SGO Prepares for Another Virtual Semester

On February 9, SGO elected four new members for the 2021 Spring semester. The new SGO members include Sara Asgari ’23 and Huiying Xiao ’23, who will serve as senators for the class of 2023, as well as Fiona Stewart ’24 for the Chair of Outreach and Ariana Azumatan ’22 for the Chair of Academic Affairs.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit which students are on campus, the new SGO members will be participating in virtual meetings as only around half of all SGO members are on campus.

“Since it is my first semester working on SGO, I am only familiar with its online format. For now, everything is new to me, and the learning curve is steep,” Azumatan wrote in an email to The Phoenix. “I think, for me, it’ll be weird shifting back to in-person work in the future because this is all I know.” 

Stewart also described herself as adapting decently to the virtual format of SGO. As the new Chair of Outreach, she expressed a desire to continue building a community between SGO and students both on and off-campus, including the ongoing SGO newsletter. 

“I chose to apply [for this position] because I wanted to work to connect the SGO with the student body,” she wrote in an email to The Phoenix.

The desire to connect with the campus body as a whole was a goal for SGO last semester as well, as they tried to stay in touch with the needs of students who were off-campus. SGO Vice President Ella Vetter ’22 believes that the scope of SGO members who all come from different backgrounds helped to reach a broader student body.

“We have some members who are international, some who are twelve hours ahead of eastern time, some members who are on campus, and some members who are off campus,” she told The Phoenix. “We also have members who are part of different clubs and circles in the Swarthmore community. Due to this, we are able to see the problems and the concerns that students are having all across campus.”

The virtual format last semester also offered certain positive changes that SGO hopes to utilize this semester and possibly beyond. SGO President Murtaza Ukani ’22 described how virtual meetings have allowed SGO to schedule meetings with each other and other members of the college community. 

“I think the same goes with administrators being able to say ‘hey can we jump on a Zoom [call] to talk about XYZ issue … I think we’re all much more used to it,” he told The Phoenix. 

As SGO adapted to a virtual format, they were able to work on several important projects concerning the campus community. These include a community food pantry, which SGO launched during winter break after realizing there was a need for more food options among students still on campus. 

SGO plans that the food pantry will continue throughout the Spring semester, and will even expand to include other important items.

 “We’re also talking about expanding to needs other than food like medicine and detergent, and also looking to have some type of refrigerator or freezer to have perishable foods and fresh foods,” Vetter said.

SGO also assisted the move-out process at the end of the Fall semester, as they coordinated to fund packaging supplies for first-generation, low-income students. They hope to do the same for the Spring move-out at the end of this semester.

The Student Budgeting Committee, an apolitical institutional committee of SGO which mostly operates independently, has also begun to meet with clubs and organizations to determine funding for the Spring semester. Meetings with the committee will happen from 4 to 6 p.m. EST on Sundays, with the first meetings completed on February 21. Clubs must submit a supplemental allocation request by Thursday at 7 p.m. EST before requesting a meeting appointment the following weekend.

Ukani hopes the meetings with the SBC will spread optimism about the course ahead.

“Being able to focus on what programming they want to do for next year, I think, gives a glimmer of hope of the normalcy that will come to campus in the Fall [semester],” he said.

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