An Inside Look Into the UT Legislative Process
LSO Legislation...who is she?
Frequently, UT Austin students have ideas for things they would like changed or improved, yet don’t know how to bring those thoughts into fruition. Crafting legislation is that how - a formal process for students to present their ideas, support, and resolutions to the problems they see on the Forty Acres to campus leaders and stakeholders.
Writing legislation is the primary tool our Legislative Student Organizations - Senate of College Councils, Student Government and Graduate Student Assembly - use to improve the colleges, departments, and communities they represent. But far too often, this legislative process is closed off and secretive until the piece is ready to be voted on or showcased in The Daily Texan. Here’s your inside guide on the 5 major steps used to make a student-driven change at this University:
Find the flaw.
Change can’t be made unless you find something that needs fixing. It can be as simple as expanding the hours of an on-campus study spot or as complex as adding a new minor and major to your college’s degree offerings. No idea is too big or too small for legislation to be written. Whether a problem be within a college or University-wide, a student can propose an idea to address, as long as the idea is reasonable and is trying to fix a clear problem.
Talk with campus leaders about a potential solution.
Once you’ve identified a problem at hand, you need to begin discussing how you can improve the situation with fellow students and college administrators. An important part in sharing an issue students see on campus with college personnel is also sharing a resolution to the problem, so come prepared with a reasonable fix. For larger changes (i.e. adding new minors within CNS), significant policy and budget considerations might need to be made which means discussions will be more frequent and go on longer than for smaller changes (i.e. adding new resources tab to campus website).
Craft the legislation.
The scope of the change you are proposing will determine the type of legislative piece you will need to write; a college-specific resolution (e.g. a Natural Science Council Resolution) is appropriate for things pertaining only to one college, while a Senate or Joint Resolution is appropriate for topics that impact students from multiple colleges or the entire University. When writing your legislative piece, it is important to include points about what officials you talked to or supporting evidence for why this change should be made, but present these points in a concise and non-superfluous way.
Introduce the piece to your LSO.
Once written, it’s time to introduce your piece during an LSO’s general meeting/assembly time. You will share with the voting body what your piece is aimed at achieving, and how your previous discussions with college officials have garnered their support in its implementation. Questions and amendments will be made at this time, allowing the writer to refine the piece before the official vote on its’ passage.
The simplest of all the steps, this is when the LSO’s voting members cast their decision on whether they want to see the legislation’s proposed change become a reality. If passed, the writer will begin working with the campus officials they’ve met with prior to begin implementing the change. This implementation process can be just as long as the legislative process, requiring more discussion and meetings to plan the implementation of the proposed change.
Whether you are a first-semester freshman or a 4th-year Student Government representative, any UT student can propose and write legislation to better their college or the greater Forty Acres community. With an idea, big or small, legislation is your one-stop shop for making UT a better place and institution than you found it.