During the February 2020 Ball State Student Government Association (SGA) election season, Bold slate members promised voters they would be the SGA executive board to represent their interests and get things done.
Now, their plans have adapted amid the coronavirus pandemic, but SGA vice president Jordyn Blythe said Bold is still prioritizing communication with the student body.
“Ensuring that we are representing them to the best of our ability, that we are listening to their desires [and] needs and making sure that our relationship there is strong is really important,” Blythe said. “There would be no purpose for our organization without the student body.”
Much of SGA’s student body outreach is completed through in-person events such as Dining in the Dark, town halls and senator organizational visits.
There is still some opportunity for SGA to talk to the student body in person, including its current project with Ball State Democrats and College Republicans to register first-time voters. Volunteers from the organizations will set up a table at the scramble light various times throughout September in honor of national voter registration day Sept. 22.
President Pro Tempore Dylan Lewandowski said he hopes SGA can continue tabling — listening to students’ campus concerns — in person to hear what students want from senators this semester.
“Safe tabling will be very much a key tool to our success this semester,” he said. “That is one of the only physical avenues that we can pursue to reach the student body.”
Bold is also working to update SGA’s social media pages to reach more students this fall semester, chief administrator Gina Esposito said.
“We want to make sure that social presence is there,” she said. “We have a lot of big plans in terms of making access to information and outreach more accessible for students.”
Lewandowski said Bold might use social media as a tabling technique to reach out to new students and increase awareness of SGA and its purpose.
“Part of that [outreach] will just be strategy because we’re in the same boat as a lot of other groups,” he said. “We’ll see what gets the best response — maybe it’s social media, email or tabling. We’ll just use trial and error to see what resonates or gets the most results.”
With diminished ability to host in-person events, SGA president Connor Sanburn said he hopes to host virtual Zoom town halls to reach more students.
He said Temple Day, Bold’s secretary of diversity, was interested in asking Black Ball State alumni to speak virtually to current students of color using Zoom breakout rooms sometime this fall.
“I would love to be able to push this idea,” Sanburn said. “This fall, it would definitely have to be virtual, pretty similar to how we’re conducting SGA right now.”
The Bold executive board remains confident they can achieve their platform points, but Esposito said some may be more challenging, including heated bus stations.
“Having every bus stop in the university look the way we envision it to by the end of the school year could be more of a challenging project,” she said. “Since we’re starting so early, making an attempt to create a plan at the very least, we see that being quite successful … It’s just a larger project compared to creating a singular event.”
Esposito said she and Sanburn have drafted a proposal for heated bus stations and are prepared to allocate a portion of SGA’s budget toward the point if Ball State Facilities Planning and Management administrators approve the plan.
SGA treasurer Amanda Mustaklem said the lack of in-person events for the fall semester will result in not as many funds being needed to host events. She said Bold is able to work with Elevate’s unused funds from the spring 2020 semester in its budget, which will be approved by senators in a future meeting.
“We get to receive last year’s funds that we didn’t get to use due to COVID, so that’s nice,” Mustaklem said. “Our goal is to hopefully have some in-person events coming in the spring, but as of right now, there are reduced costs due to everything being online in the fall.”
With virtual meetings encouraged for all extracurricular activities during the fall semester, Sanburn said some faculty may be able to develop more flexible plans for events SGA will host, giving the Counseling Center partnership event as an example.
As of the Sept. 9 senate meeting, the Counseling Center partnership event is planned to take place in person during the spring semester, but Sanburn said they are prepared to accommodate an online event if necessary.
“Depending on where the COVID situation is going to be at in the spring, we may have to put it online,” he said. “Because of the possibility of it being online, there’s a lot more opportunity to invite students in and to get more resources from the Counseling Center.”
Blythe said she is grateful the language used in Bold’s platform points leaves room for adaptation.
“When we built this platform, it was with flexibility in mind,” she said. “I do think that is going to end up being a strength because we’re trying to expand and explore, and we were prepared to be flexible.”