In their first meeting of the academic year, 36 students attended the Student Government Association Congress meeting. “We’re excited to have you hear, especially in person,” said student government vice president Darci Johnson.
Beginning at 1:21 p.m., the SGA called the meeting to order. All officers of the student government gave reports on their offices. SGA Public Relations Director Caden Coleman announced a freshman council and shared his social media account as a source of information. SGA President Madison McLaughlin and SGA Director of Diversity and Inclusion Yleana Esparza also shared their social media accounts.
Currently, the SGA Congress has not approved appropriations or formally established a freshman student government council. New business included recognizing two student organizations at RSU.
“We hope we get this student organization back on track,” said RSU student Giovanni Wahome. He represented the International Student Association and spoke about the perspective of international students at RSU. The International Student Association has previously been recognized as a registered student organization at RSU but fell into bad-standing with the SGA.
Wahome described disparities in international student services offered at RSU compared to other institutions under the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. Vice President Johnson objected to further questions by the Hill News regarding the association’s experience attempting to be recognized as a registered student organization again.
The International Student Association was officially recognized by the SGA Congress and passed unanimously. RSU student Kira Carter then presented Brothers and Sisters for Excellence, a proposed black student association, to the SGA Congress.
“It’s going to allow students to make connections,” said Carter. RSU has not had a recognized black student organization since being accredited as a four year, regional university.
“We can spread diversity across campus,” explained Carter. She described that Brothers and Sisters for Excellence as an inclusive student organization for RSU students. The proposed student organization was recognized and passed unanimously.
SGA President McLaughlin recognized incoming RSU Student Activities Coordinator Katie Warnick to share announcements. Warnick began working on August 25, 2020, and oversees campus events, student organization support services, and other university recreational activities.
Warnick announced that student organizations at RSU will be expected to adhere to COVID-19 activity guidelines. Warnick also announced that the SGA will be hosting the Student Organization Leadership Retreat on September 11, 2020. This annual event is traditionally required for student organizations in the spring semester but was not held to COVID-19.
RSU Libraries shared information about upcoming campus events, and President McLaughlin adjourned the meeting at 2:02 p.m.
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As students begin returning to campus, RSU parents remain optimistic for the semester ahead. Today, approximately 80 incoming freshman began moving into their dorms ahead of Hillcamp 2020.
Sherri Young and her daughter made the trip to RSU from Pryor, OK. With two shopping carts in tow, she expressed her readiness to help her daughter continue on in life. Young joked she is not worried about sending her child to college. “It’s only 20 minutes away, so I’m not worried,” said Young.
“I’m happy for her to start life. I think [with] everything you got to take precautions, and you should be okay.”
While nearly every parent wore masks to and from their vehicles, concerns about the coronavirus affecting their student’s fall semester were minimal. “I believe they’re all responsible and old enough to know what to do and follow guidelines,” said Michel Shook, a parent from Bartlesville, OK.
Shook explained how his daughter was worried about not knowing if she could live on campus this year.
The Smiles family traveled from Vinita, Oklahoma, to move in today. “We feel confident in the school that they’ve made the right decisions to keep them safe,” said Jennifer Smiles.
Zoey Smiles, an incoming freshman, shared some concerns about moving away from home, but she is excited from the upcoming year. She said is looking forward to college events and coming to campus.
Earlier this summer, RSU released its fall plans for returning to campus. The plan included policies such as mandatory masks while indoors and requiring a negative COVID-19 test before a on-campus resident can move in. These policies have been largely in line with other Oklahoma colleges and universities.
However, not all students share the optimism of the incoming class of freshmen. “I’m feeling quite nervous about returning to campus,” said Marie Dyroff, a senior at RSU who is also living on campus.
“I want to trust my peers to properly practice proper handwashing hygiene, mask wearing, and social distancing, but there is a part of me that understands that there will be some uninformed students returning.
“My dad is in a high risk category as a heart disease patient, and I want to keep myself and my family as safe as possible. I know that the university is taking necessary steps and implementing reasonable guidelines, but I believe there will be a smidge of fear resting in the back of my mind that there could be an outbreak.”
Since July, RSU has maintained its intentions to continue classes in person and conduct the last two weeks of the semester online. The university has encouraged all students, faculty, and staff to review their coronavirus response webpage for more information and updates.