Ashley Baker

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series about the legislative student organizations at UT and their transition to new leadership over the next few weeks. The quotes of the incoming leadership came from their applications for their positions.

Student Government President Natalie Butler and Vice President Ashley Baker took office in a new building last spring and under a new set of rules. One year later, the Butler/Baker administration leaves behind their personal imprint on UT, SG and the University administration.

In 2011, Butler/Baker pledged that if elected their administration would connect students and realize possibilities on campus by increasing student involvement and representation at UT. Although the pair’s yearlong term ended April 3, Butler said she and Baker will spend the rest of the semester helping the new president and vice president transition and will finish up work on their platform goals.

“Every year’s priorities are different because those priorities are set by the student body,” Butler said. “I hope none of our big projects we’ve worked so hard on are abandoned.”


Thor Lund, current SG president, said he and vice president Wills Brown have started meeting with administrators and will continue the work from Butler/Baker that lines up with their platform.

Butler/Baker was the first administration to operate under recommendations from the 2010 SG Reform Task Force. This year, the vice president no longer presided as the chair of the assembly or the liaison between the executive and legislative branches. In addition, the task force called for many offices and agencies within SG to be consolidated.

Butler said she felt she and Baker were the guinea pigs for this new structure and admitted they made mistakes at the beginning of their term because they didn’t know how the reform was going to impact them.

This year, Butler/Baker focused on accomplishing increasing student budget representation, outreach and service, safety, health and wellness, transportation and social responsibility. Butler and Baker sat on many committees overseeing issues affecting students on campus, including the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, where Butler supported the proposed 2.6 percent tuition increase over the next two years. Butler said getting a student on the University Budget Council was one of the biggest goals she and Baker accomplished this year. President William Powers Jr. appointed Butler to the council this past year and will recommend students for the position in the future.

“We met with administrators that didn’t like the idea of having a student on the budget committee,” Butler said. “We are making sure students are a stakeholder in that conversation with the reagents.”

SG operated on a $112,820 budget in 2011-2012. Of that, $21,245 went to SG agencies; $14,000 went to operating expenses including a copier, toner and phone lines; $10,400 was set aside for Butler and Baker’s tuition allotment and $26,790 for executive board stipends, which some members refused, among other costs. They also used $4,850 set aside from the 2010 budget for a new website.

Baker said the administration worked hard to improve the experience for student organizations by creating tools like Find a Space, an online database meant to simply the room reservation process. SG also allocated $37,000 to registered student organizations, developed a service event to provide aid after the Central Texas fires and implemented a service partnership with UT Elementary.

John Lawler, former SG presidential candidate and outgoing liberal arts representative, said he was impressed at Butler/Baker’s work increasing parking spaces on campus, getting a student on the University Budget Council and making the SG budget more transparent. However, he said he was disappointed the administration did not address safety and lighting in West Campus more aggressively.

Marc Musick, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts, said he works and interacts with SG through the students they appoint to committees on campus, such as the LGBTQ presidential task force. Musick said student representation is essential and affects decision making at UT, and he recently appointed Butler to a summer orientation task force. “There’s a sense that people who work with SG and Senate are just there to line up their resumes,” Musick said. “I can easily name names of people working hard. The students never see it, all they see are Daily Texan headlines.”

Psychology sophomore Simone Reed said although she is not involved with SG she thinks SG is important because they appoint students to various committees on campus. Reed said although she does use the Find a Space room database this semester, she is not familiar with Butler/Baker or the other work they have done.

“The only reason I know you can even go to a meeting is because a girl who went to them told me there was a meeting,” Reed said. “The vast majority of people know the general idea but don’t know what [SG] is about.”

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly oversees SG and said the Butler/Baker team was the first executive team she met with on a weekly basis. They were committed to transparency and reaching out, Reagins-Lilly said, and many people do not know the hours of work put in by the executive branch analyzing, pondering and ensuring they are doing the right things for students.

