An American University Student Government report released on Oct. 1 found that students feel strongly about making changes to AUPD, certain coronavirus protocols and strengthening campus/university support for mental health.
The Fall 2020 Student Survey Report combined recommendations from SG officials with feedback from the student body, and is intended to aggregate information on issues as diverse as spring semester planning, relationships with AUPD and collaboration between SG and the administration.
The report, which includes the results of a survey sent to students on Sept. 21, was the first of its kind in SG history. Max Rubin, a senator for the Class of 2023, coordinated the report with the hopes of helping students during an online semester.
“We wanted to ask students directly what we could do better,” Rubin said. “We wanted to identify issues and suggest solutions for them.”
The report’s section on the response to COVID-19 provides information on AUSG’s newly-formed Collaborative Planning Initiative Special Committee, including its calls for collaboration between AU and student groups and plans to hold a town hall. The report also calls for more testing on campus, voicing concerns about ventilation and in-person class sizes, while offering recommendations for a coronavirus safety-kit to be distributed to students.
Students are also concerned about mental health services on campus. In January, students took to social media to voice their frustrations following a controversial email about students missing Counseling Center appointments.
“If our services couldn’t accommodate students in the past, what makes us think they’re equipped for a return to campus after the detrimental effect the pandemic has had on student’s (sic) mental health?” the report asks.
The report proposes a new building for counseling and increased communication between university officials and students. In the short-term, any extra space on campus could be used for counseling, in addition to improved messaging and resources from the Counseling Center.
The report on the student survey also cited an anonymous submission from a female AU student, who said that AUPD should not play a role in mental crisis response.
Rubin said that listening to students’ experiences, such as this one, is a step to a more engaged student government.
“My job as a representative is not to tell people what ideas are good for them, my job is to ask, and listen, and learn from them so that we can make the best decisions on behalf of them,” Rubin said.
The report stresses the dissatisfaction students feel toward the fees they pay and services they have access to, especially in a virtual modality. Several proposals were put forward to respond to this concern, including an investigation into ways AU might help students faced with the burdens of the university’s late decision to close campus.
The report also notes the importance of increased clarity within the Financial Aid Office.
“The Financial Aid Office must be extremely accessible with a full breakdown of what thresholds give you what money and what circumstances will be reviewed so students don't have to constantly press for answers,” Rubin said.
Ashley Bastin, a senator for the Class of 2022, contributed to the report, and noted the need for more transparency within Student Government as a whole. Issues of financial transparency have plagued the organization in the past, including with funding for the annual Founders Day Ball. The report pledges to address these concerns.
In the survey, students voiced their concerns over the way SG is run, especially when it comes to trust and the relationships they have within the student body.
Bastin said AUSG must continue to bridge the historical divide between the organization and the student body, as well as work harder to hear from more students about their needs.
“We really do want to listen and hear what issues the students want us to advocate for,” Bastin said.