Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 28, 2020

SGA discusses improving inclusion on campus

By LEELA GEBO | June 18, 2020

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FLI and international students discuss employment and housing issues for the fall.

The Student Government Association (SGA) discussed resuming in-person activities and promoting diversity efforts at its first meeting of the 2020-21 academic year on Tuesday, May 16. Although SGA typically begins meeting in the fall, the group decided it would meet twice this summer, citing unprecedented circumstances and the need to carry out time-sensitive activities.

Executive Vice President Mehak Ali said that recent protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prompted her and Executive President Sam Mollin to meet with Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka to discuss how Hopkins can better combat racism on campus. 

Ali noted that they will be meeting with Dean Ruzicka again next week and offered to advocate for students who are not in direct contact with administration. 

“If anyone wants to tell us about their experience on campus or ways administration could improve the lives of black and brown students on campus, please message us and we can take that to our meeting with her,” she said.

According to Junior Class Senator Megan Chien, many conversations about race and inclusion on campus have centered around the University’s plan to implement the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD), which was recently put on hold for at least two years.

Chien and other members of SGA’s Health, Safety and Sustainability Committee have recently joined the Garland Sit-In and Occupation in order to familiarize themselves with the group’s demands. During the spring of 2019, the group, composed of students and community members, occupied Garland Hall for 35 days in protest of the JHPD’s creation.  

While SGA has made definite goals to foster inclusion on campus, Mollin noted that plans for the fall are still being discussed.

“I’ve been on the University-wide steering committee for fall planning. We’ve had meetings planning for things, such as how libraries will reopen to how research will reopen. This week, we are having meetings about housing and dining and orientation,” he said. “Just today, we had one about student activities.” 

Given that fall plans are uncertain, President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar announced in an email to the Hopkins community on June 16 that no student will be required to return to campus this coming academic year, even if the University reopens.

“We will be flexible and supportive in ensuring that every student has opportunities to continue their academic progress and pursue their educational goals,” they wrote. 

Executive Treasurer Addy Perlman addressed what the student organization subcommittee is doing to facilitate the functioning of student groups during uncertain times.

“I’m working on finding the best way to have different student groups collaborate together so that we’re having more student interaction and experience while still saying safe and healthy,” she said. 

Mollin proposed that SGA accommodate to current circumstances by amending its rules bill to include Zoom etiquette. The proposed changes, which passed unanimously on the floor, were meant to mitigate the potential for “Zoom-bombers” disrupting future meetings and ensure that Zoom chat spaces remained appropriate and on topic.

Looking toward the future, Executive Secretary Breanna Soldatelli announced that seven members who serve on the Communications and Marketing Commission (CMC) will aim to communicate SGA’s progress to the student body. This task includes helping Soldatelli update SGA’s website, which she described as a work-in-progress.

Soldatelli noted that improving the website, along with live-streaming meetings on Facebook, is part of SGA’s efforts to increase transparency with the student body. SGA’s next step, she said, is to make its past records available to the public.

“I met with the head librarian at the Hopkins Libraries in Brody and we are going to start putting all of SGA’s records from the past couple of years into the library,” Soldatelli said. “It is important that all the records are public information.”

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