While preparing for the reopening of Texas A&M University-San Antonio, representatives from the Student Government Association worked as members of the Blueprint 2020 Student Success and Engagement Sub-committee, representing student voices and helping the university form the Community. Safety. TOGETHER. plan.
Allyssa Atkinson, SGA President, and Armando Alanis, SGA Vice President attended virtual meetings for the Sub-committee to help the university plan a safe return for students in the upcoming semester. During these meetings, SGA representatives shared students’ concerns which included the overall return to campus, social distancing guidelines and the campus’ mask policy, Atkinson said.
SGA represents the student body by working alongside university administration, staff and faculty to resolve any issues that students may face, according to Atkinson.
“We spoke really loud and proud to help the students of the university feel as safe as possible when they return to campus,” Atkinson said.
Throughout the pandemic, A&M-San Antonio made some adjustments to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with SGA recommending “some little tweaks here and there,” Atkinson said.
“The Student Success Sub-committee focused on preparations and planning to develop as well as to enhance student experiences in the safest way – in and out of the classroom,” Jeanette De Diemar, Vice President for University Advancement and External Relations, wrote in an Aug. 27 email to The Mesquite.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this semester will look “very different but not impossible,” Atkinson said.
A&M-San Antonio has adapted by moving most classes to online or hybrid learning with only 10% of classes hosted in-person, according to the Community. Safety. TOGETHER. website.
Universities like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill experienced an outbreak in COVID-19 cases after reopening, forcing them to move back to online instruction. Some Texas universities are beginning to experience outbreaks, such as Texas A&M University-College Station with at least 500 cases, according to data from the New York Times.
Social distancing guidelines have been enforced on campus with only two people allowed on an elevator at a time, maintaining a six foot distance from others and requiring masks. Cameras were also installed in some classrooms to record lectures to give the in-class feeling for those who are not comfortable attending in person classes, according to Atkinson.
“We are deeply appreciative of the contributions of SGA in the development of these programs and services as well as in their role in leading during the challenges of the pandemic,” De Diemar wrote in an email.
Students voiced their concerns to the association’s email, firstname.lastname@example.org, which is the organization’s preferred way of communicating, Atkinson said. Some students reached out personally to Atkinson and Alanis, while others contacted SGA through social media.
Atkinson and Alanis were also part of Operation Love Our Jaguars, a telephone service that was used to check in with students at the beginning of the pandemic, Atkinson said. Many students gave some feedback then and SGA has been receiving more now, since the campus has reopened.
Along with helping the university make decisions for the upcoming semester, SGA has made some adjustments of their own.
The association’s meetings for the fall semester will be conducted virtually, via Webex. SGA senate meetings will consist of senators from each college and will break down current issues.
The association hasn’t had in-person connection with each other since March after their trip to Houston for the Conference on Student Government Associations. They will still maintain an on-campus presence, with both Atkinson and Alanis being available in their office for students who have any questions, comments or concerns. Students will also be able to find SGA at upcoming campus events such as General’s Drive-In.
“SGA is going to make a presence everywhere and anywhere that they can,” Atkinson said.
The association will also continue Madla Maroon Mondays, when students are encouraged to wear maroon every other Monday, in celebration of Senator Frank L. Madla who contributed to the development of the university. They will also continue R.E.D. Fridays, in partnership with Military Affairs who hosts the event, where the university wears red to honor those who are deployed, serving or who have served in the military..
SGA is planning on ensuring that every student can reach out to their elected senator for their college, to relay any concerns, questions, comments or information that they may have, Atkinson said.
“We’ll be here and there, and wanting to advocate for the students wherever we can,” Atkinson said.