“Each team is different, distinct and unique,” she said. “It’s like a garden. They all grow.”
 

Instead of hunting across the many entities on campus in search of meeting space, students will now be able to find reservation information for more than 550 indoor and outdoor spaces using online database “Find A Space.”

Student Government launched the comprehensive database March 5 in an attempt to simplify the process students go through when they reserve a space on campus. SG vice president Ashley Baker said SG received feedback from many students on difficulties finding and reserving a space last year and began working with the Office of the Dean of Students on the database last summer.

The database allows students to search for a room for their needs by specifying capacity and location preferences and informs students if a room has commonly requested items like movable chairs, a stage and a projector. It also gives students contact information for the entity in charge of the space and any amenities included.

“In my sorority when we have an event we go back and forth on what room to use,” Baker said. “We don’t want to have too big of a room where it seems we don’t have enough people, but we don’t have to have a small room and have people be cramped.”

Baker said the database did not cost any money to build, only labor to obtain information and take pictures. She said four volunteers from SG and two employees from the Office of the Dean of Students worked on the project.

Currently, there are several different entities on campus for students to reserve a space from, including Student Activities, University Unions, Recreational Sports, Texas Performing Arts and other departments within the various colleges on campus.

Mary Beth Mercatoris, assistant Dean of Students, said Student Activities has received feedback from students articulating their difficulty knowing which rooms will accommodate their needs based on the resources in each room.

Mercatoris said “Find A Space” is a good example of how students and the UT administration can work together to improve the lives of students.

“I believe students will request the right type of room for the needs the first time they are making the request rather than finding out later that the room they reserved does not meet their needs,” Mercatoris said.

Educational administration graduate student Cecilia Lopez said she was involved in the Student Volunteer Board and the Leadership and Ethics Institute as an undergraduate and at first had difficulty finding an ideal space. She said she needed to research to find out what entity is in control of the space she wanted to reserve.

“Finding a space on campus is huge,” Lopez said. “That is where the big events happen and a lot of the learning takes place. Space is key, whether indoor or outdoor, because that’s where campus life happens.”

Baker said “Find A Space” allows students to see what SG does for them in a tangible way.

While the database does not allow students to reserve most rooms online, Baker said she hopes the “Find A Space” project will live on after her term to eventually have all room reservations made online. SG passed a resolution in support of a centralized online room reservation system Feb. 14.

Jeremy Gatson, Liberal Arts Council program coordinator, said although he has not explored “Find A Space,” he believes there needs to be an online room reservation system like the one in place at the University Unions. He said he liked the idea of “Find A Space,” but believes having contact information on the database will add stress on the staff that works to manage room reservations.

“If you send them an email on top of them having their own way of reserving rooms, it’s more work for them,” Gatson said. “It’s a good thing for people to utilize that, but it’s more stress on the staff side.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 as: SG aims to help students 'Find a Space' with launch

Student Government candidates Madison Gardner, right, and Antonio Guevara were disqualified from the SG elections Feb. 23.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The student body may be one step closer to electing its Student Government leaders in the next few weeks. A Travis County judge will decide on March 26 whether former presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara will be put back on the ballot after being disqualified.

Students elected the new SG General Assembly in the Feb. 29 and March 1 campus-wide elections with the exception of the president and vice president positions. Until students elect a new president and vice president, current SG president Natalie Butler, vice president Ashley Baker and their executive board will preside over the new assembly. Baker said the lack of a president and vice president will make the transition into a new year different and will require additional preparation, but will not affect the assembly.

According to the SG Constitution, the president and vice president serve one-year terms beginning the first Tuesday of April and are required to stay in office until their replacements are elected.

Gardner filed a lawsuit against UT and UTSG on Feb. 27 claiming the Election Code the Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court used to disqualify him and Guevara was unconstitutional because the code violated their First Amendment rights to association.

