Post Classifieds

Diego Lagos, SGA President

Lagos discusses his plans for the future, goals for the university

By Sarah Oyarce
On April 30, 2015

Diego Lagos by Sarah Oyarce / The Summa 

Why did you want to run for SGA President?

“I feel like I really understand the system. I have a lot of experience with it. So, with any organization it’s important to know the organization front to back. I feel like I do know it front to back. I know how far it can go and how far it can’t [go]. I’m well aware of the things SGA is capable of, and I know how far we can make it grow. But, I’ve also seen it kind of fail in some things because, you know, there are some things that we can’t change. I felt that it was important to have somebody as president who would know the organization in and out, who wouldn’t waste time pushing something that was never going to happen and someone who would make it grow to its full potential. And because of some of the mentors I’ve had such as past presidents like Jose Bolivar and some great outspoken senators like Landon Keating, Charles Molho, and John Skalko (current President of GSA) who have moved on to being lawyers, professors and successful businessmen. They have taught me a lot about what it means to genuinely care about the students, and being persistent to get good things done. Just watching them at work while they were here has been an incredible learning experience for me. I took all that in and applied it, so now I think I’m ready to give that back to SGA.”

So you mentioned some failures – Can you elaborate on that?

“Yes, so every year, SGA or the people running for SOC’s, promise a lot of things. So you hear things like, ‘Oh this year we’re going to really improve advertising for our club,’ or ‘We are going to have better attendance at events,’ or SGA candidates say, ‘I’m going to bring free printing,’ and I feel like we did see a lot of improvement in some places such as SAB, but other stuff we never see happen, we only hear about it, and it never happens. I know some people were talking about getting the parking fee discounted and we weren’t able to make that happen, if anything, I hear that it’s going up. [As an alternative,] we had this lottery where we gave 30 students parking passes. But, the failure was not being able to reduce [the cost of parking passes.] Another thing was free printing – we tried to come up with an alternative where we would allocate $5,000 to the library and the first 1,000 students to claim it would get $5 worth of printing in their account. This alternative was not enough for the students, and it was turned down because we want free printing for everyone, and not just $5. Other colleges have it, why don’t we? People have tried to do these things, and we’ve seen it fail throughout the years. Also, the lounge areas – There’s been a lot of talk about renovating them. In the old bookstore, we invested some money and got a pool table and a foosball table – Two months later, because people moved [the tables] for meetings, they got destroyed. We’ve tried to make things happen, but when you don’t go into it with a clear plan and when you don’t go into it knowing all the factors that play into it… it’s going to get turned down, ruined, destroyed... So, those are some of the failures we’ve seen. I’ve [been] trying to work out solutions to these problems, concrete solutions that can happen now. Yes, it’s important to think long-term, but long-term has to happen now.”

Do you have any solutions that can combat these failures?

On printing:

“I pick battles that I know I can win. If I know I can’t win, I’m not even going to mess with it because it’s just wasting our time, making false promises and doing things that lead to nowhere, like we’ve seen in past years. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of great things have happened in previous years, such as concurrent enrollment, which will save students thousands of dollars by allowing them to take classes over the summer in community colleges or less expensive schools and transfer over the credit with some restrictions and conditions, but I’ve seen a lot of people waste their efforts on some things. Like I said, we need concrete solutions that are happening now so for free printing – We’ve tried various solutions with different departments but have not gotten very far, so my solution, my more concrete ‘now’ solution, is to invest in an office quality printer. SGA has the money to get a good, quality printer that can knock-out about 10,000 pages a month. We do have the power and the money to do that. I’ve already started researching with printing companies for options and donations. However, [we also] need to regulate it… We were thinking about placing it [in the SOC Lounge aka Fishbowl in Crooker], and using it only when there are senators or officers around to monitor [the printer] during office hours and even later on some days just so there aren’t people printing books and next thing you know, we’re out of toner, we’re out of printer and we’re out of money. I think that we can do this, we can purchase [the printer] over the summer and monitor it during the year and keep it going with the SGA fund.”

