With new guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, student organizations that typically require large in-person gatherings have been forced to adapt. USD’s Student Government Association is among the organizations that have had to make changes.
Carter Larson, SGA Vice President, said the organization is working to adapt to the new guidelines which limit venues to 30% capacity to promote social distancing.
“Similar to everything else, SGA will look a little different this year because of COVID-19,” Larson said. “We will have six meetings in-person and six virtual meetings.”
SGA’s in-person meetings this year will be held in the MUC ballroom instead of the typical meeting location in the Freedom Forum. Masks will be required, and with the gallery limited, meetings will be live-streamed to ensure they are open to all students.
Abuk Jiel, SGA President, said the organization is ensuring that meetings remain open to the public despite these guidelines.
“Our main focus of what we want to do this year is making sure that students are still able to access everything virtually,” Jiel said. “We don’t want to pressure students to come to meetings, but if they do want to access in person, they still have the ability to, following all the guidelines that we have put into place.”
Other SGA resources are also impacted by the change in campus life. Senator office hours will be limited and Campus Leader Mixer events will be held online.
Additionally, SGA’s legal aid will be hosted online, with office hours from 11:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays on Zoom.
Jiel said SGA’s top priority this year is being a support system for students on campus by making sure student organizations are still able to host the educational events they normally would maintain a sense of campus community.
“Student life is the biggest part on college campuses,” Jiel said. “Going through this whole pandemic, it just goes to show that when students don’t have that connection with their friends, or even something as simple as being able to go to these events together, that kind of diminishes people’s outlook on what the year could look like.”
Another goal, Jiel said, is to push the topic of diversity and inclusion on campus. In the wake of a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, Jiel said she wants to promote conversations and events that help Black and Native students on campus feel included.
“With everything going on, you see that a lot of students don’t feel as supported, and that doesn’t just go to say, for our African-American students, our Black students but also our Native students,” Jiel said. “I really do think that once we have these conversations there is a way for change, and I’m looking forward to that this school year.”
Jiel said this year is full of challenges for SGA, in continuing to make sure that every student can succeed while also being conscious of public health.
“In general, I think, it’s not necessarily the question of what we can accomplish,” Jiel said. “It’s how we can make life better for students, especially with this pandemic.”