This Tuesday, Miami University’s Associated Student Government (ASG) will hold its first online all-senate meeting since the university closed due to novel coronavirus concerns.
The meeting, which will be held via Zoom, a video conferencing platform, will be a place for senators to elect students to next year’s executive cabinet and other senate leadership positions, like Speaker of Senate, the person who leads each ASG meeting and Parliamentarian, the person who ensures senators are following the rules of procedure that govern debate.
Senators will debate via Zoom and then use Google Forms or another third-party polling website to vote, said Speaker of Senate Sarah Siegel.
The executive cabinet members elected Tuesday will work closely with Student Body President-elect Jannie Kamara and Vice President-elect Jessica von Zastrow, both of whom will be in virtual attendance. Kamara and von Zastrow will be observing debate but not offering comments in an official capacity.
“Jessica and I are not endorsing anyone because we want it to be a fair process,” Kamara said. “It’s a unique year for us all, so we want to ensure that we can work as one cohesive team.”
While Tuesday will be the first all-senate meeting since the university’s closure, ASG has been active in the meantime, especially on Instagram, where Speaker Pro Tempore Victoria Villanueva has been posting regular updates and asking students if they have questions or concerns through the “Stories” feature.
“She's done a phenomenal job with it, and I’m very grateful for her,” Siegel said. “I think the Instagram [account] has been a huge help, not only for people to submit concerns, but for us to understand what people are concerned about.”
So what are people concerned about? Siegel said in addition to “general anxiety about the future,” most questions ASG receives are about compensation for student employees and the possibility of refunds for housing fees.
To address these concerns, Student Body President Jaylen Perkins developed a process for bringing them to university administration. He, Siegel, Vice President Dante Rossi and Chief of Staff Annika Fowler meet every Friday to look over new questions before bringing them to cabinet each Sunday. The group combs through the questions, making sure the concern is not already being addressed and ensuring it hasn’t already been brought to the administration.
Then, Perkins or Rossi speaks to the person in Miami’s administration most qualified to handle the concern: President Greg Crawford for questions about commencement, Vice President for Student Affairs Jayne Brownell for student life and Director of Housing and Operational Services Brian Woodruff for housing refunds.
“It’s all about transparency,” Perkins said. “People want to know what the administration is doing.”
Siegel agreed. She and Perkins both see ASG’s main duty as acting as a liaison between students and the administration.
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“I think it's a clear example of how we as a body can help students,” she said. “In normal times, but especially in these times, it's so imperative that we step up and continue to collect concerns from the student body and communicate that to administrators.”