Student Government Association President Rashad Kirksey stands a few weeks away from one complete semester through his presidency as his staff has had to govern through a fall semester lined with challenges caused by COVID-19.
In the spring, Kirksey and Vice President Blake Moore ran on a platform to improve many things around campus. One aspect Kirksey’s staff wanted to improve on campus was meal plan variety.
“We’ve created some subcommittees in the senate with regards to the meal plan policy,” Kirksey said. “We are making great progress with that. We hope to have a resolution within our next senate meeting before the semester is out.”
Kirksey’s staff also looked to create pet friendly residence halls. While a subcommittee is making progress on the pet friendly residence hall issue, Kirksey said he is not sure whether there will be a resolution at the upcoming SGA meeting regarding the issue.
Other points on Kirksey’s platform have been harder to make progress on because of COVID-19.
“There has been quite a halt when it comes to 24/7 access for study space due to COVID concerns,” Kirksey said. “That’s definitely something we’re still working toward. We do have great administration that are willing this and wanting this as well. We’re definitely seeing it as something that can definitely happen just without COVID restrictions moving forward.”
Kirksey has also been trying to solve issues regarding day-to-day student education as the way students receive their education has changed so drastically since COVID-19 first broke out.
Kirksey met with the faculty senate president and staff senate president for almost two hours discussing concerns regarding students, faculty and staff on campus.
“When it comes to online virtual education, not all teachers are teaching in the same format,” Kirksey said. “You understand that because there are differences between departments. Our concern is making sure that students still feel as if they are getting the same quality education as they would in the classroom. That’s been a big concern for students.”
Kirksey said another big concern is making sure students still get to interact with the professor and other students in the classroom as this is a big part of why students choose to attend the university.
“You’re learning not only from the teacher but from the classmates as well,” Kirksey said. “Those interactions, those one on one interactions, we need those. They’re crucial for human development especially as a college student. Those are things we need to make modifications on as a university moving forward.”
To assess the education students are currently receiving, Kirksey is creating a survey to send to students to see what platform they are getting their instruction on. The survey will examine whether students are getting their education through Zoom, Google Meet or other video chatting platforms or whether they are just getting content through email and slide shows.
“Moving forward, there was no way (virtual instruction) had to be done,” Kirksey said. “There were no specific guidelines. If we see certain things that are helping students over other programs and entities then we may possibly need to make that more of a standard. That’s things we didn’t have before because it’s different per department, per college and such.”
On the other side, Kirksey said the concern for faculty and staff was to make sure they feel safe during their job.
A-State Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse announced to students in a Nov. 6 email that after Thanksgiving Break the university would transition to all virtual instruction.
“I feel as if it’s definitely a safe (decision),” Kirksey said. “We see not only in our country, but in our state and region of Arkansas, in our university, cases are rising. We just thought we’d be in a better position. Just to ensure the safety of everyone, we’d rather save lives than trying to be in person, it’s not worth it.”
Although the university is transitioning to all virtual instruction after Thanksgiving Break for the rest of the semester, campus will still be open. Kirksey noted some of the challenges ahead facing SGA.
“Making sure that (students) are able to adequately go to online classes and still get their full education without any sort of barriers in their way is one of my concerns right now,” Kirksey said. “You have this plan and guideline for the year. You have these platform goals you sit before you but like I said when we ran, there was no idea the pandemic would be here. We’re modifying and adjusting as we go.”