Mia Cabello / The Paisano
“You can’t know what it was like, there was a bunch of students attending class and that was it,” said the first UTSA student body president — that was UTSA — in 1975.
One of the students attending classes in 1975 was the first student body president, Michael Tidwell. For Tidwell, who was fresh out of San Antonio College like many of the university’s first junior and senior class, the university classes — and setting — of the late 1970s was very different than the classes on the sprawling campus today.
Things were different, said Tidwell. “There were kids, but then there were a bunch of people who had been places, done things, fought in the war … it wasn’t just a bunch of kids on campus.”
The older student body sought enrichment outside of class; however, they quickly found that nothing had been established for them. “Students wanted things to do,” emphasized Tidwell.
During his first semester at UTSA, Tidwell acted as a founding member of the Black Student Caucus, and over the course of the semester he helped initiate other student organizations such as the Young Democrats of UTSA.
Yet despite the creation of many student organizations, many students remained unsatisfied with the lack of student events and organizations on campus. According to Tidwell, toward the end of his first semester many students organized to discuss the lack of activists on campus.
“After complaining about how bad it was for a few hours,” Tidwell recalled, “we realized that wasn’t going to do anything. So after that, we figured out a vehicle for getting to where we wanted to get.”
That vehicle was the Student Representative Association (SRA), an organization initiated by a committee of students and established through the support of the UTSA Dean of Students. The dean submitted the constitution of the SRA for approval by the UT Regents over the Summer of 1976 — and the SGA was formed.
Held during the fall semester of Tidwell’s senior year, the first student government elections were “a bit different,” Tidwell explained, because there was not student government to run the election.”
Not all of Tidwell’s constituents were thrilled with their new student-body president — or the election process in general. One student in particular, a graduate student named Jimmy Fisher, called Tidwell after the election.
Fisher, a representative of UTSA’s graduate school at the time, threatened Tidwell with a lawsuit that would conjoin him from taking office as student body president because of an allegedly illegal electoral process that discriminated against blacks and Hispanic students.
“I could tell you stories,” Tidwell laughed, recalling what he called — in good humor — the “Jimmy Fisher-Michael Tidwell saga.”
How does the saga unfold? As Tidwell tells, with a controversial write-in candidate, campaign sabotage and a motorcycle gang at a SRA hearing.
Tidwell’s adventures and involvement with student government segued into a legal career.
“It took away my reservations of speaking in public – in front of powerful people,” said Tidwell about his time as president.
He graduated from the University of Texas in 1981, and he now legally represents the U.S. Postal Service in Washington D.C.