The Board disqualified the pair on Feb. 23 for associating their campaign with then-Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley in their printed promotional materials, videos and on their website. Judge Tim Sulak issued a two-week temporary restraining order on the elections on Feb. 28. UT and Gardner agreed to extend the restraining order until March 27 on March 12.

The new assembly will hold their first meeting April 3. At the meeting, the assembly will elect the chair of the assembly and six standing committee chairs.

Baker said developing a strong transition was important to her and Butler. She said she and Matt Hicks, the current chair of the assembly, have set up a retreat for the new general assembly members on April 1 to ease the transition and teach them about assembly procedure, how to write legislation and what representatives should do within their committees.

“I think [the new president and vice president] will run into issues when they appoint their executive board, executive staff and agency directors,” Baker said. “A lot of meetings with the administration happen in the summer. The beginning of term we had to decide where everyone would fit within SG.”

Baker said the first few meetings after a president and vice president are elected are usually dedicated to choosing their executive board and making external appointments, including policy directors, agency directors and other positions.

She said even though the selection of the executive board will be postponed, the applications are currently available and there are already some applicants, which should expedite the process.

Matt Hicks, current chair of the assembly, said he does not think the transition will hurt the new assembly if the elections happen soon after Monday’s hearing. He said the assembly will be able to operate normally without a new president and vice president for the first few meetings.

“The assembly will still be able to operate smoothly,” Hicks said. “It all comes down to how this decision impacts the executive branch or the programming arm of SG.”

Gardner said he is confident a decision will be made at the March 26 hearing, and he hopes there will be an SG president before the assembly’s first meeting on April 3.

“We feel confident because we know our cause is just,” Gardner said. “We don’t know what will happen, but we are hopeful [to be put back on the ballot] because I think we have a good case. Once people hear our story, they will think the same way and a judge will as well.”

The student body may be one step closer to electing its Student Government leaders these next few weeks. A Travis County judge will decide on Monday, March 26 whether former presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara will be put back on the ballot.

Students elected the new SG General Assembly in the Feb. 29 and March 1 campus-wide elections with the exception of the president and vice president positions. Until students elect a new president and vice president, current SG president Natalie Butler, vice president Ashley Baker and their executive board will preside over the new assembly. Baker said the lack of a president and vice president will make transition into a new year different and will require additional preparation, but will not affect the assembly.

According to the SG Constitution, the president and vice president serve one-year terms beginning the first Tuesday of April and are required to stay in office until their replacements are elected.

Gardner filed a lawsuit against UT and UTSG on Feb. 27 claiming the Election Code the Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court used to disqualify him and Guevara was unconstitutional because it violated their first amendment rights to association. The Board disqualified the pair on Feb. 23 for associating their campaign with then Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley via their printed promotional materials, videos and on their website. Judge Tim Sulak issued a two-week temporary restraining order on the elections on Feb. 28 and UT and Gardner agreed to extend the restraining order until March 27 on Monday.

The new assembly will hold their first meeting Tuesday, April 3. At the meeting, the assembly will elect the chair of the assembly, who will preside over meetings, assign members to one of six standing committees and set meeting times and agendas. The assembly will also elect the committee chairs for Academic Affairs, External Affairs, Financial Affairs, Internal Affairs, Legislative Affairs and Student Affairs.

Baker said developing a strong transition was important to her and Butler. She said she and Matt Hicks, current chair of the assembly, have set up a retreat for the new general assembly members on April 1 to ease the transition and teach them about assembly procedure, how to write legislation and what representatives should do within their committees.

“I think [the new president and vice president] will run into issues when they appoint their executive board, executive staff and agency directors,” Baker said. “A lot of meetings with the administration happen in the summer. The beginning of term we had to decide where everyone would fit within SG.”

Baker said the first few meetings after a president and vice president are elected are usually dedicated choosing their executive board and making external appointments, including policy directors, agency directors, executive staff and external boards and committees.

