The Student Government Association (SGA) has undergone growing pains as UTSA makes its way to becoming a tier one powerhouse.
Gin ju im, a four-year SGA veteran, had this to say about the transformation in SGA,”SGA used to be more like The Paisano in how it was broke but genuine. Now, instead of the person who would do the best job in the elected position, the person with the flashiest campaign wins.”
Derek Trimm’s executive ticket for the 2010 election was composed of Trimm as president; Nicole Munoz, his girlfriend at the time, as vice president; Xavier Johnson, Trimm’s roommate, as his secretary; and Roger Frigstad, Trimm’s big brother from FIJI, as his treasurer.
Jason Hensley, president of Young Americans for Liberty got involved with SGA due to making UTSA more ‘green’, which along with campus sustainability Trimm described as “his legacy.” He was elected by the SGA senate to be Executive Senator during Trimm’s administration, sitting on the executive cabinet unaffiliated with Trimm.
“Now, granted, Trimm’s [election] turnout was the second best, ever, but voter apathy is a big reason why anybody is successful in SGA,” Hensley said.
“If you’re a good campaigner, if you throw out the right rhetoric, you don’t actually have to stand for anything [or] have any principles. You can still hold this position and have no integrity and still get your way.”
“And, unfortunately, it has become, literally, who hands out the most fliers and gets their name out there more.”
Trimm countered with his own theory, however “Campaigning and the competence of a political candidate [once in office] go hand in hand. If I’m not able to communicate the ideas that I have, the ideas that I wish to implement to the students that are voting for me, then I should not be in the office in the first place.”
Trimm’s campaign in 2010 was largely powered by platforms for the sale of alcohol on campus, and for housing for Greek organizations, issues picked because of high voter appeal.
“Me and my team sat down and brainstormed different ideas. That’s the whole point of public service you figure out what your constituents want and you deliver it,” he said.
However, success in delivering these elements of those platforms has been questionable. Nothing had been done to secure Greek housing until the beginning of this current semester, the same month as elections.
“Greek housing is something we’ve been doing this semester, after we finished up with Green Fund and all the other things we’ve been doing. We just recently put our focus on it,” Trimm said.
However Trimm’s administration did accelerate the process for the sale of alcohol on campus by introducing a survey at the very beginning of their academic year.
The survey illustrated to UTSA’s administration the support for the sale of alcohol on campus. The resounding response that it prompted Dr. Romo to establish a university committee the day after the results were published, which were 91.8% in favor.
“The sale of alcohol on campus has been the one issue on our ticket that has demanded the least time commitment out of any of us because the administration took that on,” Trimm said regarding further involvement with the issue of the sale of alcohol on campus.
As newly elected president, Trimm’s style of governing was a stark contrast to past administrations that relied more on a system that delegated responsibilities, a difference that showed conflict between Trimm’s cabinet and many veteran SGA members. The tipping point for many in SGA was Trimm’s removal of Josh Bart, a political rival, Hensley calls his actions a “judicial loophole.”
However, Trimm contends, “Josh still kept challenging me even though the campaign was over, just so he could prove to himself that he was more qualified than me. Josh opposed me and my platforms, so I removed him.”
The rest of the Standing Committee Chair became uncomfortable after the removal, especially regarding its quasi-legality, and took issue with Trimm imposing his directives on their respective committees.
Trimm, who recognized the grievances of those committee chairs, replied by saying, “I have to follow my platforms, and I’m just not going to appoint people to my cabinet that oppose those platforms. That would be fundamentally against what I campaigned on.”
Trimm’s regard for differing opinions was shown in the weeks building up to the Brackenridge Classics Symposium.
“Despite promising his support to me in executive meetings and $600 left over in other parts of the budget,” said Gin ju im, “when it came time for the senate to vote, Trimm completely flipped on me and bullied the senate against voting to sponsor the event. He repeatedly kept getting up and saying that he thought it was a bad idea and, of course, the senate didn’t know what else to believe.”
Trimm’s version of the situation is markedly different. “There was almost no rollover from the previous administration’s budget, and as a way to cover shortfalls and cut costs, during the summer, my cabinet and I decided to substantially decrease the amount we allocate to co-sponsoring events in the new Trimm budget. We simply could not afford to fund the Brackenridge Classics Symposium and still have enough left over to fund the larger events in the future.”
However, Trimm’s administration pushed through a $1000 sponsorship of Fajita Fest as emergency legislation in April of last year, using the previous administration’s budget. Trimm supported Fajita Fest, a primarily Greek event that had been generally funded by Greek organizations, and spoke multiple times to the senate in support of funding the IFC event. Trimm confirmed that the money that went to Fajita Fest would have rolled over into his administration’s budget the following year.