The Undergraduate Student Government will officially convene its 2020-21 term this week, and like most classes, it’ll be online.
USG President Roaya Higazi said Zoom will replace the assembly room this semester as she and other USG leaders adapt what they learned when campus closed in the spring to face challenges both similar and new.
“We had to pivot very quickly, having difficult transition meetings through virtual modes,” Higazi, a fourth-year in city and regional planning, said.
Higazi said although she is accustomed to working virtually, online meetings — which she says often have 100 or more people — come with unique challenges.
“It is so much harder to engage with individuals and you really lose out on the social, community building aspect,” Higazi said. “You can’t even make small talk or talk to the person sitting next to you.”
Speaker of the 53rd General Assembly Nathan Rush, a third-year in finance and public management, leadership and policy, said online meetings have some benefits. He said the hand-raise feature on Zoom makes it easy to see who wants to speak, and members are less likely to speak over each other.
Rush also said online meetings can reach more students who otherwise would not be able to attend.
“There has always been a spot in the General Assembly for someone from one of the regional campuses,” Rush said. “However, in years past, since we had meetings in person, it was hard for that person to appear in person and that spot was filled by a main campus student.”
Through all this, Higazi said she believes USG can help the university uplift underrepresented students, and she plans on starting with extending the pass/non-pass option the university used in spring semester.
After USG passed resolutions advocating for the option to use a pass/no pass grading scale instead of a standard GPA scale in early March, the University Senate approved the pass/non-pass option for general education courses and electives in spring semester March 26. Individual colleges decided whether to allow students to choose the pass/non-pass option for major and minor courses.
Higazi said because the pandemic and the struggles it presents is still ongoing the option to take courses for pass/non-pass credit fall semester should remain.
“Since so many courses this semester are still online, we believe a lot of the same barriers still exist, so we are working with academic leaders to push for an extension to that policy,” Higazi said.
Rush said in his role, he plans on advocating for students in a different way — through making more of an effort to connect USG with the student body.
“I feel like a lot of the burden of outreach is on the students to come to us,” Rush said. “A lot of people don’t feel connected to what we do, and I want to work on being more representative of people on campus.”
USG General Assembly meets Wednesdays via Zoom.