She said even though the selection of the executive board - which includes the Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Internal Financial Director, Administrative Director and External Financial Director - will be held off, the lack of a president and vice president will not affect the general assembly these next few weeks. Baker said there are already a number of applicants for the executive board and students interested should apply at utsg.org.

Baker said last year more than 150 people applied for a position in SG, and she and Butler granted all of them an interview.

Matt Hicks, current chair of the assembly, said he does not think the transition and the new assembly will be hurt if the elections happen soon after the Monday’s hearing. Hicks said he will be working with Baker to make the transition easier through the new member retreat in April. He said the assembly will be able to operate normally without a new president and vice president the first few meetings.

“The assembly will still be able to operate smoothly,” Hicks said. “It all comes down to how this decision impacts the executive branch, or the programming arm of SG.”

Gardner said he is confident a decision will be made at the March 26 hearing and he hopes there will be a SG president before the assembly’s first meeting on April 3.

“We feel confident because we know our cause is just,” Gardner said. “We don’t know what will happen but we are hopeful [to be put back on the ballot] because I think we have a good case. Once people hear our story they will think the same way and a judge will as well.”

John Lawler, a Student Government presidential candidate, and his team put up promotional signs to kick off the campus-wide campaign which began at midnight. Candidates will have until February 29 to prepare for the election and to rally student votes.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

At midnight, students from all UT colleges began a two-week political race that happens only once a year — the campus-wide general elections begin today.

Beginning today, students running for different leadership positions on campus, including Student Government president and vice president, college representative, Graduate Student Assembly president and Daily Texan editor, will have until Feb. 29 to campaign for student votes across campus. Candidates will face a different field this year because of the changes to the election code that expand the Election Supervisory Board’s authority off campus and disqualify candidates if they exceed their spending limit by 20 percent.

Elections will be held March 1-2, and results will be announced March 2 at 5 p.m.

Truc Nguyen, finance junior and supervisory board vice chair, said the election code is very different from last year and candidates need to follow it or they will be disqualified. Nguyen said there were incidents of candidates campaigning off campus last year and the Board will be paying more attention to off-campus campaigning this year.

Nguyen said last year some of the candidates campaigned at fraternity and sorority houses, placed signs in West Campus and asked people to vote for them on personal laptops.

“When they campaign in West Campus, and I know they will, if they violate anything and somebody notices we will have to look into it,” Nguyen said. “Because of the new election code, I expect the candidates will pay more attention to everything they’re doing.”

Nguyen said she thinks the new rules will be good for the elections because the Board will be able to make sure rules are enforced off campus as well as on campus.

“These rules can be very easily violated if candidates don’t pay attention,” she said.

Melinda Sutton, deputy to the Dean of Students, said elections are a distinct moment of the year for UT and they are different every year. Sutton said elections are a big transition period both for students currently in SG and for students who are entering the SG arena.

“Every year elections are different,” Sutton said. “There are new things brought up or things that haven’t been considered before. The changes to the election code do require that we be even more careful and make sure ESB be more thorough as we review.”

Ashley Baker, Student Government vice president, said at this time last year she felt nervous about the start of campaign season but excited because she could finally ask people to vote for her and Student Government president Natalie Butler. Baker said she and Butler had a core team of people helping out with logistics and more than 100 volunteers out tabling and talking to other students.

Baker said her biggest challenge during campaign season was remembering she was a student and she had to go to class.

“Don’t forget your purpose, don’t forget who you are and what you believe in,” Baker said. “It gets really intense sometimes and there are times when you can only see tomorrow or only see next week or you only can see until you win but you have to think about the bigger picture and why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

At midnight, three presidential candidates ­— Madison Gardener, John Lawler and Yaman Desai — threw kick-off parties and posted promotional materials with their campaign teams and supporters.

Civil engineering senior Kristin Thompson is Desai’s campaign manager and said she chose to work with him and Langston because they put themselves on the same level as everybody else and they have a passion for student involvement.

“Our campaign platform is very fluid and we’re open to listening to issues others may bring to the table,” Thompson said. “At our event we took questions and allowed everyone in the room to voice their concerns.”

