Muneezeh Kabir

The Student Services Budget Committee approved new allocations of money from student fees to five University organizations who displayed particular needs, the committee’s former chairwoman said.

Former Student Government Vice President Muneezeh Kabir, who chaired the committee, said the nine-member group of students and faculty reviewed budget requests last year from 17 university centers, offices and programs vying for added funding, Kabir said. She said the committee decided to use money from the SSBC’s reserved funding to support programs that seemed most beneficial to the University and those in most need of financial assistance.

“People would come and give detailed presentations about how their programs contributed to the University and why they needed funding,” Kabir said. “I would say that recommendations were reflective of who we felt needed our funding most.”

The committee will distribute funding to the Gender and Sexuality Center, the Forensics Program, the Counseling and Mental Health Center, the shuttle bus system and the Office of Student Financial Services’ Bevonomics program, Kabir said. She said funding will be distributed Sept. 1 — the beginning of the fiscal year.

The SSBC distributes about $42 million in student fees each year. Funding to all other organizations SSBC allocates student fees to retained their previous funding levels. Groups include the Campus Environmental Center, Texas Student Media and Student Government.

Once the committee finalized its recommendations, it submitted them to Vice President of Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez for approval, which he gave in May. The recommendation became official last week.

Gender and Sexuality Center Director Ixchel Rosal said the funding from student fees have been the only source of income to run the center and expand it. She said she went before the committee last spring to ask for their continued support.

“I shared with them our current budget, talked about trends and things that we were noticing in the new space. They helped us get at the new Student Activities Center,” Rosal said.

Rosal said the center will receive $10,000 from the SSBC to be distributed in two increments at the beginning of each of the next two fiscal years. She said the center has seen an increase in student traffic, and the money will help hire student workers to help incoming students.

Jane Morgan Bost, associate director for the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said the center has received an increased number of visitors since an on-campus shooting Sept. 28. She said the center asked the council for funds to be able to handle more students.

“The funding will help us hire more workers to help students find the help they need through a system called triaging,” Bost said. “Through the system, we do a quick assessment of students who walk in here, find out what it is that they need and explain to them what we offer.”

Many students go to the center needing long-term counseling, while the center offers sessions that are meant to council students that need immediate assistance but do not require continuous sessions, Bost said.

She said the triage system cuts down on waiting time and prevents students from having to talk to multiple people before they find the assistance they need.

Gonzalez said some years the University does not have funds to add to the SSBC reserves. He said the recommendations from the SSBC were well thought out and did not require too much spending on their behalf.

Gonzalez said before approving the recommendations he consulted with his Associate Vice President Donna Bellinghausen and spoke with representatives of a number of organizations that will receive the money.

“I made no changes but had several considerations to address before I made the final approval,” Gonzalez said.
Kabir said Gonzalez was not able to approve the committee’s request for a 10th member.

 

After a year focused on legislative advocacy and internal reforms, Student Government President Scott Parks and Vice President Muneezeh Kabir sang “The Eyes Of Texas” for the last time as SG’s leaders Tuesday.

The team accomplished their major campaign goals despite challenges and limitations, Parks said. For example, the SG internal reform package that students approved in a campuswide vote in February streamlined the organization and made it more accessible to students, Kabir said.

The amendments to SG’s constitution will restructure external agencies and SG leaders said the changes will improve new student representation by creating freshmen, transfer and graduate student representatives.

Kabir said the University budget is constantly on SG’s radar, and although they would like to see more advancement with affordability, they are content with their success with Invest in Texas. The campaign organized students to lobby the Texas Legislature to adequately fund UT and to give universities the choice to keep guns off campus.

Parks said he put substantial energy into working for GLBT equity on campus, particularly competitive insurance benefits for GLBT faculty and staff and their partners. Parks said although he feels they were successful in getting conversations started, they haven’t been able to hammer out any concrete changes because of clashing philosophies and legal challenges.

“I think that was one thing that we weren’t able to completely accomplish, but we kept the ball moving,” Parks said.

Kabir spearheaded a project to help increase access to breast pumps for pregnant students and new mothers. The executive team and the assembly created a Mayor’s Student Advisory Council to improve city relations and connect students to Austin. Despite an oft repeated promise, the SG website remains outdated and has limited information about SG and its activities.

Loren Campos, president of undocumented students and allies group University Leadership Initiative, said Parks and Kabir ran on the platform of helping undocumented students. Campos believes they did.

“When we hosted rallies, I always remember Scott being there and being vocal about helping us out,” Campos said. “I felt that there could have been a little more activism on their part, but overall we are happy with their contribution to our cause.”

Juan C. Gonzalez, vice president for student affairs, said he looks to Parks and Kabir to ensure a smooth transition in the coming weeks.

“Never before have we relied so much on students and now more than ever we really need a very good transition into this new session,” he said.

