This story was written by Shayla Lamotte, The Daily Cougar
Student government leaders from 16 Texas universities will congregate Saturday at the capitol to resurrect a statewide coalition of leaders who act on behalf of all students of higher education across Texas - and the University of Houston Student Government Association is leading the pack.
As the voice of Texas university students, the Texas Student Association, originally created in 1948, plans to tackle all student-specific issues, such as financial aid and funding, rising textbook costs and student rights.
"It starts right now, we have to grow the student voice in this state," said Sam Dike, UH SGA President. "We haven't played an active role in higher education in Texas (lately), and this is a matter that affects us."
Several attempts to re-establish the organization have surfaced since it disbanded in the 1990s, but none have proved successful because of conflict between private and public schools. In 2006, student leaders began working to build partnerships between students and the state of Texas, and Saturday's meeting will be the first official attempt to revive the statewide association since St. Mary's University's 2002 effort.
The TSA will provide an arena for 16 Texas university student governments, including UT, Texas A&M, the University of North Texas, Sam Houston State University and Texas Tech, addressing local and statewide issues that affect Texas university students.
"I'm very optimistic about this group of leaders, the people in attendance are individuals who really want to make an impact," Dike said. "Even representatives who cannot make it are very excited about the coalition."
In addition to the SGA officers, two former TSA members, Trey Monsour, TSA President 1984-1985, and Isabel Nart, TSA vice president 1877-1978, will visit the capitol to speak about challenges the association has faced throughout its history and provide an in-depth look on what to prevent in the future.
For many student government leaders, the main focus is creating a solid group of leaders who will be successful in endeavors to address the needs of students.
"The main thing we need to accomplish is to get the government board in place in terms of how to run the association and ensure we will be able to come back together at a later time to make sure the legislatures know how students feel," SFA President Kent Willis said. "We will drive a lot of critical issues at hand, it would have been great had (TSA) been around before, but re-forming it will definitely be a successful venture."
Having an alliance with the University of Texas can also benefit TSA's existence this time around.
"In Austin, our proximity to the capitol allows us to be able to advocate for UT a lot," UT SGA President Keshav Rajagopalan said. "Now we can work collectively with different universities and have the ability to go the capitol on behalf of all Texas students."
On Saturday, the group will discuss their future plans, set long and short-term goals, as well as establish a schedule for any future meetings.
"I'm really thankful that UH is making an effort to put the TSA back together," Texas Tech SGA President Lee Bobbitt said. "It's important for all the colleges in the state of Texas to have a unified voice in legislation and the best way is to stick together."