Natalie Butler

Editor’s note: This is the second 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 and interviews.

Former Senate of College Councils President Carisa Nietsche spent the past year trekking across campus to represent students in her size eight shoes. Months later, Senate president-elect Michael Morton is taking the reins. Despite wearing a size 14, he said Nietsche leaves him big shoes to fill.

When she first took office in fall 2011, Nietsche pledged to focus on technology, academic integrity and student retention. Nietsche’s last day in office was April 5, and she leaves behind a series of policy initiatives reflecting the promises she made last year. Nietsche will spend the next few weeks transitioning Morton and his executive board to their positions.

“There is so much information to pass on,” Nietsche said. “I’m going to be helping [Michael] build trust with the administration. It’s a really fun process.”

Over the next year Morton said he will continue work on some of Nietsche’s initiatives. Morton also said he plans to increase outreach to students not involved in Senate. Morton said he will focus on increasing student representation at the Capitol for the 2013 legislative session through “Invest in Texas,” an initiative co-sponsored by Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly advocating for adequate higher education funding.

Former SG President Natalie Butler said she worked with Senate when communicating with the UT System and on tools like MyEdu. At the moment, Butler said, she and Nietsche have a good relationship and are currently serving on a committee to refocus student orientation this summer. Butler says she plans to meet with Morton to discuss plans for both organizations.

Hank Dugie, former Liberal Arts Council president, said he felt Senate faced problems due to a disconnect between internal Senate and the college councils. Dugie said within the councils some members tend to focus on what they can get from Senate rather than what they can give.

“I really want the organization to realize what they’re doing and what they’re here for,” Dugie said.

This year, some of Senate’s initiatives included the creation of a Career Services Working Group; an honor code task force; including College Tuition Advisory Committees in the tuition conversation; a Senate election code; an electronic course instructor survey and creation of informal student forum SenateTea.

Nietsche said she considered engaging the College Tuition Budget and Advisory Committees, which happen within each college council the administration’s biggest accomplishment. This year, the CTBACs submitted their recommendations on the tuition increase to the deans and provosts offices around campus. Out of the 20 councils, only Liberal Arts Council voted against a tuition increase.

Nietsche said although she listened to concerns from groups against the increase, it was difficult to satisfy everyone, and the tuition-setting process was one of the biggest challenges she faced.

“Tuition Policy Advisory Committee was the hardest table to sit at,” Nietsche said. “It was hard for me as a Senate president because I lean more to the CTBACs. It was difficult because this was how a small student activist group [Occupy UT] thinks versus how CTBAC thinks.”

Melinda Sutton, deputy to the Dean of Students and Senate’s adviser, said Senate members often spoke to her on the challenge of making sure the student voice is heard in the conversation on the role of the University as a research institution.

“I don’t know how students feel about all legislative student organizations, but I know from working with them that senate leaders spend countless hours on behalf of their peers,” Sutton said.

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.”
 

Winning candidate Thor Lund talks on the phone Thursday night after the Student Government results were announced to more than 80 supporters. Lund and his running mate Wills Brown captured the presidency with 2,571 votes over John Lawler’s 2,112.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Weeks of campaigning, candidate disqualifications and judicial review culminated in a Thursday gathering of more than 80 supporters for Student Government presidential candidates John Lawler and Thor Lund.

Lund and running mate Wills Brown captured the presidency with 2,571 votes, defeating Lawler, who received 2,112. A total of 4,483 students voted.

The campaign period extended from Feb. 15 to March 29, about six weeks compared to the usual two. Voter turnout for the presidential and vice presidential race decreased about 41 percent compared to last year, when 7,883 students voted in the runoff election for current SG president Natalie Butler and former presidential candidate Abel Mulugheta.

In 2010, 8,654 students voted in the presidential runoff, with president-elect Scott Parks receiving 4,801 and opponent Minator Azemi receiving 3,853.

This year is the first time the Election Supervisory Board disqualified two presidential candidates since SG outlawed the ticket system in 2008, in which students could run together under a party or banner that year in order to give each candidate a fair chance at getting elected.

Lund has never been involved in SG and said he is facing a sharp learning curve. While he and Brown started alone at the beginning, Lund said the most challenging part of campaigning was wondering if elections were ever going to happen.

“A lot of people were wondering if we were ever going to have this day,” Lund said. “With each challenge we grow stronger. We’ve come out so much stronger and better after this. It has been a blessing in disguise.”

