Over the past few weeks, the Georgia Tech Student Government Association has been fiercely advocating for the betterment of the student body. This message contains an update on some of the issues we’ve been fighting for.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- SGA Town Hall
- Academic Advocacy Efforts for Fall 2020
- Election Day & On-Campus Precinct
- Title IX Update
- Campus Service Advocacy Updates
- Results of SGA Return to Campus Survey
- Black Lives Matter Update
- International Student Advocacy
- LBGTQIA+ Advocacy
SGA TOWN HALL
The Georgia Tech Student Government Association will be hosting a student town hall on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. The panelists will include a few members of SGA leadership, as well as leadership from Georgia Tech International Ambassadors and the Residence Hall Association. Click here to join the BlueJeans event.
SGA is in the process of collecting questions about Georgia Tech’s return to campus this fall so that we can gather answers to as many as we possibly can. Click here to submit a question to us (this form will be open until Wednesday). We will also be accepting live questions through the Q&A feature on BlueJeans events.
We want to use this time to let you know what we’ve been working on in regards to our advocacy efforts, as well as provide answers about the fall and what it will look like. This will also be a time for you to voice concerns so that we can better understand student sentiment. We would love to see you this Wednesday! As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RETURN TO CAMPUS RESOURCES
As part of our commitment to providing up-to-date information about the status of Georgia Tech’s Return to Campus this fall, SGA has created areas on our website where students can view updates on what campus will look like this fall. The Fall 2020 Return to Campus Guidebook has information on everything from testing to campus services and is available here.
In preparation for Wednesday’s Town Hall, SGA has collected over 100 questions from the student body. Many of these questions will be answered during the event, and immediately following, all of the questions we received will be uploaded to the SGA Fall 2020 FAQs page, located here. NOTE: This page will not go live until 8:30 PM on July 22, 2020.
ACADEMIC ADVOCACY FOR FALL 2020
Over the summer, SGA leadership has been working to ensure every student has a safe and successful academic environment. As changes have been released by Georgia Tech and the University System of Georgia, SGA has continued to voice student opinions and concerns in an effort to make sure everyone is heard. Here are some of our academic updates:
- SGA leadership has drafted a letter to the Board of Regents outlining in the strongest possible terms the need for online options for every Georgia Tech student. This letter is undergoing additional revisions and Student Body Presidents at other University System of Georgia schools will be offered a chance to join this letter. As soon as final revisions are complete, this letter will be shared with the Georgia Tech student body.
- SGA has continued to advocate for an attendance leniency policy for students and faculty. The SGA Undergraduate President and VP of Academic Affairs have drafted an updated attendance faculty/student expectations document. We will continue to push for this to be implemented and will provide updates to the student body.
- SGA successfully helped advocate to move Phase II registration to August 1st, as well as for increased remote course options and flexibility in our course modes.
- Beyond COVID-19 measures, SGA Academics is looking forward to continuing to work on institutionalizing mini-mester courses and revitalizing APPH/health course curriculum.
ELECTION DAY PROPOSAL ACCEPTED
On July 14, the Faculty Executive Board passed a motion brought forth by representatives from SGA, requesting that teaching faculty provide academic consideration for student voters on November 3, Election Day. The motion requested that for Election Day, faculty consider moving lectures to an asynchronous format, avoid scheduling in-class quizzes, tests, or assessments, and make lecture recordings available for students unable to attend class that day. The Faculty Executive Board passed the motion, clarifying that classes will still be in session November 3. Faculty are strongly encouraged to consider making these modifications in order to give Georgia Tech students ample opportunity to participate in the election.
SGA will continue working with the Faculty Executive Board and Institute Standing Committees with the goal of creating a policy that sustains this efforts for election days to come.
FIRST STUDENT-RUN GEORGIA TECH POLLING LOCATION APPROVED
After Georgia Tech Athletics took the incredible step of securing an election-day polling place at McCamish Pavilion, SGA met with the Fulton County Deputy Elections Chief to make arrangements to fully staff the polling place with students. We received approval for Georgia Tech’s first fully student-staffed polling place. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech administration made an executive decision to cancel the August 11th Runoff Election polling place on the Georgia Tech campus, citing health concerns regarding hosting an election while students are moving on campus. SGA is advocating strongly to ensure Georgia Tech will host a November 3rd general election polling place and early voting location, both fully staffed by students. SGA continues to serve on the campus-wide Voter Engagement Steering Committee, developing campaigns to ensure a high Georgia Tech turnout this Fall.
TITLE IX UPDATE
Following the United States Department of Education’s significant changes to the Title IX sexual assault protocol, Georgia Tech SGA partnered with the University of Georgia SGA to write a letter to the University System of Georgia (USG) regarding the reforms which we view as harmful for survivors in certain key ways. Our letter urges USG to rise above the bar regarding the treatment of survivors, which has been lowered by the Department of Education, and to establish guidelines for Title IX complaints which will prioritize the mental wellbeing and health of survivors as well as their ability to receive an equitable education at Georgia Tech.
