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Safety first

A Student Government Association senate meeting took place Aug. 8 and resulted in the approval of two new resolutions. Written by SGA members Jonathan L. Salinas and April Martinez, the resolutions work together to make UTPA a safer and healthier campus.

 The first recommends reworking designated public smoking areas on campus. This means there would be zones on campus where students and faculty are able to smoke and do not have to worry about being 25 feet away from building entrances, as stated in the guidelines of the Handbook of Operating Procedures section 4.7.1. Also recommended in the resolution is the addition of proper cigarette wastebaskets. Currently, smoking is allowed at a minimum of 25 feet away from all building entrances. Martinez said there are five possible locations that she needs to further discuss with UTPA administrators.

 The second resolution recommends safer utility vehicle protocol. Stickers located on the bumpers that are similar to those that say “How’s my driving?” in addition to an ID and a phone number where students and faculty can report unsafe driving of all utility vehicles. According to the HOP section 8.8.6, “utility vehicles include, but are not limited to, golf carts, mules, Cushmans and electric vehicles.” Reports would be taken by University Police or the department that uses the utility vehicle.

Salinas, who created the second resolution, said he hopes the new golf cart safety protocol will go into effect by October of this year as there is no current protocol allowing students and faculty to report unsafe driving. In the HOP, drivers are only required to report accidents caused by the utility vehicle. However, there is no mention as to how a student or faculty member can report any unsafe driving they witness. Salinas hopes this new protocol will help prevent accidents by causing drivers to be aware that they are liable.

 “I hope to work on this during the month of September that way it’s done by fall and we can see the results of it,” the psychology major said. “You sort of have to get out of the way (and) have to watch out for golf carts, rather than them watch out for you and there’s something wrong with that.”

 His goal for the resolution is to make drivers think twice about ignoring the safety of the students, faculty and staff.

 “Part of the problem is that there is no particular or specific punishment guide for unsafe driving because it isn’t an issue,” Salinas said.

Currently, the HOP does not have policy that allows students and staff to report unsafe driving and the only punishment listed is the revocation of utility vehicle privileges in the department.

 The departments that would be involved in the creation of a new system for golf cart safety include the UTPA Police Department, Environmental Health and Safety and all departments that use the golf carts, such as workers of the Student Union. Salinas stated that the University Police would have the job of processing reports filed by anyone that makes a complaint.

DESIGNATED SMOKING AREAS 

Since 1964, 2.5 million non-smokers have been killed by second hand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Presentation.

 The resolution regarding public designated smoking areas was co-written by Martinez and SGA intern Mayte Vega. Martinez said students went to her with concerns for their health.

 Martinez also stated she witnessed students unknowingly violating campus guidelines by smoking less than 25 feet away from building entrances. She believes that both smokers and nonsmokers should be equally protected. With the merging of UTPA and the University of Texas at Brownsville comes the possibility of a smoke-free campus, according to Martinez.

“The University of Texas at Brownsville completely abolished smoking on campus so they are a smoke-free campus, and since we’re transitioning into UTRGV, the likelihood of us becoming a smoke-free campus is pretty high,” she said. “The purpose of this resolution is to have a smoother transition for students with smoking preferences.” 

 Both resolutions still need additional steps before being finalized, which makes the date of completion for each of the projects ucertain to Martinez and Salinas. Further steps for both students includes continuing to speak to UTPA administrators for the progression of the resolutions. All departments, faculty, administration and students needed in the advancement of both resolutions must cooperate to complete the objectives of having a safer and healthier campus. Even so, Martinez stated that students should “look forward to seeing progress being done.”

 Senate meetings for SGA take place every Friday at 1 p.m. in the Education Complex. At the meetings, students can speak to all senators about any concerns they may have. Students can also contact SGA online and leave their opinions about how they think the organization is doing.

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