To say that the University has a history of poor communication is an understatement. This has been particularly evident over the course of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For example, amid a nationwide reckoning with structural racism, Hopkins has yet to take any meaningful action to address its contributions to these issues. While we were signing leases and booking flights, Hopkins failed to update us on its plans for the fall semester. And now that we have inevitably returned to Baltimore, Hopkins has failed to offer us adequate support.
Where administrators have struggled, the Student Government Association (SGA) has excelled in recent months.
When the University was unclear about move-out protocols last spring, SGA explained the details of the process. After George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, SGA emailed the student body two weeks before the University issued its performative statement of solidarity.
It was SGA, not the University, that reached out to undergraduates for input on grading policies for the fall semester. When the University buried important information in lengthy emails, SGA clarified who could request housing grants and how financial aid packages changed after the tuition reduction. SGA also created a feedback form for students to voice complaints to administrators about belongings that had been misplaced, broken or stolen over the summer.
However, SGA has not always effectively represented students’ concerns. Its 2018-19 referendum promised to expand SGA influence over the University’s decisions; last year, however, SGA produced no legislation to resolve the long-term issues that the referendum intended to address. Last year’s SGA struggled to send out agendas from its meetings, update its website and consistently share meeting minutes, which in some cases weren’t even taken.
Perhaps the administration has something to learn from SGA’s growth since last spring. Amid many unpredictable changes, communication from our student leaders has largely been more reliable and transparent than from the University itself.
Of course, the circumstances of this fall have helped mask some of SGA’s previous shortcomings. For example, last year, during the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement’s audits, SGA failed to properly communicate with student organizations about funding guidelines and mandatory practices. In light of the pandemic, budgeting for events is the last thing on students’ minds.
We hope that SGA continues to grow. It should push for student representation on the Board of Trustees, which over 2000 students called for in the referendum. Clearly, the University could use competent student leadership when making important decisions that affect us.
Administrators must step up. They claim to believe in our intellect and initiative; they would do well to seek it. They stress the importance of democracy and civic engagement; they should involve and engage us. They tell us we are their best and brightest; perhaps they could stand to learn a thing or two from us.