When Houston Junior College was founded in 1927 with 232 students and eight faculty members there was some form of student governance that would later become more formalized.
In 1934, Houston Junior College became the University of Houston, a four-year private institution under the control of the Houston Independent School District. The Student Association was then founded as the official voice of the student body. The Student Association included the Student Council which was comprised of the Presidents of all major campus organizations and the President of each class.
During the 1936-37 school year, UH administrators approached Hugh Roy Cullen, the university's first benefactor, who gave the initial gift that provided a permanent location for the campus. In 1937, the Editors of The Cougar and Houstonian were added to the Student Council.
In March 1940, the Student Assembly was formed to provide all clubs and organizations a voice in the governing process and moved the Student Association towards a "real" student government. The creation of the Student Assembly formed a bicameral legislative branch. The assembly consisted of two representatives from each recognized student club & organization on campus and served as the lower house of the legislature. The upper house of the legislature was the Student Council. All new legislation originated in the Student Assembly and was then passed on to the Student Council for consideration. The Student Association Vice President presided over the Student Assembly (as Assembly President).
In 1949, the Student Association Treasurer position was created. The following year in 1950, the Student Association Judicial committee was created with five members and an Attorney General.
1955 saw some more structural changes as the Student Council was renamed as the Senate and the Student Assembly as the House of Representatives to model the United States Congress. The Senate was comprised of one elected senator from each college and one from each class. The Student Association Vice President presided over the Senate (as Senate President) and the Senate also elected a Senate President Pro-Tempore and Parliamentarian. Furthermore, during this time the Student Association Vice President was in charge of the Elections Board. The Speaker of the House was elected by the student body and the House consisted of a representative from each recognized club and organization.
After many years as a private institution and with tuition skyrocketing, the University of Houston became a public institution in September 1963 due to the pressures of the rising costs of tuition. This major change created the modern-day UH and also formed the modern-day system of student governance. In 1963, the Students' Association established a unicameral legislature including the modern-day Senate. Senators were elected from each college based on the college's percentage of the overall student population. The Senate also included the then Organizations Board, Election Commission, University Center Policy Board, and Program Council, and the Students' Association President presided over the Senate.
During the 1969-70 school year the Senate voted to abolish itself due to a perceived lack of power but discovered that they could not due to state law.
In April 1985, the Student Program Board was created and added to the Students' Association structure reporting to the President.
During the 1988-1989 school year the Senate passed a bill that created the Metropolitan Volunteer Program (MVP) and called for MVP to be a fee-funded organization.
In 2000, the Students' Association was renamed to the Student Government Association (SGA). During this time SGA included the Executive Branch (President, Vice President, Director of Public Relations, Director of Finance, and Student Regent); the Legislative Branch (Speaker, Speaker Pro-Tem, Senators), and the Election Commission.
In 2005, Governor Perry signed legislation mandating that each public university board of regents include one non-voting student member on the board. This change shifted the student regent focus to system-wide governance and in 2006 when the first student regent under the new system was appointed the Director of External Affairs position was created to oversee governmental & community relations for SGA, duties the Student Regent formerly oversaw.
The Chief of Staff position was created in 2008 and after multiple variations, a judicial branch was officially re-established in 2010, including the positions of Solicitor General and Public Defender.
In 2012, the Department of Justice was created, including the positions of Attorney General, Solicitor General, and Public Defender (the latter two formerly in the Judicial Branch). The Election Commission changed reporting lines to the Attorney General.
In January 2014, Phase I of the University Center Transformation Project will be complete and the SGA Executive Offices will move to a new location on the second floor of the north addition. The north addition will also feature a new state-of-the-art Senate Chamber.
~ history written by Cedric K. Bandoh, Class of 2014
UH Student Body President, 2012–2014