Student Senate works through trying times

Joe Talerico, Staff writer

The Mercyhurst Student Government Senate is adapting and reacting to the coronavirus pandemic like everyone else. Like most activities on campus, the Senate has had to move most of its work online. The majority of the meetings have been on Microsoft Teams, although there was one socially-distanced in-person meeting in the MAC.

“The meetings have been going very well. Despite the challenges we have faced in maintaining a similar format from previous years, I feel as though we have been able to adapt fully,” MSG vice president, Sarah Klein, said.

Senator Tori Altsman concurred. “It is somewhat difficult to not be in the same room, but we are still able to communicate our constituents’ questions and concerns openly and check in with the different committees of the Senate regularly.”

Many of those questions and concerns are about the pandemic. According to Altsman, the main concerns have been mostly about personal health and safety and what the future looks like on campus. “We have tried to address these issues by reaching out to check in on sanitation practices, plastic usage, and day-to-day concerns of our constituents,” Altsman said.

The Senate has also been helping and working with other organizations on campus.

“The RCR Committee has been working a lot with RSCOs, ensuring that their needs are being met during this very atypical year,” said Klein. “The University Operations Committee had received a lot of feedback from students, and we have held Zoom calls with Parkhurst and Maintenance to relay that feedback directly to University service providers.”

Traditionally, senators would ask students directly on campus for feedback and to answer surveys. This survey has also moved online.

The Senate recently released a survey about student dining. The survey has been emailed to various clubs, classes, and groups and is also linked to many of the senators’ social media. It is open until the end of the month.

Besides issues about the pandemic, the Senate has been able to do other various activities. The Spirit Committee organized a spirit week at the end of September.

“The Mission & Sustainability Committee helped organize re-usable cutlery giveaways, several campus clean-up events and even Zoom calls with the Sisters of Mercy to maintain our relationship with them, despite not being able to interact in-person,” Klein said.

Senators have also been able to continue meeting with the college deans and club executive boards, which Klein calls an “important link between students and the university,” Klein predicts that the next semester will look similar to this one for Senate, but she is proud of how they have adapted and responded to the pandemic.

“We have truly made the best out of a difficult situation and have been able to maintain the relationship between students and faculty/administration that is so important to our organization and university as a whole.”

Altsman praised fellow senators so far and noted their important role post-COVID.

“Senate will be leaders in the transition out of the pandemic in the Mercyhurst community,” Altsman said. “We will be here to be a voice for the student body and make sure that their concerns are addressed.”