It’s been an incredible privilege to have served as the Student Senate President in the 2020-2021 term. Right off the bat, I have to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed society in the past year, most importantly for this position – how much of an unproportionally large negative influence it has had on the mental wellbeing of specifically the college student demographic. I could not be more grateful for being able to work with the incredible, hardworking, creative, driven, passionate and caring Student Senate and Eboard this year. From the very beginning of last summer, we’ve discussed as an Eboard how to make this year the best it can be and how to utilize creative solutions to continue to impact students in meaningful ways even in such unprecedented circumstances.
NJIT worked relentlessly to be a trailblazer in showing what a hybrid college experience looked like; during our pandemic recovery committee meetings, we were so proud to hear that colleges across the country were using NJIT’s meticulous Pandemic Recovery Plan as a measure of where to aim. We’ve been very grateful for the opportunity to have Student Senate representation on the pandemic recovery committees all year to provide student input and feedback on decisions of monumental scales. Additionally, we worked closely with Student Life to create a campus life centric pandemic recovery plan outlining how students would be able to exercise their passions in student organizations and activities while following the guidelines during the entire year.
Since the creation of the pandemic recovery plan, everything felt as though it happened so quickly – from our donation to the Highlander Emergency Fund, tent proposals, GDS reusable bags, the mental health day initiative, pass/fail resolutions and a student activities fee refund which all aimed to solve COVID-19 related issues directly to the more indirect and student life improvements of OER textbooks, NSO T-shirts proposal, Student Organization Tiering documents and Good Standing Bonus funding, Food Pantry expansion proposal and Highlander Hype Fest, just to name a few.
In addition to these, I wanted to stress our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We created a diversity and inclusion committee, and although it is admittedly still trying to figure out its direction and purpose, we have sponsored Black History Month for this year and made sure that we have stepped up in this remarkable year full of civil rights movements to ensure that our student body knows that they have support from us.
Moreover, I can’t express how much Senator work goes behind the scenes. I’ve listed many accomplishments above that are tangible, quantifiable and have official voting procedures; however, there is so much more. Senators go to meetings after meetings discussing issues such as proctoring for exams, class schedules for students, problems with professors and syllabi and solving non-academic issues as well. It’s such a great feeling to be a part of an organization with students so driven to want to make changes for others, even if much of the work goes behind the scenes. Conversely, there are moments when the impact of our work is strikingly concrete. While several of us were cleaning up in the Student Senate office from the Highlander Hype event, we all mentioned how surprised we were that a ton of students went out of their way to approach and tell us how great of a stress reliever Highlander Fest was, giving them hope for normalcy again as the pandemic isolated them for months. In the event feedback form, one freshman said they were seriously considering transferring from NJIT, but this event gave them motivation to give NJIT a second chance to see the livelihood of campus next fall. The work that goes into this organization and the impact of it is sometimes clouded through constant meetings and emails, but moments like these really touch and refocus us on the reasons we joined Student Senate.
This year, we have expanded our social media platforms to include Discord and Reddit. We wanted more spaces for students to voice their thoughts, and we realized we had two already established platforms waiting to be utilized. The feedback we’ve gotten from our mediums of communication such as Reddit, Discord, Instagram, email, in-person, and all others have really helped us this year in understanding the needs and difficulties of the general student body this year. Not only do we as a Student Senate methodically oversee all the platforms for student thoughts, opinions, rants, suggestions, and overall sentiments, but administration does as well. Movements on these platforms often become dialogues between us and administration, which completely changed my perception of student interaction.
On a similar note, through sentiments given on these platforms and stories told through word of mouth, I learned how incredibly resilient NJIT is. Pre-pandemic the student body was already so hardworking, passionate, driven and so much more, but this year elevated it to the next level. Taking hours of class from home, taking exams virtually and being isolated from friends among everything else takes a significant toll on mental health, yet we adapted to the circumstances. We’ve had glimpses of what life is going to look like again on campus; these moments have brought so much hope to students and we want to continue that trend. I want to thank you, the students, for making campus so vibrant, lively and creating a culture of being so vocal. It has truly been an honor to serve as Student Senate President to such an incredible student body, and I will forever be grateful for the unique opportunity you all have given me.