Corporate communications sophomore Taylor Pousson attended Gardner’s kickoff event and said he is supporting Gardner because he has is an open and engaged person that can serve students well.

“I plan to help out as much as I can in the next few weeks,” Pousson said. “It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”

Corrected on Feb 15: Due to a reporting error, the article inaccurately claimed Mulugheta and Desai's campaign acquired $234 in fines. They acquired $126 in fines and would not have been disqualified under the new Election Code guidelines.

Students seeking a position in Student Government may face a pricey challenge in the 2012 general elections because of new rules stating violation fines will now be deducted from a candidate’s total campaign spending limit.

Passed on Jan. 17 in an amendment to the University Election Code, the new rules state a candidate may not exceed more than 20 percent of his or her spending limit for a campus-wide election. This includes any material or service candidates purchase for their campaign as well as any fines incurred from campaign protocol violations.

Any candidate who spends more than $1080, or 20 percent of their spending limit, will be disqualified by the Election Supervisory Board, the student-appointed group that oversees all campus-wide elections.

The new provisions also extend the Board’s jurisdiction to include off-campus sites like the University Co-op and the Dobie Center. Candidates are still allowed to set up their own polling locations and encourage people to vote on their sponsored computers or electronic devices, but cannot be within 20 feet of a Supervisory Board-sponsored polling station.

Until now, candidates have not had to worry about campaign fines impeding their candidacy. Last year’s candidates Natalie Butler and Ashley Baker acquired approximately $405 in campaign fines, about 50 percent of their total campaign budget.

UT alumnus Abel Mulugheta and marketing senior Sameer Desai ran against Butler and Baker in 2011 and acquired $234, approximately 21 percent in violation fines.

Under the new Election Code provisions, both campaigns in last year’s election would have been disqualified for their spending violations.

Some violations by both camps included inappropriate use of signs, height violations in the A-frame advertising boards, chalking on campus and early campaigning before the official date set by the Dean of Students.

Dean of students Soncia Reagins-Lilly serves as the official advisor of the Election Supervisory Board and said she supported the new rules.

“The [Student Government] Assembly considered the recommendations presented and approved a provision they feel is in the best interest of the student body,”

Reagins-Lilly said. “The action was in response to feedback offered by previous candidates.”

Butler said if given the chance she would increase the spending limit from $900 to at least $2000. She said $900 between herself and Baker bought them T-shirts, fliers and signs, but not much else.

“People are going to be more careful campaigning this year,” Butler said. “People are also going to be pettier and file small complaints to have people pushed out. If you get $10 or $20 fines, it can [eventually] kick you out. It all depends on the people running.”

Currently, students running for president and vice president have a $900 spending limit in campus-wide elections. Students running for University-wide representatives have a $550 limit. Students running for representatives of their respective college have a $350 limit. All candidates are allowed an extra $150 if they participate in a runoff election, according to the University Election Code.

Liberal arts representative Janette Martinez served on the committee that ratified the election code and said the committee wanted to give the Supervisory Board more power and encourage them to establish presets for fines and violations instead of deciding on fines on a case-by-case basis. Martinez said these new rules in a way reward candidates who play by the rules because it gives them more money to spend. If on the last day of campaigning they do not have any fines they can afford to spend a little more money and not get disqualified, Martinez said.

“I do not think the new rules will make it more difficult to campaign,” Martinez said. “I think it makes the races fair. In the past, if you went over your campaign expenditures you could still win the election. [This] makes it a lot fairer with the candidates, especially those who do not have a lot of experience in SG.”

Students have until 5 p.m. on Feb. 13 to declare their candidacy for SG president and vice president — or executive alliance — campus-wide representatives and college representatives. Elections will take place Feb. 29 to March 1. The recently approved student tuition referendum will also be on the ballot.