Lund said he ran a campaign focused on the students and wants to provide 24-hour access to the Perry-Castañeda Library, renovate Anna Hiss Gym and provide healthier late-night food options, among goals. Lund said he and Brown bring a new perspective to SG, and he invites everyone to get involved.

“Don’t be discouraged,” Lund said. “Anyone who wants to get involved, get involved. Me and Wills have no bias against anyone and we’re very excited.”

Lawler said he is surprised at the low voter turnout. He said during the election he did not anticipate Madison Gardner would sue UT, the prolonging of the elections or running with two great candidates like Lund and Brown. Lawler said he is grateful for the students who supported his campaign.

“What would I do differently, I would say not a thing,” Lawler said. “There have been several things that were out of our control, but at the end of the day, Terrence and I are very proud of the issues-based campaign we ran.”

Lawler said he would continue to be involved with SG as much as possible and fulfill his campaign promise to fight for students at UT and in West Campus. He said he would welcome any opportunity to work with Lund and Brown next year.

Former presidential candidate Madison Gardner was disqualified twice, once on Feb. 22 and again on March 21, for violating the SG Election Code. Former candidate Yaman Desai was disqualified on Feb. 20 for misrepresenting his campaign and committing fraud.

Gardner said Monday he expected voter turnout to be low this year because students had not been given the chance to elect their own SG president and vice president because of the disqualifications. With more than 100 campaign volunteers, Gardner had one of the largest campaign teams this year.

Election Supervisory Board chair Eric Nimmer said elections were different this year because there was a functioning Election Code and judicial body to make sure rules and procedure were being carried out.

“In prior years, if something happened the Election Code could not be drawn out,” Nimmer said. “We have a functioning means to [address] bad behavior.”

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said she will be working with Lund and Brown during the next few weeks to address changes to the Election Code. The code encountered scrutiny when Gardner filed a lawsuit against the University on Feb. 27, claiming the association provision in the code violated his constitutional rights.

“Every [SG] group is different,” Reagins-Lilly said. “There is a new group of students and they’re learning. They’ll have to rethink and clarify the [Election Code], and I have confidence in the student governing process.”

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: SG candidate Lund takes presidency

Brian Jewell, head of marketing at the University Co-op, tries on UT’s official burnt orange and white cowboy boots. The revenue from these boots, which cost $349.99, raises money for student scholarships.

Photo Credit: Raveena Bhalara | Daily Texan Staff

Displayed atop a University Co-op shelf is a pair of burnt orange and white cowboy boots complete with an official University seal and a signature Longhorn emblem.

UT’s official cowboy boots, ticketed at $349.99 and made of ostrich-leather, were designed by former members of  Student Government and have been sold in the Co-op since 2007 to raise money for student scholarships, student body President Natalie Butler said. Butler said the Student Government board reads through scholarship applications in April of each year and chooses students based on both need and merit. The exact amount given to each student varies from year to year, she said.

“We wanted to have a pair of University of Texas student boots,” she said. “But the intention from the beginning was [funding] student scholarships.” Butler received hers as a Christmas gift and said the process of designing the boots and working with the manufacturers to create them provided a unique way to award scholarships and sport one-of-a-kind boots.

“There are lots of other companies that make boots, but there aren’t many with a unique custom design that are totally student-focused,” she said. “I’m pretty sure we’re unique in that sense.”

Hulan Swain, director of licensing and imports at the Co-op, said while several different UT-branded products were discussed in order to fund scholarships, the boots were the most obvious choice.

“I think the success of the product was in the quality and also because they were the first licensed UT boots,” she said. “It took a long time to finalize the manufacturing and licensing process, but it has been a really good program.”

At last count, the boots had raised close to $200,000 for student scholarships, she said. About 500 pairs have been sold each year, with slight fluctuations. Sales were higher in 2009 as the University rested on the brink of a national football championship, with roughly even sales between males and females.

The price has not changed since the boots were first put on the market, Swain said, and although costs of manufacturing are rising, the Co-op intends to keep the boots on the shelves.

“As long as there’s demand and as long as student government wants to continue with the program, we will do it,” she said.

Economics freshman Bing Arend Vanderkam said he owns a pair of custom UT boots and felt the quality of the boots was well worth the price tag.

“A pair of cowboy boots is just part of the attire here,” he said. “They’re really high quality and they’re something I’ll own for a long time and not have to replace.”

Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: UT's official boots raise money for scholarships

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.”

Public relations senior Antonio Guevara, left, and Spanish and finance senior Madison Gardner, right, are one of five executive alliances running for SG president and vice president.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles of the five executive alliances currently in the running for student body president and vice president.

