In an interview with The Brown and White, Student Senate President Eve Freed, ‘21, shared her thoughts on the fall 2020 semester.
Q: From a Student Senate perspective, how do you feel this semester went?
Eve Freed: I think it went pretty well. Looking back, I anticipated this semester to be a lot different and I expected it to be a lot worse than it was in different ways.
I did not anticipate the extreme impact on mental health that this semester had. That is something that I wish I had thought about before going into this semester, but I do not think anyone could have anticipated that. It has been really draining.
I am really proud of Senate. We were really on top of things as they came up and we held the administration accountable in places that they needed to be. We also created a stronger relationship with the administration. The administration looked to us for a lot of student input and feedback, which was really nice. We were happy to provide that information, and the administration was open to hearing what we had to say.
Overall, I do think the Lehigh community could have done a better job preparing for this semester. We should have been preventing the fires, not putting out the fires. When the outbreak happened in October, there was so much scrambling. There is another outbreak currently happening right now, but I think this one is easier to handle because of what happened previously. But I wish that there had been some sort of plan in place because the scrambling led to worsened mental health.
The Lehigh community could have done a better job setting expectations and keeping each other accountable. While there is a large responsibility on the students to social distance and follow the guidelines, it is a huge expectation that the administration has for students to not socialize at all.
Q: What are some successes of this semester that you hope to see again next semester?
EF: When the problem with mental health was brought up, there were good reactions, particularly from faculty and staff members. In my personal experience, my professors did a really great job handling this issue and rearranging/accommodating for us. I do not know if that happened across the board though. I do know that there have been conversations surrounding mental health in Faculty Senate meetings and there have been good responses to those conversations. I am really hoping there is more awareness surrounding mental health next semester. We laid the groundwork for awareness and for issues to be solved, and hopefully faculty and staff take that into account when planning for next semester.
One of our biggest accomplishments this semester was pushing for the pass/fail option for students. Student Senate fought really hard for the pass/fail option and I know many students were looking for that. I do not think anyone could have anticipated how difficult this semester was going to be. I think many people thought we could just transfer the classes online and it would just be the same, but it was not.
From a communications standpoint, I think the university is doing a good job listening to Student Senate. We are constantly collecting feedback from students. I think every senator is doing a really good job at talking to other students, whether it is talking to roommates or classmates. Senators bring this feedback to the meetings and then we bring it to administration. I think there is a good line of communication going on.
Another big accomplishment from this semester is the Southside Up emails that get sent out to the Lehigh community. Students don’t read the long emails from the administrators, so we have been condensing those. Students are able to get all of the information and really understand what is going on with these emails. I also do not think that the Southside Up emails will just be a pandemic thing. It will be a Student Senate initiative from here on out, which is super exciting. It is working really well and it is nice that students feel they can come to us.
Q: Is there room for improvement? If so, what do you hope to see improved for next semester?
EF: The biggest room for improvement is the mental health aspect. I think many students felt super overloaded. It might have been the same amount of work, but it feels like more work because we are staring at our laptops for longer periods of time now. I hope that there is more acknowledgement of the fact that, yes, classes are the same moving online, but that does not mean it is easier. For some classes, it is much more difficult.
I would really like the community to come together next semester to hold each other accountable from a social distancing aspect. There was a failed effort from the administration and the student body to collectively say, “Hey, this is serious. Let’s not have parties. Let’s not go out to bars. Let’s not create crowds in South Bethlehem.” It impacted the Lehigh community and the South Bethlehem community. I hope that there can be more talks about how to safely socially gather.
The 10 person limit was OK and kind of worked, but I think that the five person limit did not really work. I hope that we can get more student input and bring more students into the conversation to see if there is a way to safely socialize. We signed a social contract, but I do not think that many people followed it. A huge part of Lehigh culture is socializing and we have a strong network because of that, so to have that aspect taken away is so detrimental to the college experience. I think we need to ask ourselves, “How do we safely do this? Why is there a stigma around wearing a mask, such as when I am sitting on the front lawn with my friends?” There needs to be a stronger effort from all sides on safe gatherings.
Q: How do you feel the presidential search process to replace President John Simon is going?
EF: I can’t speak much upon it due to confidentiality, but I believe it is going well. We did have town halls in November where feedback was collected from different constituencies on campus. I do think that even more work will be happening next semester to find the replacement.