Student Government Responds to COVID-19

Jackson Schneider, Contributing

The University-wide transition to remote learning has left student government leaders with a litany of new tasks, student concerns to quell and a postponed student government elections timeline. 

Student Government Elections Delayed, to Proceed Virtually

The Elections Board voted to postpone the Spring 2020 elections for positions in the Student Government Association (SGA), College Council (CC) and BBA Council, according to a March 21 email from Elections Board Chair Yiyang Mao (21B).

The dates for general voting will be April 2-5 with run-off elections taking place on April 8-9.

The extension was granted in light of the University’s transition to remote learning with the hope that it would give students “more time to get settled into the rest of the semester, and think about who [they’d] like to vote for.”

In an interview with the Wheel, SGA Vice President Candidate Mikko Biana (21C) stated that he was “glad” that the Elections Board has decided to postpone the elections. 

“It’s imperative that our community finds its footing in the midst of such a stressful transitionary period before there is any discussion of campaigning or student government elections,” Biana said. 

SGA Presidential Candidate Lori Steffel (21B) told the Wheel in a March 22 email that she was concerned that the change had been made “at the last minute” but ultimately supported the move because it gave candidates a chance to readjust to remote learning.

Oxford SGA elections were scheduled to occur the week after spring break but were delayed following the transition to remote learning. The tentative candidate registration deadline is March 27, with a week-long campaign period starting March 30 and elections occurring during the first week of April.

The Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) elections will continue as planned, with the absence of in-person campaigning, which GSGA President Cody Long (20L) noted would not have a large impact.

“Elections are becoming more virtual anyway,” Long said. “Unlike our undergraduate counterparts here at Emory, the graduate and professional student body is spread through so many schools … [that] the physical portion of our elections is actually diminished anyway.”

SGA and CC

CC President Jacob Hicks (18Ox, 20C) created an ad hoc committee to provide Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Enku Gelaye with a list of student concerns. The committee has also compiled a list of resources available to Emory students during the transition.

CC meetings will likely continue to occur over Zoom, but scheduling those meetings isn’t a priority right now, according to Hicks.

“Our immediate concern has just been helping students, managing concerns, dealing with the transition to remote learning as it relates to residence life and making sure people have the support they need, so we haven’t really thought through the internal logistics of it,” Hicks said.

One of those immediate concerns was providing students with Uber vouchers in collaboration with SGA. These single-use, $25 vouchers were established to fund travel for Atlanta students to or from campus.

SGA President Ben Palmer (18Ox, 20C) echoed Hicks’ focus on addressing immediate issues before scheduling regular remote meetings. Issues have involved funding the Uber vouchers as well as reassessing budgets.

“We’ve evaluated our budget … then asked our divisional council to look into their budget and see what is left over from things being canceled so that we can direct all of that into direct student support now and through the rest of the semester,” Palmer said.

SGA is exploring options to make their remote meetings available to the general student body, such as screen recording meetings or making them publicly accessible.

Oxford SGA

Oxford SGA has formed its own COVID-19 ad hoc committee, according to Oxford SGA President Rachel Ding (20Ox). The committee has advocated for free shipping boxes to be provided from the Oxford College Mail Center and Residence Life to students moving out and has installed food donation boxes in residence halls for students remaining on campus.

The first full body Oxford SGA committee meeting will occur remotely via Zoom on April 1. Ding emphasized Oxford SGA’s role in communicating the needs of students to administrators during these meetings and throughout the remainder of the semester.

GSGA

GSGA will begin remote meetings on March 25, according to Long. Long said that the move to remote learning has made GSGA seek creative ways to serve the student body. Some of these ideas are virtual experiences that students can attend remotely like fitness or cooking classes and a book club.

“We still have a budget, [so] we still have an opportunity to program and provide unique experiences to the graduate and professional students,” Long said

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