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Brown, Butler and Sethre-Brink vie for EVP position

thresherelections3-01
Illustrated by Dalia Gulca

By Talha Arif     2/17/21 12:18pm

Three Student Association candidates — Hunter Brown, Jared Butler and Lily Sethre-Brink — are currently campaigning for the position of external vice president. Voting opens Feb. 18 at 12 p.m. and closes on Feb. 26 at 12 p.m.

The EVP is responsible for facilitating interactions and fostering communication between the

SA and external groups, organizations and individuals, according to the SA Constitution. The EVP is also responsible for assisting the president in representing the SA to the Rice community and soliciting input from SA members.



Reforms as EVP

Hunter Brown, McMurtry College SA senator, said the reforms he wants to implement would involve institutional change. One of those changes would be to establish seated SA representation on the Faculty Senate.

“We don't have any capacity to present our thoughts or findings to the Faculty Senate right now,” Brown, a sophomore, said. “Our ability to even access their meetings is a luxury … If we are not consistently talking to the Faculty Senate, all of it accomplishes nothing.”

Jared Butler, Lovett College SA senator, said he also wants to enact permanent representation on the Faculty Senate. Furthermore, Butler said he wants to address a lack of communication and a lack of shared stake in issues between the administration and the student body.

“[I want to] break down those institutional barriers that exist between the administrators, the Executive Council, the USC reps, the senators, and the rest of the SA, because I think that the silo-ing of information within certain groups, whether that be administrators or the Executive Council, is the ultimate cause of a lot of the disconnects that we see on campus,” Butler, a sophomore, said.

To break down some of those barriers, Butler said one of his ideas was to expand a project he spearheaded as an SA senator, involving a meeting for all of senate to discuss any barriers to implementing policies. Butler said there are a lot of smaller meetings like the president’s dinner and senators’ dinner that often result in prevention of everyone to be able to have shared information.

Lily Sethre-Brink, Baker College SA senator, said one of her planned reforms is to increase accessibility for students not in the SA.

“People in the SA are the ones that are often making decisions and are the ones that are in the room with administrators,” Sethre-Brink, a sophomore, said. “But students should be able to represent themselves … and so I want to focus on getting those students in the room so they can push forward their advocacy and organizing efforts and have success on their own terms.”

Brown said he also wants to increase accessibility for students not in the SA. According to Brown, all of the SA’s avenues for involvement are currently very time intensive for students and he wants to give students the ability to have their voice heard without having to promise months of their time.

Sethre-Brink said another one of her campaign goals is focused on intentionality. 

“Right now, the SA is often a very performative space. People are kind of saying things to say things, there's no real tangibility to the effects of what they're saying,” Sethre-Brink said. “So then you get a lot of empty statements for political clout, and Senate isn't actually a space to generate collective actions.”

To change this, Sethre-Brink said she wants to work with the rest of the executive team to ensure that urgent issues affecting campus are honest in an agenda, and to reach out to students leading efforts within organizations to also help shape that agenda.

Brown said that he wants to change the relationship between the Faculty Senate and SA. According to Brown, the administration uses the SA to communicate with the Rice body at large, and the SA is often expected to be complacent or to accept times in which the faculty makes decisions that actively endanger the student.

“Something we have to start doing as the SA is showing the faculty that we are not going to idly sit by and watch when policies we don't agree with are passed … [such as] when they want to make changes to the pass-fail system or provide academic accommodations that are by no means comprehensive enough to justify the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brown said. “We need to demonstrate the willingness to actively fight them on these matters.”

Butler said he wants to adjust how the SA works with senators.

“By working with the new senator cohort, I can reform the way that senators interact with their colleges, and the way that they interact with the executives and upper administration so that I can achieve my greater goal as EVP of breaking down a lot of those institutional barriers that exist between the decision-makers on campus and the greater Rice community,” Butler said.

Qualifications

Brown said he believes his experience and conviction make him qualified for the role. Brown served as a New Student Representative his freshman year and as a McMurtry SA senator this year. 

“Over the course of those two years, I have had a growing sense of frustration when it comes to the way certain things are operated inside of the [SA],” Brown said. “More specifically, our considerable issue when it comes to bridging this divide between what students are genuinely interested in and things the faculty wants to push on them.”

Butler said he is qualified because he served as a new student representative and SA senator at Lovett and has gained experience by working within the SA, such as with the Interpersonal Violence Policy committee.

“I think it is that experience, along with my general knack for policy and starting conversations about things that might be difficult to talk about, as well as advocating for the student body in any way that I can that I think qualifies me for the position of EVP,” Butler said.

Sethre-Brink, who worked in a SA refugee support task force her freshman year and is currently a Baker SA senator, said that she has a unique perspective because of her experiences both within the SA and outside of it. Sethre-Brink said she has an external mindset, which allows her to understand how the SA can be leveraged to support students and enact change rather than centering on it as an institution.

“[I am] always working with my colleagues, my co-organizers, getting as many people in the room as possible, and ensuring that we're doing things in the most equitable, accessible and inclusive way possible,” Sethre-Brink said. “And [I also ensure] that we're always engaging in collective decision-making, which I think can be very different from the way the SA operates and from how people view their roles within the SA.”



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