On lounge areas:

“In my executive budget, I already have a certain amount allocated to renovating some of the lounge areas, which is something that we have been doing overtime, such as the pool table, arcades, foosball table and TV in the Old Bookstore. In the Parking Garage Lounge, that we want to transform into “The HoUSTon Lounge” we added a Keurig machine with K-cups in the vending machine for $1 thanks to Senior Senator Nick Tranum, the white coffee table, the red leather couches, the outside patio chairs and tables and, at some point, a phone charging station that was reallocated due to abuse. In Guinan we co-funded an 80 inch HD flat screen television and a high-quality sound bar that prospecting students find attractive about our dorm’s lounge. But, all this is not enough. Other schools have nice coffee shops or even bowling alleys and movie theaters – What do we have here? We have the old bookstore with a broken pool table pushed to the side, we have [the ‘Fish Bowl’ in Crooker] with an unwelcoming design, or we have the Moran where we can no longer get our post work-out protein smoothies and pre-midterm coffee. These three places are the only places we have for commuters who make up the largest part of the university … These are the only spaces we have [and so] by looking at the three spaces together and having conversations such as, ‘Well, what is this space going to be used for? Is this going to be a meeting place or is it going to be a lounge? Is the [Fish Bowl] going to be just a study space or is it going to be a welcoming lobby where you can come talk to the SOC leaders and begin getting involved?’ That is a vision I have for the [Fish Bowl] – Somewhere to come and study, relax, talk to your student leaders if you have complaints or ideas. As for the Parking Garage Lounge, or the HoUSTon Lounge, maybe, being able to study and buy your coffee there seemed like a good purpose. So,  just defining the spaces and asking questions such as, ‘Do we need better lighting in here?’ and maybe putting in stations for charging your phone, a TV or more comfortable seating. These are the questions we need to answer correctly to give the students a campus culture that truly welcomes them to stay.”

How are you encouraging student involvement?

“We’re hoping that in making these spaces more open, getting these things done during the summer and advertising that we have free printing, hopefully, we will be able to attract and inspire more students to stick around and become interested in the school they invest so much in. [There’s] a big problem with branding those student areas, and that is where our public relations officers come along. We really need to give them a clear vision so they can do their job properly. And to have it done before the year starts so the new class and the people coming back [will] see changes happening [and] feel comfortable with the space and know that they can come here to talk to us. All of our meetings are open meetings, so anyone is welcome to join every Tuesday [during] activity period. We want students to come visit us, hear what we’re doing and voice their opinion through their senators because that’s how it’s supposed to be. However, that comes from the top down I’ve noticed. The leaders of the organization have to put those ideas and that clear vision in the minds of the senators or else it just doesn’t happen. It is one of the primary unofficial jobs of the president to keep ideas and motivation running through Senate in order to keep SGA running strong. We have [also] had some surveys in the past – some of them have been successful, others [not so much]. Actually, with the smoking policy, we did have a survey and the majority of students were in favor of banning smoking [on campus]. Some senators have put that together, passed that to administration and they’re working on that now. But, I think the strongest thing is word-of-mouth – Having senators that are outgoing, not necessarily popular, but who are not afraid to ask questions and get opinions from their friends and come to the meetings and tell us their constituents are asking for. I saw a lot of that this year. I was able to rally people to do that. I would say that the strongest wing of SGA is the senator army that we have, you know, the foot soldiers that go out, collect the student’s opinions from the different classes and then bring them back to our meetings to be discussed and transformed into solutions.”

What kind of leadership do you want to bring to SGA?

“I wish to bring creative, fearless, motivational leadership. I am just ready to inspire because I was inspired. There were some people that have had such an impact on me and made me want to help, made want to do much for the students and made me come up with ideas on how to make things better. I was always looking for something to fix. So, that’s what I want to give back. I want to inspire the Senate to be very creative, energized and motivated. I want to fill them with that desire to go overboard in how much they do [and] how far they take their position. So, that’s the kind of leadership I want to bring. I want to make [SGA] very open, and I want people to feel like there’s no question that we’re giving back and that your student activity fee is definitely coming back to you.”

