SGA shifts focus, adapts to COVID-19 restrictions

SGA COVID-19

Article Originally Published by Brooke Colombo on North Texas Daily

Vice President Deana Ayers leads the SGA meeting on Mar. 4, 2020.

With meetings limited to less than 10 people and few students on campus, the Student Government Association will adjust how they advocate for students, how they conduct senate meetings and its election process.

Some students saw a cut to their work hours or lost their job due to COVID-19. Vice President Deana Ayers said SGA is shifting its focus to help advocate for financially-struggling students.

“I’m going to be leading the way to call for a rent freeze for four months or basically for the rest of most people’s leases,” Ayers said. “We’re seeing if we can provide funding to students using … Eagle’s Nest money that we obviously can’t use for conferences or campus events.”

All of SGA’s events, such as its Sexual Assault Awareness Week of Action and upcoming town halls, are canceled. With new goals, Communications Director Noah Hutchinson said SGA launched a survey to gauge student needs.

“We just want to get a feel for what the student body is thinking, what concerns they have, what obstacles they’ve run into and then what they expect from the university moving forward,” Hutchinson said. “On Friday, we’ll be really diving deep into that and looking at what trends we see and what [students] want to do moving forward.”

SGA will conduct all of its meetings through video conferences, live streams, email chains and other online means.

“I just want to make sure that everyone is able to stay healthy and safe and not have to worry about an extracurricular obligation,” Ayers said. “There’s definitely still that ability for a senate to advocate for students while also making sure that they’re taking care of themselves and not putting themselves at risk.”

Hutchinson said SGA still wants students to have access to the association and is figuring out ways to ensure that while still abiding by chamber rules that dictate who can speak when.

“With the senate meetings, what we’re wanting to do is make them accessible to the student body,” Hutchinson said. “It’s just figuring out how to mute people or how to turn different things off so that way it’s just senators speaking when senators need to speak.”

SGA’s spring election was also changed as a result of COVID-19 developments. The election calendar was pushed back a week and some election events will transition online.

“We are trying to limit as much contact as possible between our candidates,” Election Commissioner Louis Benitez said. “Our electorate meetings are going to be done through Zoom. We’ve also given them the option, if they cannot show up to any of these scheduled meetings, they can set up a meeting.”

While the election itself will not change, as students vote via a link to their email, Benitez said he believes the campus closure could still negatively impact voter turnout because students will be less engaged with university affairs when they are not on campus.

“We’re going to be trying harder to get out voting through social media platforms and the email system to make sure that all students have access to this,” Benitez said. “We’re just trying to work around that and adopting the best response.”

Featured Image: Vice President Deana Ayers leads the SGA meeting on March 4, 2020, meetings are now held online due to an increase of COVID-19 cases in Denton County. Image by Oscar Lopez

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Source: North Texas Daily