A year ago, Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara stood campaigning on opposite sides of the Student Government elections. Gardner wore blue and white to support presidential candidates Natalie Butler and Ashley Baker, while Guevara wore red and black to support Abel Mulugheta and Sameer Desai.

Today, Gardner and Guevara vow to “Unite Texas” if elected SG president and vice president. Gardner and Guevara are one of five executive alliances, a team of two students running for student body president and vice president. They are running on a platform focused on benefitting student retention while improving safety, affordability, student engagement, services and traditions.

Gardner, a Dallas native and Spanish and finance senior, has been involved in Student Government for three years, during which he served as a representative for the College of Liberal Arts, University-wide representative and as the Butler/Baker external financial director.

This past year, Gardner worked with SG representatives to develop an initiative to create a more accessible room reservation system for student organizations, organized more than 800 students to aid the Bastrop community in SG-sponsored “Horns for Bastrop” and helped increase the number of organizations applying to the SG Excellence Fund, a fund that gives money to organizations to promote equality and justice.

Guevara, a public relations senior from El Paso, currently serves as president of the Kappa Psi Epsilon fraternity and as a member of spirit organization Texas Cowboys. He founded the 1st-Year Achievement Initiative, an achievement scholars program for underrepresented students within the Office of the Dean of Students. Apart from serving as campaign manager for Mulugheta and Desai, Guevara has never been involved in Student Government.

Although they have established goals they wish to accomplish if elected, Gardner said advocating for what he knows students want is more important than accomplishing his personal goals.

“I see the job of Student Government president as a representation of what students want at UT,” Gardner said. “Something I’m most passionate about is advocating for everyone.”

Some of Gardner’s and Guevara’s goals include measures to further donor involvement by reaching out and creating relationships with SG alumni. Gardner began work on the alumni network earlier this year as financial director and hopes to create a monthly newsletter, among other measures. Gardner said he would also try to establish a student relationship with representatives at the Texas Legislature by utilizing the connections he made when he interned at the Capitol last year. He also said he would advocate Division of Housing and Food Services for a gender-neutral housing wing to be established in Jester this summer.

Butler said she took office at the end of the Legislative session last year and that whomever replaces her needs to establish a strong relationship with the Legislature to advocate for students. She said there is a good chance for gender-neutral housing to pan out because there is planned renovation in Jester this year.

Guevara said the experience from last year will help their run this year. He said he has learned how to manage a team and to reach out to all people within the UT community.

“We’re definitely a little wiser and we know what to expect,” Guevara said. “We’ve also learned about some of the intangible things that can’t happen and we know not to make these empty promises that a lot of these campaigns tend to make.”

UT alumnus and former presidential candidate Mulugheta said when he first heard Gardner and Guevara were running together, he was upset and he thought it was an odd pair. However, he said working with the competition can have pros and cons and Gardner and Guevara are doing it right and he supports them.

“I think together they represent what it is to be a Longhorn,” Mulugheta said. “They cover all ends of the spectrum. Now they need to be true to who they are. The [most intimidating] politicians are those who really believe in what they’re fighting for and if they really do, it will be hard to beat them.”

Gardner said Butler/Baker did not reach out to different student organizations during their term. If elected, he said he would like to increase involvement from outside organizations, establish transparency and decrease polarization within SG.

The SG General Assembly questioned Gardner in January for a lack of transparency during his tenure as student representative for Men’s Athletic’s Council. If elected, he said he will make his executive board more transparent.

“I think it’s important for the Executive Board to be as transparent and as accountable as possible,” Gardner said. “We don’t consider ourselves any better than anybody else, and in the future we will be as open as possible.”

Over the weekend, Gardner and Guevara filed complaints of campaign violations against candidates Yaman Desai and Whitney Langston for trademark violations and early campaigning. They also filed complaints against John Lawler and Terrence Mass as well as Thor Lund and William Brown for trademark violations. Desai and Langston filed against Gardner and Guevara questioning their website and lumbar rental.

Stan Gardner, Madison’s father and UT 1979 alumnus, said he was excited when Madison told him he was going to run — though it did involve staying an extra year. Gardner said Student Government elections have become more intense over the years, but he believes his son’s leadership abilities will help him during the elections.

“Madison is the one that has the experience,” Stan Gardner said. “It takes a while for anyone to learn. UT is a big place, it’s complicated. If you want to get anything done you have to get involved in Student Government for a year or two to know the channels you have to go through to make the changes that are important to do.”

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.”

