The Student Association (SA) Congress met online last week using Zoom to carry out its functions despite the obstacles created by the coronavirus pandemic, an adaptation that several Binghamton University student groups are also using amid the transition to online classes.
Hunter Andrasko, speaker of SA Congress and a senior double-majoring in political science and human development, said transitioning to the online platform was easy and the new arrangement actually makes SA Congress meetings more accessible than before.
“Zoom, as a platform, has so many different tools that are beneficial, especially when it comes to meetings that utilize rules and procedures similar to the ones that the SA Congress uses,” Andrasko said. “What I especially love about it is that it makes it so much easier for students to access the meetings. While SA Congress meetings are always open to the public, having a Zoom link on the website makes it so that our meetings are only a click away.”
Andrasko said the platform also worked very well at the committee level, which he hopes will help accommodate student groups who wish to appeal budget decisions made by the Financial Committee for the 2020-21 academic year.
“I’m also extremely grateful to my SA Congress representatives who have stayed dedicated to their positions throughout this whole transition,” Andrasko said. “We had near-perfect attendance at our last meeting and I appreciate all of them and the due diligence they bring to their positions each and every week.”
Emma Ross, president of the SA and a senior double-majoring in political science and psychology, said she is pleased with the way things are going for the SA in the face of the pandemic.
“I think the meeting went very well,” Ross said. “We work hard to be transparent with the student body and we were happy to answer all the questions students had for us. This is a very difficult time for all of us and it is so important for us to be as supportive of our student body as possible as we deal with this very hard transition.”
Kayla McKiernan, president of the Mountainview College Council (MCC) and a sophomore majoring in English, said the MCC’s activities came to a halt after the SA sent out a message informing members that SA-chartered groups could not hold in-person events. Now, McKiernan is hoping Zoom and other online platforms can help keep the MCC, which represents 1,051 student residents, functioning for the duration of the semester.
“We’re probably going to get in touch next week,” McKiernan said. “I wanted to give people a chance to settle, because even people’s parents never experienced a situation like this pandemic.”
Still, there is one task McKiernan predicts will be challenging to do over the Internet.
“We talked before we left, and the one thing we wanted to focus on during this quarantine is elections,” McKiernan said. “At Mountainview [College], we struggle with the turnout and getting people to vote. So that’s the one thing we’re really going to have to focus on for the next couple of weeks because we need to send the [SA] our e-board members for next year by April 29.”
Bharath Reddy Alandur Ramesh, a second-year graduate student studying systems science and industrial engineering, is vice president of multicultural affairs for BU’s Indian Graduate Student Organization (IGSO). He said he is still living in Binghamton at his off-campus home and been keeping in touch with group members. He will soon be meeting with them online, and like McKiernan, he plans to conduct the group’s e-board elections online.
“We use WhatsApp to keep in touch, and we will be meeting online the first week in April because we have to elect the new e-board for the next year,” he said. “All of the current e-board members are graduating in May. We are still functioning, but we are not doing any events. We had a few planned for April, such as Holi, where people dress up in wild colors and get crazy together.”
Other group officers also said their groups had planned major events for the spring, all of which had to be canceled because of measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. But one student group that has kept going beyond essential business is Bing Stand-Up. The group, which focuses on giving students an opportunity to practice and watch stand-up comedy, continues to meet twice a week on Zoom to hone their skills and share their creativity — and more than a few laughs.
Kevin Brown, president of Bing Stand-Up and a senior majoring in biology, said the group decided that continuing to meet on Zoom was better than not meeting at all. After two meetings, Brown said the adaptation seems to be working out.
“We decided to keep meeting with Zoom because many of our members see [Bing] Stand-Up as a necessary creative outlet and an opportunity to hang out with their friends twice every week,” Brown said. “Right now, things seem to be working and none of us want the club to end so this option is working better than shutting down.”