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SGA seeks more no-smoking signs Plans town hall meeting on parking and transportation

By Andrea Torres | The Rider

Julian Verdream, financial affairs standing committee chair for the Student Government Association, discusses the status of the special travel funds during the standing committee reports Sept. 30 on the Brownsville campus. MICHELLE ESPINOZA/THE RIDER
Julian Verdream, financial affairs standing committee chair for the Student Government Association, discusses the status of the special travel funds during the standing committee reports Sept. 30 on the Brownsville campus. MICHELLE ESPINOZA/THE RIDER

The Student Government Association is requesting additional no smoking signs for the campus and has met with university officials on transportation concerns.

“We are working on trying to contact the right people so that we can get [no smoking] signs added notifying people that this policy is campuswide,” Kristina Cantu, campus life and community affairs standing committee chair, told the senate during its Sept. 30 meeting.

The smoke-free workplace policy, which is detailed in the school’s Handbook of Operating Procedures, prohibits the use of all smoking devices and tobacco products on university property.

During the Sept. 23 meeting, Cantu said the committee would meet with University Police on the enforcement of these policies after a student expressed concerns about people smoking near the Jazzman’s Café on the Edinburg campus.

Cantu said the committee is working on adding four signs in Edinburg and three on the Brownsville campus.

The committee also plans to host a parking and transportation town hall meeting. No date has been set.

This comes a week after Cantu told the senate that the committee met with Parking and Transportation Services and voiced concerns about transportation.

Parking and Transportation Services Director Rodney Gomez told the committee that the department is working on building bus shelters, purchasing bigger shuttles with a 40-seat capacity and hiring more drivers for Spring 2017, according to the minutes of the of Sept. 23 SGA meeting.

“We’re looking into obtaining four or five vehicles,” Gomez said in an interview with The Rider last Thursday. “We’ve already been hiring. I think we already reached our capacity. We have 17 drivers now.”

The department also plans to buy bus shelters, which will be stationed throughout the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses, which are funded by student fees and Valley Metro.

“We went and requested the funding back in the Spring of 2016 from the [Student Fee Advisory] Committee,” Gomez said. “For the buses and the shelters and also some bike racks, it was $210,000.”

Twenty percent of the funding comes from the fees and the rest is from Valley Metro. UTRGV has a capital contract with Valley Metro to provide transportation for the campus community.

Valley Metro is the transit department of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, which provides public transportation, in urbanized and non-urbanized areas of the region, according to its website.

As previously reported by The Rider, during the first two weeks of this semester ridership on the Vaquero Express was about 4,000 students.

Financial Affairs Standing Committee

The senate heard an update on the travel funds awarded for the first quarter, which is Sept. 1 through Nov. 30.

“We approved one group of 31 students from our tabled request from our last meeting and we denied 109 students,” said Julian Verdream, Financial Affairs Standing committee chair.

Delma Olivares, an SGA adviser and director of Leadership and Mentoring, asked Verdream what was the basis for the denial.

Verdream replied that the applicants were denied travel funds because of a lack of funds.

The committee divided the $70,000 travel budget, which comes from student fees, into quarters throughout the academic year for better administration of the money.

Each quarter, a total of $17,500 is available, said Denisse Molina-Castro, SGA president.

A student may receive as much as $500 for registration and hotel fees to attend a conference and up to $1,000 if they are competing at the event.

“However, if a student is traveling in a group as a competition the max that the group can receive, if they are more than two members, is $8,000,” Molina-Castro said.

Molina-Castro asked Verdream why the committee chose to give students and organizations only 15 days in each quarter to apply for funding.

He replied that the committee does not want to extend the application period because then it will get inundated with requests, as it did in the last quarter.

To apply for travel funds for the Dec. 1-Feb. 28 quarter, visit the SGA page on utrgv.com/vlink. The application period is Dec. 1-15.

The next senate meeting is scheduled at 2 p.m. Friday in Room 1.222 of the Biomedical Research and Health Building in Brownsville and Room 1.102 of the Education Building in Edinburg.

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