The University of Georgia Student Government Association saw three main themes in student responses to a survey regarding a return to campus in the fall: desire for a mask requirement, more communication and prioritization of students and the choice of online classes.
SGA created the survey to assist with planning the return to UGA amid COVID-19. The organization aims to create a statement of expectations composed of student voices to submit to UGA administration.
This plan resulted after the university released a compilation of various group reports detailing plans for returning to full operations on campus for the fall semester on May 22. The report, which is more than 200 pages long, was updated on June 9.
Although the document features input from various faculty and staff, student input was not included.
The SGA survey received 6,023 student responses during the 10 days it was available from June 26 to July 3, according to a document from Senate communications director Madison Drummond. The data was compiled before the University System of Georgia announced a new policy which will require students, faculty and staff to wear a mask while on campus.
The amount of responses to the survey told SGA that students wanted a platform to voice their concerns to UGA administration, SGA’s document reads.
Senate President Sam Bryant said he has never seen an SGA survey garner the same amount of participation in a short window of time. Bryant expressed his excitement that the survey had a “grassroots feel” because students shared the survey and responded “on their own accord.”
Out of the students who participated, 90% were undergraduate students. 84% were in-state and 2% were international students.
Over 70% of students that responded to the survey said the UGA is handling the pandemic average or above average. Over 80% of respondents rated UGA’s transition to online learning was average or above average.
On the other hand, 78% of respondents said they “want more communication and updates from UGA’s administration,” according to the document.
SGA worked with the university to create an email series to provide more updates about campus operations and facilities. Bryant said this email service is tailored specifically to students and will deliver updates on how classes will operate.
UGA students received the first email in the series on July 15.
Senator Ciera Thomas said this new feature resulted after students demonstrated a desire for more communication from UGA through SGA’s survey.
SGA has also hosted two town hall meetings in the past couple weeks. These meetings with university administration are pre-recorded and posted as YouTube videos on SGA’s website.
The senate members met with faculty and staff to discuss student questions, which were collected through direct student communication and “inspiration from comments that students left in the survey data,” Bryant said.
On July 8, the discussion focused on equity, diversity and inclusion on campus. SGA met with International Student Life, the Office of Institutional Diversity and the LGBT Resource Center. A second town hall meeting discussed campus services and operations on July 15. University Housing, Dining Services, Transportation and Parking Services and the Career Center joined in on the conversation.
“We were able to facilitate a conversation on how to best support Black students as well students of other marginalized communities now and when they return to campus,” Bryant said.
There are three more town hall meetings scheduled before returning to campus for classes on Aug. 20. Meetings are scheduled for July 22, July 29 and Aug. 5. Thomas said these opportunities are valuable to students who want their voices heard.
“What we get from students and the concerns that they may share with us we can take to administration and say this is where students want to see change, this is what we’ve been doing well and this is what we need to work on,” Thomas said. “I think it’s going to be really critical to making sure that we have a safe and effective return to in person classes in the fall.”