During all 45 minutes of last week’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, one thing was made clear: SGA President Justice Horn is not waiting for anyone.
While it was business as usual for the other SGA senators and executive officers, Horn took what would have been a run-of-the-mill meeting in another direction. Time and time again during his presentation to the student legislature, he indicated his desire for the SGA to take up responsibilities and leadership roles once reserved for UMKC administration.
“We didn’t wait for change to happen,” said Horn as he outlined the steps he had already begun to take.
Horn’s primary focus is increasing the budget for student health and wellness services. The current Student Health and Wellness Fee is $4.85 per credit hour, capped at 12 hours. Horn proposed making the fee a flat $58.20 (the current maximum amount) for all students, even those who take fewer credits. According to Horn, this would double the current budget for Student Health and Wellness (SHW), which has been operating at a seven-year deficit.
In a more ambitious move, Horn proposed increasing the fee to $75 for all students, which he says would triple the health and wellness budget.
He justified the increase by giving a laundry list of benefits. With the proposed changes, he stated that SHW, which an estimated 60% of UMKC students use, could provide longer hours with increased availability, an on staff psychiatrist and nutritionist, more counseling services and greater emergency resources.
He added that the issue would be decided by a student referendum to avoid hoisting a burdensome fee on students without their permission.
“The fee hasn’t been increased in 17 years,” Horn said. He compared the increase to “preparing for a flood.”
The need expressed by Horn is closely in line with the narrative of UMKC administration.
“The demand on our counseling services over the past five years has almost doubled,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal in a previous conference with UNews. “Our students haven’t grown, but the demand has.”
Moving from student health, Horn reviewed plans to tackle a variety of other issues on campus. He highlighted the work of the UMKC Sustainability Committee, a group which, as Horn proudly stated, is the only of its kind on campus to include students, faculty and administration.
He moved the discussion to another committee, this one concerning parking at UMKC. Many would think of parking at UMKC, which UNews has frequently reported as loathsome to students, as the sole purview of UMKC administration. Horn, however, was optimistic, and said this committee would be at the center of policy change.
“We’re not here to wait for funding for our student organization,” Horn said. “We’re here to work for students.” The SGA and student organizations have faced budget cuts to the tune of $200,000 over the past year.
Citing a UNews opinion piece criticizing UMKC for alleged cover-ups surrounding troublesome issues, Horn promised a continued commitment to transparency in the SGA.
Horn then vented his frustration with the current state of UMKC culture. Reflecting on the oft-expressed adjective of “commuter campus,” he said, “I’m tired of hearing that; we’re going to change that.”
Those in UMKC administration, such as Agrawal, have forwarded their own plans to change campus culture and improve services to students. Yet the main takeaway from last week’s meeting indicated the SGA was prepared to take matters into its own hands and move its own way.
“We are part of [UMKC] history,” Horn said. He went on to say that the mayor of Kansas City, Quinton Lucas, had indicated to him that the current SGA would be honored and entered into the city record.
“It will become KC record, and state record and federal record, that we have brought change at UMKC,” concluded an impassioned Horn.
After Horn sat down, the final business of the SGA concluded (which included announcements for the upcoming Courtwarming and the appointment of the final SGA Supreme Court justice).