UT students fell short in preventing the passage of campus carry during the last legislative session. Brown said dialogue sparked after the law’s passing was too late and students missed an opportunity while it was being created.
“There was a lot of hoopla after the fact, which isn’t going to help anyone,” Brown said. “So please tell your friends to spread the word and get involved.”
This story has been updated since its original publication.