We sent this letter to our USG peer institutions and have received signatures from Columbus State University, Dalton State College, Fort Valley State University, Georgia College & State University, Georgia Gwinnett College, Georgia State University, and Valdosta State University. We will be meeting with USG in the future to ensure student concerns take priority in the long process of developing robust USG guidelines based on the Department of Education’s reforms. To read our letter to USG, click here.
CAMPUS SERVICES ADVOCACY UPDATE
At a glance, SGA has worked to build trust and a firm communication network to assist in directly connecting student concerns with decision-makers.
We understand that may not sound very illustrious, but it’s a massive step towards improving the quality of student input received in important decisions that impact the daily life of each student. This fall, we will face unpredictable and time-sensitive issues that will require sharp communication, honest conversations, and advocacy-based decision making. SGA is ready to assist in these forthcoming efforts, and we look forward to the difficult and necessary discussions that will be had for the foreseeable future.
More substantively, here is a progress update on items in Campus Services that have either resulted from student advocacy or internal decision-making within Campus Services for the fall:
- Meal swipes are now allowed at all food truck vendors at Georgia Tech.
- The Department of Housing and Residence Life has agreed to improve the regularity of direct communication to residents.
- SGA has set up regular meetings with Housing & Residence Life, Student Center, CRC, Dining Services, and Stamps.
In Progress Items
- We are currently working with student groups and the Department of Housing and Residence life to advocate for no contract cancellation fees. Georgia Tech has sent three proposals for removing housing contract cancellation fees to the University System of Georgia. USG is currently reviewing those proposals.
- SGA is continuing to advocate for international student housing support.
- We are working with the Department of Campus Services to provide general support for returning students this Fall.
- SGA is finalizing a proposal for a meal swipe semesterly donation initiative.
- We are working with the Department of Campus Services to improve the quality of empathetic communication from all Campus Services’ departments
- The CRC has taken over activity spaces in residence halls. SGA is working to ensure student input is provided for renovations to these spaces.
- SGA is advocating for improved meal plan flexibility.
- We are working with the Department of Parking and Transportation to ensure an increased level of transportation services is provided during the Fall semester.
- The Department of Campus Services is working to provide general support for student-led advocacy groups.
Change comes from many places, but change comes most swiftly when students speak vocally about what works and what doesn’t work. Thank you to every student who has reached out to us over the past few months to share concerns, ideas, and ask questions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at any time now or in the future regarding your ideas, thoughts, and concerns regarding Campus Services. Being able to point directly to your words and your voice helps us to better advocate for change.
Lastly, in case you’re wondering what departments fall under Campus Services, here’s the list in brief: Dining Services, Buzzcard Center, Housing & Residence Life, Stamps, Georgia Tech Bookstore, Parking & Transportation, Student Center, and Campus Recreation Center.
RETURN TO CAMPUS SURVEY RESULTS
On June 15th, SGA distributed a Return to Class survey to all Georgia Tech students. Over a two week period, we received 4,071 responses. Here are a few of the survey highlights:
- 32% of students said they would opt-out of on-campus instruction.
- 29% of students said they were uncomfortable or extremely uncomfortable returning to on-campus instruction in the Fall.
- 48% of students said they would live in on-campus housing in the Fall
- 80% of students said they were likely or extremely likely to wear a mask on campus, but only 40% indicated they believed their peers were likely or extremely likely to wear one.
- The top three concerns for returning to on-campus instruction were lack of social distancing, instructional space not being disinfecting, and inconsistent PPE usage.
- Many students emphasized the importance of having a remote/online/distance learning option for health and safety reasons, international students who cannot return to Atlanta, in the event that a student or professor becomes ill, or in the event of a major outbreak.
These results have been reported to the Georgia Tech Administration and have been used to guide decisions as we prepare to return to campus. To view the full report of results, please click here.
RACIAL JUSTICE ADVOCACY
On Friday, June 12, 2020, SGA leaders met with the leaders of Black Student Organizations (BSOs) to discuss how SGA can bolster Institute support for Georgia Tech’s Black student community. This meeting came in the wake of nationwide protests against racial injustice across the country and the world. Some of the requests that BSO leaders have made to President Cabrera and his administration include the following:
- Black student spaces. With the construction of the new Student Center, the Black Student Offices have been pushed to the corner of West campus, making spaces for Black students harder to access. BSOs need a space more centrally located on campus. Physical spaces are crucial in signaling inclusion on behalf of an institution for underrepresented groups.
- Black student scholarships. Nationally, Black students must take out loans at a higher rate than all other student groups in order to afford the cost of college, as recorded by the National Center for Education Statistics. Only two scholarships currently exist for minority students at Tech — Tech Promise and Goizueta. Neither of these scholarships has been given the sole focus of incentivizing the attendance and retention of undergraduate Black students.
- A stronger commitment to diversity, justice, and representation. Increased enrollment of Black students and increased hiring of Black professors, researchers, and lecturers. Increased support of black-owned businesses including food truck vendors.
The full list of demands can be viewed here.
SGA cabinet members have since elevated the list of demands that BSO leaders provided in our discussions with President Cabrera, members of his administration, and the leaders of campus departments.
