The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Student Senate strives to connect with students in a pandemic

by Casey Rafter | Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]
by Destiny Walker | Staff Writer | [email protected]

Spencer Slavazza, newly elected president to the City College Student Senate, found himself last summer with a group of senators who had no experience in student government at the same time the district was still adjusting to remote operations.

The fact that the Senate remained intact in the wake of campus closures in mid-March continues to be something Slavazza and his fellow Senators are proud of. As students adjusted to remote instruction in March, City College Student Senate transitioned immediately to meetings via Zoom.

“We were the only student government in LRCCD that stayed operational. We were very quick to transition online,” Slavazza said. “I was nervous about that, too. Even though we remained operational, there was still so much uncertainty.”

Alexandra Diamant, secretary of public relations for the Senate, said she admired how efficiently and quickly last semester’s Student Senate handled the change when access to campus was restricted.

“This is actually something pretty impressive,” Diamant said of last year’s Student Senate. “That propelled us to be operational and have a swift transition into this new [Senate] term.”

The fall semester finds Slavazza in his first term in the Senate. As Senate president, he said he wants to improve connections with the students he represents. Strengthening that connection has been complicated by having to convene and operate remotely, but Slavazza said the experience has given him a different perspective.

“We want to make a solid connection with students so we know exactly how to represent them or how we can advocate for them,” Slavazza said. “There’s definitely a disconnect. It’s just been more difficult to reach students. Our plan so far has been to work closely with instructors and department chairs, programs, and clubs. They have good connections with students.”

Diamant said that the Student Senate wants to hear the needs of the students and the community. The Student Senate has continued to hold public meetings via Zoom the first and third Wednesday of each month. In addition to attending Senate Zoom meetings, students can also contact Diamant through the Senate’s Instagram account.

“We are open to the public, and we do want the public to come into our meetings and give us comments,” according to Diamant. “Students [can] come in twice in each meeting and tell us if they’re struggling with something specifically and they’re not feeling that they’re getting that resource then, especially with COVID.”

Before the spread of COVID-19, Slavazza recalled that when he talked to City College students about student government, many didn’t know it existed. According to Slavazza, a lack of knowledge about the Student Senate and what it can do is a longstanding issue, now compounded by the campus closure.

Getting students interested in participating in student government remains an issue during the pandemic, too.

“I feel like there is also a timidness or shyness to getting involved,” Diamant said. “Everyone in our group is so amazing. They are so kind, they are so thoughtful and, ultimately we are a really diverse group on campus.”

Meeting with students virtually has not been the only adjustment the Senate has faced. In the past it has partnered with RISE to operate weekly food banks on campus. The Senate is currently working with Dean of Campus Intervention Andre Coleman to find an alternative to on-campus food banks.

“We recently formed a basic needs committee,” Slavazza said. “We want to do this in a safe way and get food into the hands of students. Even if it’s just vouchers we can provide to students to get food somewhere. We are looking for ways to do that.”

Diamant said the student senate wants to make a difference for the student body at City College. As the Senate connects better with students, it will be able to take action based on student needs.

“I think the biggest difference that us as the Student Senate can make during the pandemic is being a united front for the student body of Sac City,” Diamant said.

Slavazza said the Senate has planned contests, debates and a presidential forum for this semester, as well as a Halloween art contest in collaboration with the art department. Students can submit their work along with their name and Student ID until Oct. 25. He said winning entries will be posted Oct. 31 on the Student Senate’s Instagram account and web page.

“We’re finding ways to engage with students that’s not necessarily academic, but still school oriented,” Slavazza said, noting that the presidential forum will be held Nov. 13 after the election. “The forum will be an opportunity for students to say how they feel about the election and ask panelists. The panel consists of professors from political science, history, and sociology departments.”

Diamant said that strength in numbers is the key for the Student Senate to make a difference. It has had Zoom meetings to work with the Black Student Union, which works with African American students to lower the black student dropout rate, among other issues.

“Only time will tell what we were able to do. We are such a solid group that I’m sure we will be able to get something together,” Diamant said.

Through connections with instructors, department chairs and clubs, Slavazza hopes to better reach students. To connect with students, he said the Student Senate is using new tactics—such as connecting with instructors, clubs, an departments—that should have been used all along.

“We’re doing it now and I hope it sets a pattern for when we get back on campus,” Slavazza said. “I feel like when we get back on campus, we’ll have more tools to reach students. It’s encouraged us to reach out to more professors and work more closely with more clubs and departments. It’s something we should have been doing before.”

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