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Volume 68, Issue 1, Monday, August 26, 2002

News
 
 

SGA plans to instill new traditions

By Ray Hafner
Senior Staff Writer

UH's Student Government Association president and vice president say they are eager to clean up SGA's image and continue working to meet
students' needs having entered office amidst and election scandal.

Dawona Miller, John Quintanilla and the SGA senate tackled a host of projects during the summer and are planning for many more in the fall.

The pair, friends since middle school, served on the student council at John H. Reagan High School in Austin, where Quintanilla was president
and Miller his second-in-command. At UH their roles are switched, but both say their personal friendship is what allows them to govern
effectively.

Miller and Quintanilla are taking over for former President James Robertson and Vice President Brandon Butler, whose administration was
marred by constant charges of corruption and misdoings.

"Along with the good (Robertson) did, he also did a lot of bad to the reputation of this organization," Quintanilla said.

The first step in cleaning up that reputation, Quintanilla said, was the reform of the SGA Election Code.

Miller and Quintanilla's Student Voice Party won a landslide election victory last Spring, getting 77 percent of the vote, but soon became bogged
down in charges from the opposition of election improprieties.

To insure that a scandal does not occur again, and more importantly, because future funding is tied to the reform, SGA has been determined to
fix the problems.

The pair created a commission to study the Election Code. Members included Dean of Students William Munson and Vice President for Student
Affairs Elwyn Lee. The proposed reforms, which will be presented to the senate Sept. 4, are intended to clear up any misunderstandings and
allow a fair election.

"In the past, the president has had way too much power (in appointing the election commissioner)," Quintanilla said. To combat this, the
Election Commission members will no longer be chosen by the president. Instead, an application process will be used, and the Internal Affairs
committee will make final approvals.

Other changes include the following:

A fourth commissioner to serve as alternate.

The keeping of election journals to promote "accountability and responsibility."

More specific definitions in campaign laws.

Implementing Internet voting.

Another major project of the summer has been returning a live cougar to campus: a project very important to Miller.

"We want to compare ourselves to these other Tier I universities (like the University of Texas and Texas A&M University) in every aspect,"
including live mascots, Miller said, adding, "I want to build tradition."

While stressing that nothing is confirmed, Miller outlined a plan she's been developing that includes housing the new Shasta at the Houston
Zoo and transporting her to football games and other events. 

The SGA senate is currently calculating the costs of such a plan.

One major accomplishment this year was the passing of the "Q" bill in June. This bill allows students to drop a course near the end of a
semester without receiving a grade or a "W" (withdrawal). They hope to begin that in the fall.

Quintanilla said there were "no major roadblocks. It's going to happen."

Another bill offered up by Speaker of the Senate Jeff Hill would allow grade replacement. This allows a student to retake a course and have only
the higher grade factored into their grade point average. That has yet to come to fruition, but Miller said it would be a goal for her administration.

The delivery of some campaign promises is imminent. The construction of brighter lights in all parking lots will soon be finished. Also, 12
covered shuttle-bus stops will be built by the end of September to keep students out of the rain. The contractors had originally planned for six,
but the senators insisted 12 be built.

Senate opposition to administration ideas has been surprisingly strong. The Student Voice Party won all but four seats in the senate, making
what appeared could be a rubber stamp government. 

But in response to their first presentation to the senate, Miller and Quintanilla found intense scrutiny from fellow party members.

Miller said she believes the recent controversy has made senators more aware of their responsibility to govern properly.

As they are emphasizing the change from Robertson's tenure, which often shrouded itself in secrecy, both Miller and Quintanilla have promised
to keep their doors open to any student or senator wanting to speak with them.

Some of their other plans for this year include raising textbook buyback rates by mandating that adjunct professors have their reading lists in on
time, and extending the "dead week" period before exams to five days from three.

The duo hopes that by running a clean government they will increase participation in government and the effectiveness of SGA.

"I would like to rebuild this organization and go forward," Quintanilla said.

If there is a theme to her administration, Miller said it would be "knowing your past so you can move forward in the future."

 

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