Undergraduate SGA President Brielle Lonsberry and graduate SGA President Lea Harris wrote a follow-up letter to President Cabrera and Dr. Archie Ervin to further emphasize the importance of incorporating the feedback from BSO leaders into long term sustainable structural changes, making anti-bias and microaggression training accessible campus-wide, and urge the institute to publicly announce institute actions being made to support these goals.
Undergraduate and graduate cabinet members Mykala Sinclair and Nettie Brown sat as panelists on the Race At Georgia Tech – A Call to Action talk on Thursday, July 16, 2020. During the discussion, President Cabrera announced five tangible actions the institute will be incorporating campus-wide. They include:
- Incorporating a bias and harassment component to the Institute’s new student orientation and employee onboarding programs.
- Implementing a new implicit bias training program for students and staff focused on racial bias and discrimination.
- Establishing a Georgia Tech Diversity and Inclusion Council to identify issues and propose solutions on an ongoing basis.
- Creating a Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) Community Council composed of students, staff, faculty, and members of GTPD to ensure open communication and collaboratively identify ways in which GTPD can continually improve how it serves the community.
- Creating a new Diversity Strategy position at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) reporting to the vice president for GTRI and dotted line report to the vice president for Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to lead diversity recruiting, training, and professional development support for enhanced career progression for underrepresented minorities and women research faculty and staff.
Members of SGA’s undergraduate cabinet, Mykala Sinclair and Jackson Caruso met with the director of the Office of Undergraduate Admission to discuss what plans the office has to increase Black student recruitment and enrollment.
Georgia Tech Dining has announced that it will partner with local, minority-owned food truck vendors to more than double the available food trucks on campus in the fall. A finalized schedule will be available soon. Additionally, these plans will increase the regularity of daily food truck availability on campus for the fall semester and increase accessibility to food trucks via meal plan inclusion.
Members of SGA’s undergraduate cabinet, Mykala Sinclair and Kyle Smith joined a new working group created by the Office of Minority Educational Development (OMED) called the Racial Injustice and Sexual Violence (RISV) Collective which had its first meeting on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The Collective was charged with the responsibility of:
- Creating a culturally relevant Racial Inequality and Sexual Violence Education and Awareness Action Plan.
- Establishing accountability metrics for the execution and evaluation of these education and awareness protocols at Georgia Tech (starting in the Black community and hopefully expanding beyond).
While we recognize the progress we have made, we also acknowledge that the fight for racial justice in our institutions of higher education will require systemic-level changes and continuous advocacy. We look forward to advancing these efforts in the year ahead.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ADVOCACY
The COVID-19 pandemic has created serious challenges for international students who have continuously voiced their concerns to SGA. SGA elevated a letter signed by 300+ international students in advocacy efforts with President Cabrera and members of his administration. Additionally, SGA leaders met with the author of the letter to personally discuss strategies to advocate for international students. Some of the requests included:
- Remote instruction options. The Institute must provide a viable option for students to remotely complete their academic coursework, including expanding its online course offerings and developing a uniform policy governing participation and attendance for students in different time zones.
- Communicate guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. The Institute must communicate any relevant guidance from the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to students on F-1 visas and applicable immigration statuses, including any guidance about the completion of academic coursework full-time remotely in the fall semester.
- Tuition and fees adjustments. The Institute must address the new financial circumstances of international and out-of-state students, many of whom ordinarily pay full out-of-state tuition to attend classes in-person, and must seriously consider lowering tuition prices and expanding aid and scholarship opportunities for incoming and current international students.
On July 6, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new guidance measures that stated that nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students would not be allowed to take a full online course load and remain in the United States. In the wake of this policy, undergraduate SGA President Brielle Lonsberry and graduate SGA President Lea Harris joined a working group to elevate student concerns on this policy. During which they pushed for greater accommodations to ensure international student access and safety.
SGA also received a list of questions and concerns about this policy from the Georgia Tech International Ambassadors that was elevated to campus administrators. On July 14, 2020, ICE rescinded this policy after a lawsuit was brought by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
To support international students, Georgia Tech Housing has announced the following:
- The GT Housing contract no-penalty cancellation period has been extended.
- Housing options have been provided to all students regardless of residential/contract status.
- GT Housing has committed to increased communication with international students who plan to live on campus in the fall.
- Earlier housing availability for international students.
Members of SGA Undergraduate Cabinet, Kyle, Grace, Emmett, and Joyce, have been working with undergrad Pride to advocate for more STI testing on campus, access to/advertising for Emory’s PREP (which is a preventative medication for AIDS), and we will be collaborating with the LGBTQIA Resource center at GT for event planning going forward.
Grace Swift, the VP of Communications, met with Undergrad Pride Alliance and spoke with previous leadership from the Pride Alliance and determined the following commitments that SGA can make:
- Ensure that incoming first-year students/students in general know how to apply for name changes through the registrar so they aren’t deadnamed
- Connect with the chairs of each school to get them to get thier faculty to take Trans 101 and Safe Space Training
- Promote holidays that are relevant to the LGBTQIA+ community
- Promote gender-inclusive housing options on campus
- Advocate for multi-stall gender-inclusive restrooms (specifically in the new student center)