Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

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Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

SGA provides guidance on antisemitism and SB 17

Illustration courtesy of Student Government Association at UTSA

UTSA’s Student Government Association (SGA) gathered on Thursday, Nov. 16, for their second to last general assembly of the semester. Topics that were discussed included antisemitism occurring on other college campuses and how to prevent this from happening at UTSA, Senate Bill 17 and how it affects UTSA and the presentation of SGA’s strategic plan refresh. 

The meeting began with an open forum that allowed individuals to address or bring any issues or concerns on-campus to SGA’s attention. This way, the issues can be addressed and solutions can be provided. 

The first individual to speak during the open forum was Senator Madeline Snyder, who shared her experience after attending a workshop hosted by the Multicultural Student Center for Equity and Justice. The workshop was titled “Jewish student identity and antisemitism.” 

Snyder said that it was hosted by Rachel Sasiene, who works for Hillel International, an organization that works with Jewish students to ensure they have a community on their college campuses. She expressed that she was happy to represent SGA at the workshop, as Hillel shared a PowerPoint presentation with resources she deemed informative on the situation that has been occurring regarding Israel and Palestine within the last month. 

“I think it is really important as senators on this campus that we learn as much as we can so that we can be great representatives for all of our student body.”

Snyder proceeded by giving a summary of what was discussed at the workshop, emphasizing that there have been over 400 incidents of antisemitism on college campuses within the last month. “Let’s try to make sure that UTSA doesn’t become part of that statistic and keeps this campus open and safe for all students,” she added. 

Another senator mentioned during the open forum that they are still searching for a student representative for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Although the application has closed, the review period will last until Nov. 21, so there is still time to apply. Students who are interested in applying for the representative position should approach SGA President Zachary Nepote or Associate Dean of Students Jessica Dawson.

Moses Hernandez, who spoke at SGA’s last general assembly, then spoke on behalf of UTSA Housing to inform students that they recently met with SGA to discuss issues with hot water, trash and lighting. He explained that these issues should be fixed before or by the end of next semester. 

Hernandez also mentioned that UTSA Housing would be searching for volunteers to help with the moving process in future semesters, suggesting that it may serve as an opportunity for SGA senators to help alleviate resident assistants’ and students’ stress on move-in day. 

After the open forum had concluded, Senator Snyder introduced the first guest speaker, Dean of Students LT Robinson, to speak on SB 17 and how it affects the UTSA campus. 

SB 17, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, prohibits diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices, duties, training and statements in institutions of higher education. 

“This is similar to some other states that are outside of Texas,” Robinson said. “What we have noticed is that there are some exemptions within our bill that are a little more flexible than other states.”

These exemptions, which will remain unaffected by SB 17, include course instruction, guest speakers, data collection and scholarly research that is related to creative work by faculty, staff or students. Student organization activities, regardless of their involvement with DEI practices, are also unaffected by the law. Furthermore, the exemption applies to any type of policy, practice, procedure, program or activity that is directly related to the academic experience or a specific degree program, such as student success centers.

Robinson clarified that despite UTSA’s status as a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), recruitment and admission processes — along with the university’s HSI status — will not change. She also emphasized that heritage months like Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and Pride Month would continue.

After describing the various exemptions associated with SB 17, Robinson detailed some of the changes that will take place as the university works to ensure compliance with the law.

“At our campus, we have an office called Inclusive Excellence, and their biggest focus was [on] recruiting faculty of color and other underserved communities,” Robinson said. “They will no longer be able to do that work because that is part of what the bill originally was intended to remove. That does not mean that those individuals can’t be recruited; it’s just that the specific efforts designed just to recruit those individuals will have to change.”

In addition, the university will no longer be able to provide awards related to diversity, such as those “based on identity, race, color, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.”

Other changes include the termination of DEI statements and mandatory DEI training, although voluntary training may be available in the future. “We will be working departmentally to work with the details of what alterations, changes and what needs to continue,” Robinson said. “We’ll be able to give you all a fresh slate when you all return in the spring in January about what alterations needed to be [made] and what things we were able to keep.”

In explaining the various requirements of SB 17, Robinson stressed the importance of UTSA’s status as an HSI. “One of the biggest things that we are committed to is [ensuring] that we, as a Hispanic thriving university, maintain our mission while also remaining in compliance with the new law.”

After Robinson concluded her presentation and answered any questions or concerns, Nepote took the floor to present an update on SGA’s strategic plan refresh. The purpose of the strategic plan refresh is to go over what was previously presented to the university’s administration by SGA. This not only ensures SGA is held accountable for the goals they have set for themselves, but also recognizes the progress and accomplishments they have made as an organization. 

“A refresh plan gives SGA the opportunity to be real, recognize the successes, evaluate our focus, adjust how we operate and learn how to serve our students better. By being real, not only will we be able to achieve our goals, but we can be a little bit more conscious of what we need to accomplish,” Nepote said. 

He explained that when the expectations of the strategic plan refresh were established in July, SGA presented a set of values and a platform to the University Leadership Council (ULC), which consists of President Eighmy and his cabinet. The values presented to the ULC were philanthropy, representation, citizenship, academic success and professional development. 

SGA also presented a variety of goals to the ULC, such as improving student worker visibility, partnering with student organizations, extending campus partnerships and developing SGA members professionally. Nepote explained that each goal was affirmed by the ULC, meaning SGA has satisfied the goals and expectations of the strategic plan refresh so far. 

After concluding his presentation on the strategic plan refresh, Nepote shed light on some of the events that will be occurring within the next month as well as the spring semester. This included a feedback discussion on the strategic plan refresh in December that will be held hybridly due to final exams. SGA’s Earth Day event was also brought up, as it will be hosted by the sustainability fair sometime in April. 

The rest of the general assembly consisted of general announcements and the members of SGA going over previous events as well as impending news.

SGA Vice President John Quiorz notified members that their winter social will be occurring on Thursday, Nov. 30, and that it will serve as a gift exchange for those who want to participate. 

Quiroz also provided a more extensive presentation of what events to expect from SGA in the spring. One event mentioned was their 48th annual University Life Awards, which will take place on April 4 at a new undecided location. SGA plans to work with Student Affairs on planning the event and asks individuals interested in helping with it to contact Quiroz. 

The next SGA general assembly will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the Harris-Travis Room (2.202 and 2.212) in the H-E-B Student Union, and all UTSA students are welcome to attend.

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Amber Serio
Amber Serio, News Editor
Amber (she/her) is a senior majoring in English with a concentration in Professional Writing. After graduating in the Spring, she plans to attend grad school and further her education in English. Originally from a small town on the outskirts of Houston, she greatly values the art of writing and media, as this has been something she has wanted to pursue her entire life. Outside of the Paisano, you can find her spending time with her weenie dog Otis, thrifting, or reading a romance novel.

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    Mason HickokNov 22, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Solid reporting and good quotes.