Lehigh’s Student Senate is working to organize a COID-19 Community Council to address ongoing issues this semester. (Courtesy of Lehigh Student Senate Instagram)

Student Senate aims to amplify student voices amid third semester of the pandemic

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Student Senate held its first meeting on Feb. 9 to outline plans for the semester and organize groups to implement its forthcoming policies. 

Senate President Eve Freed, ‘21, said a COVID-19 response group has been set up to investigate the university’s outbreak policy. 

“We have regular town hall meetings to evaluate whether Lehigh is keeping their promise and ensuring that almost every student takes the COVID-19 test,” Freed said.  

The response group also collects students’ suggestions and feedback, which it presents to Lehigh’s administration. 

“Many students reported that some of the school’s policies and punishments in response to the outbreak were too harsh,” said Adam Cheng, ‘23, a member of the Senate’s on-campus constituency. “For example, violating the safety protocols like walking on campus without wearing masks can lead to being sent home for a semester, and recent reporting measures. A lot of students complain (about) them.”

Victor Cochrane, ‘22, Senate’s vice president of communications, said last semester the organization sent too many emails and the information was scattered. He said many students did not read emails from the Senate at all. To overcome this, Senate launched its “Southside Up Newsletter,” which compiles and distributes important information from Lehigh to make it easier for readers to browse. 

Additionally, the newsletter provides updates on Lehigh’s COVID-19 case count. 

While Senate has been unable to hold in-person events over the last few months, it plans to try and host something in person, in accordance with Lehigh’s COVID-19 guidelines, in late March or April. 

“Last semester was a shock to all Lehigh students, and most of the planned activities on campus were aborted as a result,” said Declan Coster, ‘23, chair of Senate’s Student Outreach Committee. “The Dîner en Blanc could be available at the end of April, and it may contain some virtual performances. That is, of course, provided that everyone must follow the Lehigh safety protocols.”

Moreover, the Senate has set up a mental health counseling unit to take feedback from students on how the university can reduce the burden and additional stress brought on by the pandemic.

“Due to the negative influence of the coronavirus, many students are in great need of mental help because they don’t adapt to the present life,” Freed said. “In addition to the students in the U.S., many international students are under great pressure since they have to stay up late to attend classes and even take exams. Other than the mental health counseling, we are also trying to refine the educational policy to see if this situation can be solved.” 

Victoria Drzymala, chair of the Club Affairs Committee, said because of re-elections, which took place last spring after the university had shut down, and the restrictions the pandemic has imposed, many senators and clubs have been disconnected from each other. 

The Club Affairs Committee is responsible for recognizing and overseeing student-led clubs. 

“This semester we will keep in touch with those club advisors frequently and pay attention to the status of the club to ensure the sustainability of each club,” Dryzmala said. “Most of the workshops are also scheduled online as usual.”

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