 The Student Government president expects to start appointing representatives this week to fill four available graduate student seats in an organization lacking in graduate student members.

The student presidents of SG, Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly said they must work together to best confront graduate student concerns. As GSA’s influence grows, SG and Senate leaders look to improve representation for graduate students.

SG President Natalie Butler said she does not know if all four seats will be appointed at once, but the appointed graduate students will serve out the rest of their term until this April. These appointments would add to the two current graduate student representatives for the School of Law and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Butler said she believes recruitment for the positions has been difficult because of the rigorous workload graduate students have. She said discrepancies between undergraduate and graduate representation is to be expected.

“The undergraduates are the culture of UT,” Butler said. “Undergraduates drive tradition, capacity and the number of bodies that you see on campus more than graduate students.”

Butler said SG positions, including her own, still represent graduate student concerns despite being filled by undergraduate students.

“I take my job in representing graduate students very seriously,” Butler said. “I think I need to be held accountable for them.”

Senate President Carisa Nietsche said there are a few graduate councils in Senate, but the representation distribution is not ideal.

“It’s really a representation nightmare,” Nietsche said.
Nietsche said other issues include Senate’s disproportionate focus on academic affairs that often apply to undergraduate concerns.

“Graduate students feel like they’re voting on legislation, but it doesn’t pertain to them,” Nietsche said.

She said Senate is discussing whether to increase graduate student representation or to continue sending graduate issues to GSA.

“We’re working on seeing whether we should go all in or all out,” Nietsche said.

Last year, the University officially recognized GSA as a legislative body affiliated with the Office of the Dean of Students.

GSA President Manuel Gonzalez said UT graduate students are often an afterthought.

“I would not say that this marginalization is intentional,” Gonzalez said. “I think it’s a byproduct of being a smaller subset of the University.”

Gonzalez said graduate student engagement in student governance is increasing and can elevate awareness of the issues graduate students face.

The election process for GSA representatives is up to the graduate advisor of the department. About 65 representatives form the assembly that has room for a total of 119 representatives. Some departments have more representatives depending on the number of graduate students.

“The reality is being a graduate student can be a completely different experience in another field,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why it’s important to have as much representation as possible.”

However, about 30 out of about 100 departments do not have representation, Gonzalez said. Despite the openings, he said the current size of the assembly can hinder progress.

“We have such a large assembly size that sometimes it can be difficult to get all graduate students on the same page and holding them accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said there will always be disputes about which organization should cover certain issues, but the strength of the three organizations is that they are structured to foster collaboration through legislation and resource sharing.


“Graduate students should know that they have the opportunity to voice any concerns they may have and suggest solutions to issues that may arise,” Gonzalez said.

After a hearing and deliberation over discrepancy of official and unofficial appointments by the judicial branch of Student Government, a verdict has been reached.

SG School of Law representative Austin Carlson petitioned against several unofficial positions made by SG President Natalie Butler, who defended her actions by stating that expediency sometimes calls for sudden appointments.

Butler also said she should have the right to send someone to meetings in her place.

SG chief justice Alden Harris released the final decision on Sunday, which states that the term ‘appointments’ should include all nominations or selections made by the executive branch, and “must be confirmed by a vote of the assembly, subject to several important exceptions.”

Exceptions include extra time for confirmation in cases which require expediency, allowing Butler to continue sending people to stand in for her when she can’t make meetings and allowing members of the executive branch to make appointments while not working in their capacity as student body representatives or SG representatives, Harris said.

“What [the decision] does in a nutshell, it slightly expands the universe of people who need to be confirmed but I don’t think it will have that huge of an impact,” he said. “It’ll give the committee more to reference on a few of those ad hoc committees and borderline cases.”

The decision will be in effect by the end of the month, Harris said.

The exception for expediency will allow the executive branch to better handle situations, which call for fast action, Butler said. Without it, it would become difficult to appoint students to positions in committees with short timelines, she said.

“I’m glad they made the clarifications that they did and I’m working to comply as fast as possibly,” she said. “It’s honestly what I expected. I clarified my opinions but they disagreed and that’s fine. I think it’s good that we have clarification.”

Before this, the executive branch could appoint students to positions with no applications or publicity, Carlson said.

“A lot of times, the president’s office just wants to have a student appointed,” he said. “This way it undermines them giving a position to a random student.”

Although Butler has done a better job of transparency than some past presidents, this will prevent unapproved appointments in the future, he said.

“The biggest thing I’m going for is I want SG to be as accessible as possible,” he said. “As important as this is, it’s still just another step in the direction of transparency.”