ASUC works to advocate for students, provide extra resources in response to COVID-19

Lisi Ludwig/Staff

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As the COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, pandemic prompted students and course instructors to reorganize their spring semester, the ASUC has been working with campus administration to communicate student needs.

ASUC chief communications officer Bryan Huang said in an email that officials are working to advocate for students to the best of their capacity. He noted that Aastha Jha, ASUC academic affairs vice president, has been trying to expedite the expansion of the laptop rental program, while ASUC student advocate Nava Bearson has been expanding basic needs support.

“The ASUC has a 130+ year history, but at least for this set of officials, this has been a very unique set of circumstances just given the fact that we’re fighting an invisible enemy and things are changing so fast,” Huang said in his email.

ASUC Senator Media Sina also said the ASUC has been working hard to respond to the COVID-19 risk, which she called “unprecedented.”

Sina mentioned that she was on the campus administration’s Instructional Resilience Task Force and was able to weigh in on many of the academic decisions being made.

“Something that I and others suggested was expanding the laptop rental program as quickly as possible,” Sina said. “I also provided a lot of feedback for what students should be expecting from instructors and what instructors can be expecting from students.”

Sina added that, in the weeks prior to campus’s closure, she had suggested the revision of class attendance policies by making attendance nonmandatory.

She suggested that any student with concerns should reach out to ASUC senators or other community leaders if they need help with accommodations or issues like financial aid.

“I understand it is a huge transition, but we all have to be patient in this time and be understanding of the needs of those at the greatest risk at this time,” Sina said.

ASUC Senator Rocky Gerosa said he started a Google Doc, which he worked on with other senators, to list the possible needs of vulnerable student populations, like international and low-income students.

“There are still rough patches with how things are transitioning,” Gerosa said. “We’re trying our hardest to be responsible, open leaders with this situation.”

Gerosa went on to say he wanted students to be aware of the links included in the email sent by the Division of Student Affairs, which provide guidelines for students to request refunds for housing.

As the Finance Commission chair, ASUC Senator Sumrit Grewal said she was working to provide for financial needs within ASUC organizations.

Grewal also noted her belief that the Recreational Sports Facility should be closed in light of the confirmed on-campus case of COVID-19.

“There’s not special projects we’re working on; we’re just working on ways to help the students,” Grewal said. “Administration has all the power in making these decisions — all we can do is just repeat these messages to administration.”

ASUC Executive Vice President Andy Theocharous said he and ASUC President Amma Sarkodee-Adoo have been advocating for students in meetings with Christ and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, among others.

Theocharous said he proposed giving international students priority housing in the summer and reducing fees for summer courses.

He added that a survey for international students about their summer plans is forthcoming. 

“Our response to the coronavirus is to make sure student lives stabilize as much as possible and cover certain community’s basic needs,” Theocharous said.

Sebastian Cahill is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.