Students overwhelmingly approved reforms to the Student Government constitution Thursday night after a technical glitch shut down voting for several hours. The amendments to the SG’s constitution will restructure their external agencies and add first-year representatives, including freshmen, transfers and graduate students. The changes, SG leaders said, would improve new student representation. More than 2,300 students cast their votes, with 93 percent approving the proposed reforms. The reforms — which are the result of seven months of research by a student-run SG Reform Task Force — are the most comprehensive SG has ever seen, said SG vice president Muneezeh Kabir. “We’re going to see a lot of structural changes to SG, and I think it will really change the culture of it, which is what [SG President] Scott [Parks] and I, when we were running, were hoping to do,” she said. Kabir said the new agency structure will give students more opportunities to get involved. Parks said he believes the SG reform will make the organization more valuable to students. “I think it will be a much more effective and efficient Student Government,” Parks said. “In the midst of the budget crisis, it’s the right time for SG to be streamlining.” SG extended the special election by seven hours Thursday night because of a problem with the voting system. Election Supervisory Board chair Eric Nimmer said he received several text messages and phone calls Wednesday night from concerned students who were unable to vote. “A lot of people said they just wanted to clarify that the message they got was true,” Nimmer said. “Thank God everyone was notified, so hopefully we reached enough people to make up for anyone we may have lost.” The voting was supposed to run from 8 a.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Thursday, but the system shut the election down Wednesday around midnight. SG reopened the election from 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday. “Students were confused, and I was confused, but I figured out [Thursday] morning that because of this glitch, the system had ended last night and [wouldn’t] resume again until 5 p.m. [Thursday],” said SG Executive Director Jimmy Talarico.

82nd Legislature

Students kept their promise to walk to the Capitol to attend a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday despite record-breaking cold weather and President William Powers Jr.’s sudden hospitalization. More than 50 members of Student Government, Senate of College Councils, Graduate Student Assembly and other student organizations shouted “Texas fight” as they marched to the Capitol to kick off the “Invest in Texas” campaign, created to organize students to lobby the Texas Legislature to adequately fund UT, protect financial aid programs and allow the University to stay academically competitive. SG Executive Director Jimmy Talarico said the University budget item was removed from the docket because of Powers’ absence, making student presence all the more important. “President Powers was going to be our biggest advocate at today’s meeting so without him our presence is that much more necessary,” he said. “We’re not just there for UT. We are there for all students across the state.” Similar to the House’s budget proposal, the Senate budget proposed significant cuts to education, reducing financial aid programs by more than $380 million and cutting about $87 million from state and federal money allotted to UT, according to the Senate state budget released last week. Student Government vice president Muneezeh Kabir said she thought student testimonies were compelling and senators were attentive as students gave personal accounts how the budget cuts would effect them. “I was elected to the privilege of representing over 50,000 students, but I have never felt more empowered than when I marched to the Capitol this morning with [many] of them,” she said while testifying. “These students walked through the freezing weather to remind you of the gravity of your task.” Kabir closed her testimony by restating the goals of the Invest in Texas campaign. “We urge you to keep us affordable, keep us safe and keep us competitive,” she said. “We don’t want you to just prioritize us — we want you to invest in us and in so doing, invest in Texas.” Chelsea Adler, Senate of College Councils president, told legislators how she and more than 78,000 other students would be personally affected by reducing the number of TEXAS Grant recipients by half. “Without that program from the state, I would either have to have taken out a large amount of loans, or I would have not been able to attend UT Austin,” Adler told senators. “Receiving the TEXAS Grant and attending UT Austin has allowed me to participate in undergraduate research, serve as a student leader and receive a first-class education.” Adler said students’ perseverance today was a sign that the campaign is getting off to a good start, and she is looking forward to their future lobby day on March 7. “We pretty much had all the odds stacked against us with the weather, the potential snow day, President Powers being hospitalized and even just the 8 a.m. wake-up call, but I think this shows how serious students are about having their voice heard by the Legislature, and I think it’s just a sign of things to come,” she said.

82nd Legislature

Students kept their promise to walk to the Capitol to attend a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday despite record-breaking cold weather and President William Powers Jr.’s sudden hospitalization. More than 50 members of Student Government, Senate of College Councils, Graduate Student Assembly and other student organizations shouted “Texas fight” as they marched to the Capitol to kick off the “Invest in Texas” campaign, created to organize students to lobby the Texas Legislature to adequately fund UT, protect financial aid programs and allow the University to stay academically competitive. SG Executive Director Jimmy Talarico said the University budget item was removed from the docket because of Powers’ absence, making student presence all the more important. “President Powers was going to be our biggest advocate at today’s meeting so without him our presence is that much more necessary,” he said. “We’re not just there for UT. We are there for all students across the state.” Similar to the House’s budget proposal, the Senate budget proposed significant cuts to education, reducing financial aid programs by more than $380 million and cutting about $87 million from state and federal money allotted to UT, according to the Senate state budget released last week. Student Government vice president Muneezeh Kabir said she thought student testimonies were compelling and senators were attentive as students gave personal accounts how the budget cuts would effect them. “I was elected to the privilege of representing over 50,000 students, but I have never felt more empowered than when I marched to the Capitol this morning with [many] of them,” she said while testifying. “These students walked through the freezing weather to remind you of the gravity of your task.” Kabir closed her testimony by restating the goals of the Invest in Texas campaign. “We urge you to keep us affordable, keep us safe and keep us competitive,” she said. “We don’t want you to just prioritize us — we want you to invest in us and in so doing, invest in Texas.” Chelsea Adler, Senate of College Councils president, told legislators how she and more than 78,000 other students would be personally affected by reducing the number of TEXAS Grant recipients by half. “Without that program from the state, I would either have to have taken out a large amount of loans, or I would have not been able to attend UT Austin,” Adler told senators. “Receiving the TEXAS Grant and attending UT Austin has allowed me to participate in undergraduate research, serve as a student leader and receive a first-class education.” Adler said students’ perseverance today was a sign that the campaign is getting off to a good start, and she is looking forward to their future lobby day on March 7. “We pretty much had all the odds stacked against us with the weather, the potential snow day, President Powers being hospitalized and even just the 8 a.m. wake-up call, but I think this shows how serious students are about having their voice heard by the Legislature, and I think it’s just a sign of things to come,” she said.