SGA briefs on university’s COVID-19 testing plans

Senate confirmed two new senators, approved budget for next year, tabled two amendments

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The Slippery Rock Student Government Association’s (SGA) formal meeting Monday night turned into its busiest of the year with eight motions and discussion about the ongoing response to the pandemic.

Speaking to the Senate on behalf of the SRU administration, Chief Student Affairs Officer David Wilmes discussed the challenges of the semester and the actions the university has taken to keep students safe. The plan, which is an effort to move toward more in-person events during the current semester and a more normal schedule come the fall, relies on the university to conduct regular testing and the community getting vaccinated.

While vaccinations have been off to a slow start, with an estimated 8.6 million doses being distributed weekly according to the White House, that number is expected to increase to 11 million in a few weeks. However, that may not matter when it comes to SRU due to the designation of the vaccines available in the U.S.

“You cannot require someone to get an emergency-use vaccination,” Wilmes said. “So, at this stage, it is not our plan to require vaccinations of students.”

Wilmes added that if the status of the vaccines were to change and become required, he thinks students would still be able to apply for exemptions just like with other vaccines that are required by the university and law.

As for testing, Wilmes said the university can only require students living on-campus and athletes to be tested, but students living off-campus should get tested as well. Last semester more than 80% of COVID-19 cases were from students residing off-campus, according to Wilmes.

Testing on campus, while free for students, is not widely available yet. SRU was supposed to have testing ready by Jan. 19 but setbacks caused the university to push the date back to Feb. 15, all while allowing students to move in.

Getting into the new business of the night, the Senate tabled two by-law amendments that would require Senators to attend two diversity trainings per semester and one required course focused on mental health.

Both motions were tabled due to vague language used in the amendments. In the case of the diversity amendment, Sen. Dean Chasser suggested that Senators only be required to do a yearly training.

“I didn’t know if [yearly training] would be a better alternative to forcing senators that may or may not have particular interest to be in that particular event,” Chasser said. “They may or may not get what we would like them to get from those events.”

Although the motion was tabled, Sen. Madison King was the lone objector. King said she did not see why Chasser’s idea and the motion could not coexist.

“That seems like something that we could come back to in the planning process of actually how to execute this,” King said. “But in the meantime, still implement something that is an important change that has been long discussed.”

The Senate also confirmed two more Senators, bringing the Senate body total to 34. Sens. Emily Sarver and Karlee Satterfield were sworn-in for At-Large seats.

Sarver, a sophomore exercise science major, said she was beyond excited to join the SRSGA and help improve the SRU atmosphere.

The Rocket reached out to Satterfield but did not hear back before publication.

The body also confirmed Vice President of Student and Academic Affairs Leif Lindgren as a member of the election commission. The commission, chaired by King, has not set a timetable for the upcoming election.

SGA also approved its 2021-2022 budget. Set at $2.5 million, the budget will return to its previous funding level. Last year, the Senate voted to cut the budget in half due to a reduction in fees collected.

With the budget approved, Vice President of Finance Nate Desing asked that all student organizations make sure their CORE pages listed up-to-date officers so treasurers can be notified of upcoming training.

A request for $9,625 was approved to fund the new SRSGA Movie Series initiative. This semester the movie series went online which will end up costing about $8,000 in rental and licensing fees, according to Sen. Sydney Rezzetano.

The rest of the money will go toward giveaways and marketing the series, Rezzetano said.

The Senate also amended another motion regarding changes to the Student Evaluation Form. The changes, which had already been agreed upon by the university and Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) leaders, would remove a question that was repeated entirely and another which APSCUF thought was not necessary.

The unnecessary question asked whether students’ computer literacy was improved. Assistant to the Provost Mary Hennessey said improving computer literacy was not required of faculty.

The other question asked students whether they thought their professor was comfortable with the technology used in class.

Members of APSCUF found the question to not be the best way to gauge a faculty members’ technology skill. Senators fired back saying they had seen or heard professors struggle with the technology provided since many classes have moved online and believed the question to be relevant.

“I’m in a class right now with a professor that wants me using three different third-party technologies on top of D2L and they claim it makes it easier for them,” Sen. Gabriel Stiles remarked. “But I have not had a single grade updated yet and I think it’s important because kind of like what [Vice President] Graziani said, ‘We should [hold] them to the same standard that they’re holding us [to].”

After being amended, the Senate unanimously approved recognizing the elimination of the computer literacy question but kept the comfortability one.

The SGA will hold its next formal meeting on Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. via Zoom.

Joe is a senior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism. This is his first year with The Rocket as assistant news editor. Before joining The Rocket, Joe worked at Butler County Community College’s student newspaper along with a short-lived career as public affairs sergeant (along with many other assignments) with the United States Army. When not covering campus news, Joe spends his weekends with his fiancée and son in Slippery Rock.

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Joe Wells
Joe is a senior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism. This is his first year with The Rocket as assistant news editor. Before joining The Rocket, Joe worked at Butler County Community College’s student newspaper along with a short-lived career as public affairs sergeant (along with many other assignments) with the United States Army. When not covering campus news, Joe spends his weekends with his fiancée and son in Slippery Rock.

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