By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
What began with a question turned into a movement in the Students’ Association this year.
When Rep. Reese Campbell, Administration Building, asked executive president Jeremy Smith about a committee placement for a campus service group, Smith began thinking about a way to turn SA toward advocacy.
Soon, Smith was delivering a 90-minute presentation to the other two executive officers in his administration, vice president Jeremy Gordon and treasurer Jonathan Wilkerson.
“Wow,” Gordon said after the presentation. “That sounds like a big shake-up.”
The “Big Shake-Up,” as it was quickly dubbed, did more than shake up SA’s organizational structure: it led Congress and its XOs through a roller coaster year of ups and downs that ended with a disappointed Smith refusing to attend SA meetings.
The Big Shake-Up created a starkly different SA, one that its officers believe will be ready to serve the student body through advocacy, not activities.
“The changes we made this year were really key,” Gordon said. “We are doing what the students want us to do now.”
SA no longer directly administers its committees, referring to them as “student service groups,” allowing self-perpetuation and placing them under the guidance of staff mentors.
Activity-planning was moved from class officers’ job descriptions, making advocacy Congress’ sole duty. Class activity chairs have been instituted instead.
Hierarchy was eliminated from the class officer positions, instituting five class senators instead.
All student groups were permitted for the first time to submit requests for money before the semester began, creating smaller request funds with less strenuous demands for money.
Five executive committees and three new executive positions were created in the hopes of smoothing the request process as SA leaders go before the university administration.
Gordon pointed to this semester’s successful attempt in giving students free access to the Campus Center’s pool tables as an example of the Big Shake-Up at work, even as it was being implemented.
Congress also passed a resolution, and several members collected letters and petition signatures in support of the Texas Equalization Grant, which is in danger of being significantly cut in the state Legislature.
“I really hope that’s the future of SA,” Gordon said. “Nobody else on campus is equipped to do that.”
Wilkerson said he expects a potential rollover of about $4,000-5,000, capping a session in which SA appeared fiscally more conservative than in previous years.
“I don’t know if it could have gone much better,” Wilkerson said. “[SA]’s in great financial shape.”
Election, attendance woes
But not all was rosy this year, where the transition from activities to advocacy caused hours-long debates at times.
Congress struggled with the shake-up, forcing Smith to lobby for weeks to get the original measure passed in a watered down form. The remainder passed in a series of smaller amendments and bills late in the year.
Smith blamed Congress as he stopped attending SA meetings, causing a backlash in which Congress members considered but never proposed a resolution expressing disapproval with his actions and comments.
The overwhelming election of treasurer Jonathan Wilkerson to serve as president earlier this month was overshadowed by election controversy. What was expected to be a tight four-way race was closer in terms of alleged campaign rules violations and claims of unethical behavior than votes.
The final decision-that the election rules themselves were to blame-led to a rewriting of the election rules as one of the final acts of the Smith-Gordon administration.
“It’s just a long year,” Smith said. “Any time you want to change mindsets, you’re going to get people saying, ‘We like what we’re doing, so why change it?'”