Currently, the executive alliance dual-candidates include Spanish and finance senior Madison Gardner and public relations senior Antonio Guevara, government senior Yaman Desai and government junior Whitney Langston. Urban studies senior John Lawler and computer science sophomore Terrence Maas said they are also running for the position.

Butler said she acknowledged under these new rules both she and Mulugheta would have been disqualified. She said if this new election code would have been in place the Supervisory Board may have evaluated the fines differently. She said she would advise this year’s candidates to follow the Election Code because violating the new rules may hurt their campaign if they do not.

“Prioritize your speaker circuit and get your face out there — the more volunteers the better,” Butler said. “Get out there and speak for yourself.”

After Wednesday’s election, two freshmen with the same number of votes will step into the Student Government office as UT’s first first-year representatives.

Economics freshman Kornel Rady and business sophomore Amanda Goodson came into the position after each receiving 291 votes, 23.24 percent of all votes.

Goodson said she was interested in running for the position because SG is the voice of the student body.

“It is the link between the students and the administration,” Goodson said. “This position is new this year, and this new position give students a voice through me.”

She said she served on her high school student council and acquired a drive to help other people.

The election process went smoothly, with 1,252 first-year students voting at computers across campus, said SG vice-president Ashley Baker. The two winners had notable campaigns, Baker said.

"Kornel had a really cool campaign trail,” she said. “Amanda had a series of videos online that were almost like fireside chats. Both of them had a really strong online presence.”

The representatives will begin by joining one of the six committees in SG’s legislative assembly so they can start working with their new colleagues, Baker said. First-year students in the UT community can now bring any concerns they might have to their first-year representatives, she said. The first-year representatives will participate in SG’s legislative assembly with all of the rights of other representatives, she said.

“All of our representatives are really excited to have them on board and get started,” she said.

Printed on September 22, 2011 as: First-year students win inaugural SG election

An official list of the more than a dozen first-year student government representative candidates was released last night. Elections will be held today from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the winner will be announced at 6 p.m. tonight.

Four candidates dropped out of the race and several others left after breaking rules last week, said public relations freshman Jacob Irvin. Irvin was in the race until he dropped out after not turning in financial disclosure forms on time, along with at least one other candidate, he said.

“It was extremely hectic getting involved,” Irvin said. “Nobody really knows what the first-year representative is. Even with all of SG’s efforts it became kind of a hassle, I guess.”

The process of getting involved and campaigning was made more complicated by changes such as one made to the name of the position from freshman representative to first-year representative, and prospective candidates did not know what they were getting involved in, Irvin said.

“Nobody really knows what the position is going to do because this is the first year that it’s been available to anyone,” he said. “No one knows what they’re getting involved in.”

The assembly passed legislation last semester to create a freshman representative position, and the title was later amended to read as first-year representative so that any first year students could join, said SG vice president Ashley Baker. Any student can run for the position as long as it’s their first year at UT, she said.

Many problems in this election could have been solved by increasing communication with first-year students who have the opportunity to run and vote in the election, Baker said.

“Every year it’s just reaching out to new students,” she said. ”We’re communicating to 10,000 students so publicity is always the fun part.”

Kinks in the campaign process may have arisen not only because this is the first time this election has been held, but it is also the first time many of the participants have run their own campaigns, said SG communications director Sydney Farenze.

“These kids are just running off of nothing,” she said. “When I ran my first campaign, I had people around me who’d done it before to tell me what not to do. I had so much help. It’s just so hard because these are their peers and they don’t have that guidance.”

A hearing was held last night for the disqualified students to plead that they be re-allowed into the race.

Printed on Wenesday, September 21, 2011 as: Freshman SG Candidates compete in election

Whether you spent your summer taking classes, traveling the world, working at a new job or braving the Austin heat, it is time once again to buy our books and learn our syllabi for new classes. On behalf of the Student Government, it is my pleasure to welcome new incoming students to the University of Texas at Austin and to welcome returning students back to the 40 Acres for what should prove to be an exciting year.

