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Jimenez / Stduent Body President

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Interviewer: You mentioned your were the student body president at the University of Houston, can you tell us about that experience? How did you build momentum to become president at the University of Houston? Maria Jiménez: It goes back to some of the LOMAS and the MAYO people. Some of those people had been part of the student senate and they basically- when I started participating- they asked me to be part of the traffic court. Which, at the time was a very important court because we were sent all the tickets given to students to decide about the availability of parking spaces. Actually, I was an anomaly because it was mostly law students who were approved- and the more experienced Latino representatives – Jorge Rangel I remember- moved that I be appointed. So I was appointed to the traffic court by an accident of nature. All the law students graduated, so I became chief justice of the traffic court. So by this time the parking situation was very bad at U of H. Faculty members could park in the students spot but had no liability, but if a student parked in a faculty because they could not find any other place, you were ticketed. So, we were throwing out all the tickets under the 14th amendment – equal protection under the law. The faculty hated us. But did it to add some pressure. But we did it in that context. so the students that were interested in the presidency of the student association- which were the white- liberal progressives , came to me and asked me if I would run with the existing vice-president of the student association, Steve Umaf, with the understanding that in six months I would be president. They came to offer a political deal. It was hard because I had to go to the women’s groups and say “Listen I have been offered this.” I would be running with a man, so first place instead of me running. Both the black student union, and the Chicano union that I was running with a white guy instead of us running. But everybody began to the importance of the student association, especially the resources. At the time the budget was $86, 000. That was the student association budget, and were looking at what we could do if we had access to those resources. So everybody said “Yeah, let go ahead and run.” So, that was how the coalition was built. And it was the International student association, which was led by the Persian Student Association at the time. So we all basically put together the coalition and won- the white- progressive- we were running against the Christian sororities and fraternities on campus. Very white- very conservative. So we won, but once we were in office, Steve did not want to leave the presidency. But there was a scandal about some money he got for a friend of his, so he had to resign. So I became the president. It was an interesting experience. But we saw it more as how do we deal with the resources and giving back to the community. Interviewer: Do you see any changes besides pooling of resources? Maria Jiménez: Well, we created an ethnic department because the student association had different departments. This coalesced the black student union, the Chinese Student association, the international student association and us. We were able to shape a budget that gave permanent resources to programs out in the community. The other change was our ability to use it as a pulpit to influence policy. We were able to challenge the misappropriation of funds to graduate students So it was using it as a pulpit for the issues that were affecting students at the time. It was very controversial because my vice president, Paul Rigers, ran after I did and he almost did not get elected. But we had one hippie looking guy who just kind of sat around and smoked pot over in the trees. He held out. You had to have your student ID to vote, and he smartly held out- lost his credential. Went up there, they did not let him vote even though the Christian nominee said “Juan?” He challenged it in court as a voting rights act. So they threw it out and then Paul Rogers got elected. But it did leave a very controversial whole period, then the right wing students organized against us effectively- accept for this one guy who was low key until he challenged the vote. Then they threw it out and we got a second chance to organize once we understood where our weakness was at- getting all the hippies to vote, but you had to pull them to the polls.

Interview Interview with Maria Jimenez
Subjects Race Relations › Anglo-Mexican Race Relations
Race Relations › Race Relations with Other Ethnicities
Education › Higher Education
Education › Student Government
Law and Public Policy
Law and Public Policy › Voting Rights Act of 1965
Ideology › Liberalism
Student Activism › Student Organizations
Chicano Power › Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO)
Ideology › Conservatism
Tags University of Houston
League of Mexican American Students (LOMAS)
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Interview date 2016-06-13
Interview source CRBB Summer 2016
Interviewees Jimenez, Maria
Interviewers Enriquez, Sandra
Rodriguez, Samantha
Locations Houston, TX
Duration 00:06:55
Citation "Stduent Body President ," from Maria Jimenez oral history interview with Sandra Enriquez and Samantha Rodriguez,  June 13, 2016, Houston, Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database, https://crbb.tcu.edu/clips/4608/stduent-body-president, accessed November 22, 2019