What is the biggest thing you want to change at UST?

“The biggest for me is the access to recruiters and job opportunities. The whole concept of ‘What am I going to do after college?’ It’s almost like in Finding Nemo, where you have the ‘drop-off.’ You know, you’re in college, you graduate and then you’re just like, ‘Now what?’ From what the students tell me, there is not enough of a network, like an actual ‘net’ to catch them when they reach the ‘drop off,’ a network to take those graduates and connect them with the proper people, the proper recruiters, and make sure that they’re getting jobs and not two or three years later but right away. That needs to be something that is actively happening. For me, that’s the biggest thing, and that’s why every single person is here, to get an education, and to get a job. Maybe the students aren’t trying hard enough to access the resources Career Services have, but either way – it does not matter what is impeding it, what we need to do is expand it. If we need to contact more recruiters, if we need to work with Career Services to get more people [to help], [if we need] more job fairs – if that’s what we need to do… let’s look into it, let’s inject it with what it needs. Do we need to invest more money in it? Do we need partnerships? Find out what that is and then do it so we can have that structure. That’s where I want to focus because of stories I have heard from recent graduates and because I have seen the network they have at other schools. Dean [Beena] George from the Cameron School of Business is doing a magnificent job at this with business students, and I believe this effort needs to be seen campus-wide.”

Some students have complained about Crooker cafeteria and Subway closing times. Is there anything happening to fix this?

“We have already started talking about that with Crooker dining and amongst ourselves. That has been a complaint all semester. Some of the options we’ve looked at are maybe seeing if they can hire a work-study for students to work Crooker during extended hours… I think that’s definitely a viable option. We already have students working there. We have a senator who works at Subway and we have another student that works in Crooker as a cashier so why not? One of my friend’s at UST works at a local restaurant and has to close the restaurant at the end of the day. If he is given the responsibility to close a $100,000 business every night and make sure it’s safe, why wouldn’t you give the same responsibility to a student here on campus over a couple of snacks? But, it’ll have to be a discussion we have more directly.”

Any initiatives in the works in regards to scholarships and financial aid?

“We have talked about scholarships and the tuition increase every year. For the most part, those things are beyond our direct influence, so the only thing to do would be passing resolutions, meeting with President Ivany and asking the right questions, such as, ‘Why does tuition continue to increase?’ Those are just conversations that need to happen [and] resolutions that need to be passed. We can present a resolution to [prevent the raising of] tuition for a certain amount of time. Since we cannot directly impact scholarships, we would have to request these things through our Senate resolutions. On a smaller scale, [we’ve been] passing more resolutions for the textbook grant that we had. We gave about 25 students $200 for textbooks. And doing that every semester, if we think it’s necessary.”

Have those conversations with administration happened in past years?

“We have definitely talked about tuition with [President] Ivany. We have been informed that the university has many plans of expansion such as new programs and professors with higher degrees. These among other factors drive the cost up. Either way, that burden can fall on our student loans, on our parents and even on ourselves if we are working three jobs to stay in school. I have seen some of my friends transfer out because of this. This is why we must always be clear on where we stand on this and discover new forms of income from donors, partnerships and sponsors.”

Are there any other major initiatives in the works?

“Advertising, printing, lounge areas and jobs – I think those are my biggest ones.”

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?

“I want to leave behind what was left behind to me, which is a network of inspired, motivated, ambitious individuals who want to see change and who aren’t afraid to speak up and not just to speak up and complain but speak up in action – to go get something done.”

Is there anything else you would like to tell the student body?

“I would say to make sure you’re holding the people you vote for accountable and to hold them with very high expectations. Check up on them. Make sure they’re doing what you expect them to be doing. A lot of times I see too many people getting away with too much. I think that’s unacceptable. I think if students took the initiative to find out what was going on then the leaders would be driven to do more. So… you know, help me out and hold me accountable. Keep me going. Don’t let me fail you. Don’t let me break my promises.”

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