While you were away, Student Government was working hard on many of the goals that Ashley Baker, our team and I shared with the campus last spring. I’m happy to say we’ve made progress.

One of our biggest goals has been to get students more involved in budget decision-making on campus. We have made some great strides in this area. Working with the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly, we’ve been advocating since April to get student representation on the University Budget Council. For the first time, starting Sept. 1, a student will be a member of this important group on campus. This is a great step forward for all students and will ensure that students have a say in decisions for years to come.

On top of that, we have helped to improve the safety education programs for student organizations; we are consolidating information about room reservations and funding for student events; we are finding ways to keep our campus safe and accessible; and we are planning a new campus tradition: The Longhorn Run 2012.

This list is only a small sample of how we have spent our summer. But we have a lot more to do. Not only do we have many more goals to accomplish, we are opening Student Government back up to you, the student body. This is going to be a year unlike any other. Student Government has a new structure that will allow us to do even more for campus. We’ve launched a new and improved website, and I hope it will help bring transparency to our organizations find the help they need. Student Government should not be sitting back waiting for students to come to us, so this year we plan on coming to you. We want to engage students like never before. As we start the 2011-12 academic year, know that Student Government is a service and a resource for you and every student here at UT. It is our job to serve you, so our doors are always open to any student who wants to ask a question or voice a concern.

As the year goes on, here are a few things we will be tackling: improving parking options for students, planning Safety Week 2011, increasing the power of the student voice across campus, hosting a leadership summit for students to give input and shape our goals, keeping college affordable and ensuring the quality of our education and student services, identifying ways campus can better serve underrepresented students, improving our academic experience while protecting UT’s legacy and many more.

If you want to learn more about our plans for the year, come to the Gregory Plaza tonight at 5:30 p.m. for our Agency Fair and Kickoff meeting. There will be free food, fun and an address from Rep. Dan Branch, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. We’ll head into the Student Activity Center at 7 p.m. for our first meeting of the semester.

This year is going to be one of the best and most exciting UT has seen in a long time. We’re continuing to pursue our goal of being the top public University in the nation. We’ve launched a unique television network dedicated to everything it means to be a Longhorn. We’re getting students more involved in campus affairs and increasing the power of the student voice. We’re making plans that will impact the legacy of the University for years to come. We’re using Student Government as the hub and the official voice for all students here at UT. And we want you to be a part of it.


Butler is student body president. 

Student Government’s new executive board has begun filling the more than 100 policy and agency director positions and external appointments.

Last week, SG President Natalie Butler and Vice President Ashley Baker appointed the five-member executive board that will serve with them for their term. “We wanted to pick the people who individually would be able to do a great job in their roles and that would also work really well as a team between the five of them and then with Ashley and I,” Butler said.

Accounting senior Andrew Townsell said that, as the newly appointed SG chief of staff, he will focus on implementing a set of broad reforms to SG’s new structure created by a task force and approved by students in a special election in February.

Townsell said since April 5, the executive board has conducted about 90 interviews for agency positions and hopes to fill all open spots before the summer.

“Our vision is that by the time fall comes around, the board and agencies will already be in motion and running like a well-oiled machine,” he said.

Townsell said the executive board members will begin meeting with agency directors as they appoint them to define each director’s objectives.

“I want to make sure we are sitting down and figuring out, not just some abstract mission statement, but specifically their work plan and timeline to meet each objective,” he said.

The board wants to split all the platforms up among the seven executive board members and have a point person for each policy objective. The most immediate priority is acting on the platform goal of increasing student input in the University budgeting process, which should happen very quickly, he said.

In the first meeting of Butler and Baker’s term, SG passed a resolution to get student representation on the University Budget Council, said former SG University-wide representative Matt Portillo, who co-authored the resolution.

Portillo said this position will differ from the Senate of College Councils’ College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committees because those teams work with individual college budgets, while the University Budget Council handles the University-wide budget of more than $2.2 billion.