The Student Government Association (SGA) held its weekly general board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7 to revisit an email written by Junior Class Senator Peter Huang concerning the requirement for international students’ to receive COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration despite having already received vaccines approved by the World Health Organization.
Huang explained that the central message of the letter is for international students to receive assurance and support from the University should things go wrong. He outlined his process for writing the letter, written with the sole intention of reflecting the voices of international students.
“Most of the stuff that I wrote on this email was from two weeks ago, and they were directly coming out of the mouths from international students that have messaged me who were concerned about the new vaccination policy,” he said. “This is not scientifically cited, but it is cited from students from our school.”
Senior Class President Nathan Mudrak expressed his hesitancy in approving to send the letter under SGA’s name, though he understood and empathized with the rationale behind the letter.
“My concern is, first of all, that it has not been run by anyone who has health policy experience, and we are connected to the Hopkins name,” he said. “And I just know, [being from] a Midwest town, that this stuff can be used and abused.”
Mudrak also pointed out that the letter wasn’t very factual, citing that some studies have emerged with regards to the safety of mixing vaccines.
Huang stated that he understood Mudrak’s concerns, but he felt it was important for SGA to represent students and relay their concerns to the administration, even if their concerns aren’t largely based on facts.
“I believe it’s okay that it’s not totally factual because this is a legitimate part of their concern that reflected for the school to know,” Huang said. “Maybe our letter not being factual provides evidence that the school needs to do a better job [of] informing what are the facts.”
Junior Class Senator JiWon Woo offered a solution to those who were hesitant about sending the email using SGA’s name. He proposed that the email could be sent on behalf of the COVID-19 Student Advisory Committee (SAC), which has a similar influence to SGA.
“We can use SAC because it is completely private. This email [will] not go to [the] public if we use the SAC channel,“ Woo said. “Everyone who is in support of this email can be added to the list,” he said.
Sophomore Class Senator Raj Bhatt proposed a friendly amendment to the letter to add a statement saying that while SGA recognizes that some new research suggests that mixing vaccines is safe, the studies are novel and limited, so more time is needed to definitively conclude the safety of the new vaccination policy. Peter Huang approved the amendment.
Sophomore Class Senator Rachel Huang suggested that citing studies that the letter used could improve it, as well as gathering student testimonies or quotes. If citations are not as feasible, the letter could have a disclaimer.
“We are students, and this information might not be 1,000% correct, but given the information that we do know, this is our sentiments around it and our experience as international students,” Huang said.
Executive Vice President Breanna Soldatelli agreed with Rachel Huang’s suggestion of citations. She added that having numbers, such as Woo’s suggestion of getting a headcount, would also improve the effectiveness of the letter.
“Typically, [the] administration likes to see numbers, facts and statistics versus just emotions,” she said. “If it’s just two students who feel this way, and 20 million other international students don’t, then we’re not representing all students; we’re just representing those two.”
The bill was unanimously tabled to wait for a headcount to be collected.
Junior Class Senator Chinat Yu presented a matching program called the Marriage Pact. Yu explained that the Marriage Pact was created by students at Stanford University and is currently being used at 55 other schools. Those participating would fill out a customized survey, and then they would be matched to other Hopkins students according to their interests.
Yu gave a general outline of when the Marriage Pact will operate at Hopkins.
“Our current timeline for this is that we want to get people to do this [in] the last week of September going into October,” he said. “The first week is more us pushing out the survey and getting people to answer the survey. And then after that, they would help match people up [during the second week].”
No legislation was introduced on the Marriage Pact. Yu’s goal in the discussion was to get SGA’s help to promote the program to students and clarify any misconceptions they might have.
Executive Secretary Elaina Regier told The News-Letter in an email that the Marriage Pact is not a matchmaking service, as the company’s name and website suggest, but for meeting new people.
“While it started as a way to find romantic partners, its goal changed as it spread to other college campuses, and it’s now for platonic relationships,” she wrote.
In an email to The News-Letter, Sophomore Class President Kobi Khong shared his thoughts on the Marriage Pact.
“Whether you’re looking for someone to bond with or someone to get into a relationship with I think it all begins at the same place of finding someone who you can connect with with similar likes and interests,” he wrote.
Khong noted that members of SGA were concerned that data from the survey would be shared after completion, highlighting that personal information such as a person’s sexual orientation is included in the survey.
In his email, Khong also described concern from SGA members over the Marriage Pact because of controversies over a similar survey sent last spring by the Hopkins Student Organization for Programming.
SGA also confirmed sophomore Rachel Fink as a senator to replace former Sophomore Class Senator Benjamin Scherzer.
Reporting on this meeting was limited due to corruption of the meeting recording file. The meeting minutes are publicly available for those who wish to look into the meeting in greater detail.
Min-Seo Kim contributed reporting to this article.
Correction: The previous version of this article asserted that SAC stands for Student Activities Commission instead of COVID-19 Student Advisory Committee. The News-Letter regrets this error.