Newly-elected SGA executive board confronts pandemic, prepares for next school year

By Myer Lee, Staff Reporter

File Photo
(Right) Newly-elected SGA President Anna Baumeister, a sophomore comedy writing and performance major, at a meeting with the 2019–2020 executive board.

Anna Baumeister knew she wanted to be part of the Student Government Association since her freshman year and now finds herself continuously hands-on with a task the association has never had to face before—a global pandemic.

With campus closures and the transition to online learning, SGA had students fill out surveys to offer their feedback on the college’s handling of the pandemic, and then relayed the information in an email to President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and the Board of Trustees.

Baumeister, a sophomore comedy writing and performance major and newly-elected president of SGA for the 2020–2021 academic year, is one of five newly-elected executive board members who will lead approximately 15 to 20 student senators. Baumeister said being on the executive board will enhance her leadership skills and prepare her for her career.

However, she said the main goal of the new executive board is to amplify student voices.

“I want more detailed events that all students can come and be part of like a poetry slam or maybe a graffiti night,” Baumeister said. “Really just allowing all student voices to be heard and making sure we are using those events to receive student feedback.”

SGA’s executive board election, which was conducted online for all Columbia students, closed April 20 and the new board was sworn in virtually on April 21.

Before transferring to Columbia, sophomore marketing major Kevin Herrera, the new SGA vice president, had experience in student government and was head of the public relations and diversity and inclusion committees at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

During the pandemic, he has remained committed to his previously-held role as the SGA commuter senator, maintaining contact with commuter students. He said the association has been working hard to keep in contact with their communities, including international and transfer students.

The new executive board also includes Viktoria Cruz, a sophomore dance major, as the vice president of communications.

Baumeister said this is a unique time to connect with students because everyone is facing different issues during the pandemic, such as graduation or housing. She added that SGA attempts to get input on various issues and departments with its surveys because it is difficult to focus on one overarching issue for more than 6,000 students.

“We all need to be receptive to the feedback both on the students’ end and on the administration’s end,” Baumeister said. “It will only make communication stronger.”

Ashley Moore, student representative to the Board of Trustees, has been an SGA member for three years and has experienced various agendas each year because of its annual executive board change.

Moore, a junior illustration major, said the pandemic has impacted communication with students because they now rely on social media to receive feedback. She added that SGA has met frequently with administrators over Zoom during the pandemic.


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From your two fav Presidents @columbiachi how’s everything going? • • On a more serious note, on behalf of Student Government, an email was sent to the Administration to tackle student issues that have been rising in effects to COVID-19. This email consisted of; Our student survey that got over 150 responses resulting in 48 pages of student data/feedback, 3 page letter addressing student issues and student suggested solutions. From this email we got a written response from Dr. Kim and a meeting that was called between the Administration & Student Leadership at Columbia. This meeting was a success with administration addressing everything that was brought up as well as the continuation of these meetings to improve the student experience. If you would like to hear more feel free to join our General Senate Meeting tomorrow at 5pm (CST) #intheloop

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“We’re really helping them say what they need to say and making sure they’re putting out the right information toward students so they can feel better, especially in a time like this,” Moore said.

SGA Vice President of Finance Elijah Jagours said he has always been intrigued by SGA’s ability to be a voice for students, and that he was a member of student government in high school for the same reason. Before joining, Jagours, a freshman music major, said he would regularly attend meetings, only missing them if he was sick.

He said SGA wants to help students in any way they can during the pandemic even if that means fundraising for resources or petitioning for administrators to provide those resources.

“We are going to continue to fight for the students and continue to be a voice for them,” Jagours said. “[We will] make sure they are heard, they’re appreciated, they’re loved and they’re supported throughout this pandemic and throughout this next school year, whether it be online or on campus.”