UTRGV student body to vote on football, other programs in November

The UTRGV sign on the Brownsville Campus near the Student Union. (Courtesy: David Pike | UTRGV)


EDINBURG — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Student Government Association approved the language for a referendum and set a date for the students to vote on whether to begin a football program, among others, at the university during a meeting Tuesday evening.

The referendum also proposes a women’s swimming and diving program, and marching bands on both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses, among other expansions. It would also increase the athletics fee to $11.25 per credit hour, capped at 12 credit hours, and would start in fall 2022. It would not affect current students, UTRGV officials said.

The SGA set the dates for students to cast their votes for Nov. 8 through Nov. 10.

“Congratulations. This is a great moment. This is a legacy moment for our institution,” Chasse Conque, UTRGV vice president and director of athletics said following the vote. “We have work to do with the referendum over the next couple of months. We’ll work closely with the elections committee and the process that’s in place with our referendum policy on campus.

“We have a chance to do something very, very special,” he added.

Maggie Hinojosa, senior vice president of strategic enrollment and student affairs echoed Conque’s enthusiasm about the SGA’s decision.

“It’s really humbling and it gives me great pride to be your vice president to see your level of professionalism,” Hinojosa said. “But even more importantly how you tackle any type of situation with grace and emotion, and with a true understanding of wanting to know the impact of the students. It is a historic day, and we look forward to working with you and all our students on our campuses in moving this forward and answering any questions moving forward as we look forward to not just the future in the next couple of months, but the future for generations to come.”

The massive project is more than just about sports and marching bands, UTRGV Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque previously told The Monitor.

“It’s about a bigger vision for our institution and the strategic planning process, which is to look at campus life and the entire student experience, to be able to create that sense of place.”

UTRGV officials expect that as the full-blown project gets put into action, it will help with recruiting, retention and graduation rates. It will also offer a minimum of 500 additional opportunities for student involvement.

However, with the programs coming on board in 2024 and 2025, both Conque and Hinojosa acknowledge the importance of making sure the correct and detailed information is shared with students. Most of those enrolled today will be finished with their college days when the programs begin.

“Many recognize they may see these programs are coming online after their college experience is finished,” Conque said. “But we have such a large portion of our graduates that stay here in the Rio Grande Valley to the tune of nearly 80%. So our message to them is that this isn’t just about the student experience but the entire UTRGV experience, students or proud alum.

“They will benefit from the fruits of the proposal for this as an alum, just like our new students will. That’s an important part for our student body to understand.”

Hinojosa added that the university takes pride in being No. 1 in the country for lowest student debt and kept that in mind when looking through the budget and its process.

“We are always thinking about the student and how does a particular decision impact them from academics to something like this,” Hinojosa said. “We always want to offer an experience that is all-encompassing. We are a very unique institution that spans multiple campuses across a pretty large area.”

University officials presented that plan to the SGA at the end of August. There are guidelines for a referendum that are very specific to work within a certain time frame. If the student body passes the referendum, it will then go in February to the Board of Regents for final approval.

“Students have a unique opportunity to shape the future of UTRGV,” Hinojosa said. “Not a lot of student bodies get that opportunity. The current student body will be laying the foundation for generations to come.

“As I told them when we made the presentation — don’t forget August 31, 2021. That is the day we started and you get to say you were a part of it.”

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