Ohio University senate bodies are finding ways to continue to hold meetings after the university suspended in-person instruction due to the coronavirus outbreak.
OU Student Senate, Faculty Senate and Graduate Student Senate have all moved their meetings online in the wake of the closures.
Lydia Ramlo, Student Senate president, said it has been active in representing students despite having to operate remotely. Student Senate has been having conversations with university administrators, including those in the Division of Student Affairs and OU President Duane Nellis’ office, she said.
“As Student Senate, we’re here to represent students,” Ramlo said.
She said Student Senate has been walking through recent university decisions with administrators, such as the transition to virtual classes for the remainder of Spring Semester.
“We’ve been really busy,” Ramlo said. “Especially me, I would say, being the liaison between the student body to Student Senate to higher administration at the university.”
The organization has had to postpone some of its events until next semester, including its elections, which were supposed to happen March 30, Ramlo said. It is currently figuring out what software is the best to use to hold remote meetings.
“It’s still open to the public. Students can still come and speak out,” she said.
Ramlo also said she has seen a more concentrated number of students reaching out to Student Senate.
“I think it’s definitely more condensed,” she said. “In times of — I’m not going to say crisis but — very serious, difficult, confusing situations like this one that we’re currently in that are totally unprecedented whatsoever, it’s a time that we as Bobcats have to come together.”
Robin Muhammad, Faculty Senate chair, said the planning for online communications is a new take on conversations they would have had anyway.
“I think for all the faculty senators and certainly the Faculty Senate leadership, let's move forward in conversation with administration on curricular, student residents and campus usage, decisions and policies,” Muhammad said. “So those are quote unquote, ‘new’ items, but they're the kind of conversations we would have been involved in anyway, and now they’re just compressed.”
Faculty Senate had streamed its meetings online before the suspension of in-person communication, but now, meetings will take place exclusively on Microsoft Teams.
“We're not alone in having to make those changes, but that's a little bit different,” Muhammed said. “But everything that we do in terms of the committees — educational programming, student affairs, professional relations, promotion of tenure and financing facilities, all (of that) — we're continuing to meet and to talk about.”
GSS will hold its meetings remotely via Zoom, Dareen Tadros, GSS president, said.
“The priorities have been shifted on the global and national platforms also,” Tadros said in an email. “With this new challenge, new issues rise that we need to tackle such as providing support for all of our graduate students as much as possible.”
GSS will still work on issues it has been addressing since prior to the outbreak, such as health care for graduate students, but Tadros said it will be more challenging. Its election is still proceeding as planned but will be moved online.
“The aim is to continue supporting our graduate and professional students in the best way possible as we have been always doing,” Tadros said in an email.