Zachary Nepote elected new SGA president

Gauri Raje, News Editor

SGA executive director Zachary Nepote was elected the new student body president this month. 

“I’m very, very excited to get started with the fall,” Nepote said. “We’ve begun work already upon my election. We solidified the transition [early]. We are beginning our planning for the fall semester.”

Over the next academic year, Nepote plans to focus on three main goals — the student worker visibility initiative, increasing student organization engagement and expanding open education resources (OERs).

Student worker visibility initiative

Nepote got to represent UTSA at the UT System Student Advisory Council, where there was a system-wide discussion around student workers, including ensuring there is a voice for the latter. 

“I would like to create a forum for student workers who are need-based students, typically students who are middle class or lower income, to be able to discuss their working conditions in an anonymous manner,” Nepote said.

Nepote explained that this would be different from going through HR, which can be “daunting” for students who lack access to legal representation or don’t know exactly what is happening. 

Increasing student organization engagement

Student organization engagement is something Nepote described as essential for SGA.

“It has to be a consistent goal for the student government,” Nepote said. “We have to constantly [be] out there representing the students.”

Nepote plans on accomplishing this by appointing liaisons from “specific underrepresented populations to university-wide councils and to committees” while also working alongside organizations. 

Expanding open education resources

Finally, when it comes to expanding OERs, Nepote wants to work with the university to ensure high enrollment classes have access to OER resources. Nepote also wants to ensure there is an increased dialogue between students and professors, letting the latter know the “demonstrated need of students for low cost or free textbooks in these high enrollment classes.”

Sustainability initiatives on campus

Nepote was also asked about environmental concerns and implementing green policies on UTSA’s campus. According to Nepote, SGA appoints student representatives to university-wide committees for student input. SGA also engages with the Council of Sustainability. Furthermore, Nepote has also personally worked with the organization’s sustainability director. 

“There are mediums and channels to engage with administration with regards to sustainability,” Nepote said. “I also encourage students to talk to the student government association regarding our efforts with sustainability.”

“I myself have always [been] supportive and advocating [for] green issues,” Nepote added. “I would like to work with the Council of Sustainability more to see what options we have as a university but also what they have planned in the future in terms of sustainability and find ways that we can complement each other in our initiatives.”

Voter turnout and engagement

As previously reported, SGA’s student voter turnout decreased from 2.45% last spring to 1.82% this year. Nepote addressed this, adding that the organization changed its approach to the elections this semester, focusing more on outreach like candidate rallies, campaigns and debates. 

“With that, I would say it was a learning curve — learning how to truly campaign in comparison to tabling and handing out stuff as a transaction for votes,” Nepote said. 

Nepote further discussed the organization’s overall engagement with student organizations.

“There are two clear goals that I am going into my role with,” Nepote said. “First, ensuring that our organization has the leadership and professional development training [so that they know] how to be Senators and represent our constituents [in] the best means. And the second part of that is us getting out there and being involved.”

“This would increase our presence on campus at events throughout colleges, and this would, in turn, increase our awareness as an organization and our participation,” Nepote added. 

Nepote also addressed criticism of the organization’s effectiveness in terms of actually getting things done and making sure students are aware of those things.

“I think that as [a] university with approximately 34,000 people, it would be nearly impossible for every single person to know who we are as an organization — which is one of my goals this year is for us to get out there and increase our presence so more students do know what we’re doing,” Nepote said. 

According to Nepote, SGA has been working on several tangible projects concerning menstruation, student health and access to resources. 

“I encourage those who are curious of what we’ve done over the past year or even past two years to visit [our] Instagram but also come to our general assembly meetings and ask us these questions [during] open forum so the people who worked on these projects can give you the most concise or direct answer to whatever question that [you] may have concerns with,” Nepote said. 

“It’s just kind of creating that dialogue both ways and balancing it, of course,” Nepote added.

However, despite these criticisms, Nepote chooses to be a part of SGA to “give back to [the UTSA] community” and help students who come from similar backgrounds as Nepote.

“Through SGA, I have been able to accomplish my goals of being in the community and talking to students and talking to administration over issues that concern the student body,” Nepote said.

Budget and spending

Nepote was also asked about the SGA budget, a copy that was obtained by The Paisano. Upon inspection, the budget includes sizable expenses that could be seen as ineffective use of funds. 

“SGA’s budget has been spent either on professional development or for the outreach, events and programming that we put on as an organization,” Nepote said. “All of our spending does get reviewed by the director of students activities and their accounting department. And we have people who are going through and ensuring that there [isn’t] anything that would be contentious. Also, I’m very fortunate that we work with Chantea` Swinson-Rhoe, our advisor, who is no-nonsense and is constantly reviewing our budget.”

“In terms of criticism, I think it’s always a misconception and misunderstanding,” Nepote added. “When you’re unaware of processes or orgs or who you’re meeting with, we don’t have the best conception of things. So it just comes down to encouraging our community to come out and talk to us and, if they have these concerns, to sit down with us and we can go through them.”

Engaging with admin

As president, part of Nepote’s job will include continuing engagement with admin and conveying student feedback to the former. 

“In terms of navigating with administration, it’s important to recognize that there are processes and systems that we all have to learn about,” Nepote said. “And so, in order to adequately balance the needs of the students with the concerns of administration, it comes down to being understanding and willing to explore alternatives.”

Nepote emphasized the importance of knowing the appropriate procedures or norms when it comes to engaging with administration.

“As a public institution, we can’t necessarily just request anything we want because of [limits], whether it be budgetary constraints or administrative constraints. It’s important that we understand the processes and that we’re able to balance them appropriately so that we can get stuff done,” Nepote added.

“The student government association is responsible for being the sole voice of the student body to our university administration [primarily by] appointing students to councils and committees, participating in outreach and programming, [and] providing support to student organizations through our Leaderfund,” Nepote concluded. 

SGA’s final general assembly of the month will take place at 5:30 p.m. this Thursday in the Harris and Travis room at the H-E-B Student Union.