Students’ needs are Student Government’s top priority this semester

Baylor University's Student Government mission statement. Christina Cannady | Photographer Photo credit: Christina Cannady

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

Amid another semester in a pandemic, Student Government has committed to working to help students have a better experience on and off campus. Many new projects are on the agenda for spring 2021.

Boerne senior Sutton Houser, student body president, said a new bill is in the works to restructure the Student Senate. In spring 2020, a similar bill was proposed, but was not passed.

“We still identified the same issues [as] last year’s student government,” Houser said. “We believe that our students in it are not as representative of the student body as it could be, and we’re working to fix that and really bring in aspects of diversity of experience and background and education.”

Just like in the fall semester, there will be a health and wellness week this spring, Houser said.

Houser also said one of the focuses of student health has been led by his chief of staff, Springfield, Mo., senior Katie Groves. Groves got a bill passed for free feminine hygiene products to be available in the basement of the Student Union Building. They are now available for students to use.

“In the SUB only right now, we’re going to be having those free dispensers for individuals and we are excited to really bring that to campus and see what that looks like, and then hopefully, things will work out well and we can expand that across campus,” Houser said.

Sierra Vista, Ariz., junior Gracie Kelliher, external vice president, said she is working on ways to connect students more with local businesses in Waco.

“I’ve started a new project called Why Waco Wednesday,” Kelliher said. “This is a social media campaign to help students get another perspective of ideas and hidden gems in Waco, and also to share student perspective … Ideally, every Wednesday, Student Government’s Instagram will highlight a certain student or a member of faculty and something that they love about Waco, whether it’s a recreational activity or a restaurant or a gift shop or a small business, or even just a location in Waco, just to kind of hear why our students have found places that they enjoy going in their college years.”

Kelliher said she wants to focus on sharing local businesses because COVID-19 has made business especially difficult for small restaurants and stores.

Another way Houser said they plan to help students is through the Student Care and Wellness Fund.

“The Student Care and Wellness Fund is a fund within student government that students can apply to when they’re going through difficult times,” Houser said. “You know, if you broke your computer and you have no money to fix it. If you want to find help paying for rent, we might be able to do that as well. So we have a lot of different areas that we can look into our student body and be proactive, not reactive, with issues, so that students can know that they can go to us for help.”

Houser also said they plan to help students financially with a program called Operation Graduation to help students who can’t afford a cap and gown.

“We identified that many students work so hard over four years, and get to graduation and don’t have the financial resources to buy a cap and gown because they’re expensive,” Houser said. “Then they can’t go to graduation. It’s just horrible for students to work this hard over this many years, put this much time, money and hours into it, and not be able to walk graduation because of a robe.”

This is the first year of Operation Graduation, and Houser said they will have 10 caps and gowns to rent out. If students after graduation want to donate their cap and gown to student government, Houser said that will help them expand it to help even more students.

Before the pandemic, the Student Allocation Fund was used to help student organizations host events. Now that not many events can happen because of the pandemic, Houser said they have been using that money to fund big renovation projects on campus.

“We’ve been able to fund a small part of a renovation in the Bear Pits,” Houser said. “I believe that will get started this semester. We also were able to almost completely finance the renovation of the first level in the SUB to have a Multicultural Coalition Offices for students to have their own space to meet, and the organizational leaders to meet as well with their teams. That’s also underway and should be happening this semester.”

Houser said the student government also is going to work on continuing to communicate with students better.

“We want to make sure that we’re available for them to come to us, but we also want to make sure we’re proactive and reaching out first, so that there’s less barriers to communicating with students,” Houser said. “I want to continue to see ways that we can help our students educational and overall experience”