The first Student Government Association business meeting of the fall semester looked a little different this year, with representatives spaced six feet apart — some attending virtually — and wearing masks in Alumni Gym.
Delegates discussed a variety of topics, including the new bias reporting system and the university's handling of the coronavirus on campus.
Leigh-Anne Royster, director of the Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence opened the meeting with a discussion on the increase in data collected from this year from the bias reporting system.
“Verbal and written harassment with no perceived threat has been the highest category of reported bias," Royster said in reference to reports on slurs and graffiti written on property.
This includes reports of passing cars yelling at minority students crossing the street.
Royster presented the data collected from the spring and the current collection period of summer 2020, with the number of reports continuing to grow.
"We are going to surpass these numbers," Royster said. "This is by far the largest group of bias reports we have received in the history of the bias reporting system.”
SGA representatives then discussed ways to create a more transparent view of these statistics, and Royster described the steps that lie ahead, like education for students and faculty who are reported, as well as consequences including removal from school, and inability to join student organizations.
"Deep work and education is happening with students, faculty members and community members that have engaged in hateful bias," she said. "I am glad we have the system. At the same time, we certainly don't want to use that as our first engagement in responding to bias and hate."
Coronavirus concerns came up during the meeting, with many representatives claiming the university was inaccurately reporting on-campus versus off-campus cases and quarantine numbers. The university’s COVID-19 dashboard now includes off-campus data on their charts, but class of 2021 senator Kyra Letsinger alleged that the data was not being updated as frequently and clearly as it could be.
"I think we are doing a great job, but there is so much more that we can do," Letsinger said. "I think there is a lot of distance between the student body and staff, and that is something I have not seen even before I came to Elon."
Jana Lynn Patterson, the dean of students and the associate vice president of student life, did not speak about this claim, but instead spoke about the quarantine processes.
"You get to control whether you are in close contact with someone. Once you are identified as a close contact, you go into quarantine for 14 days," Patterson said, regarding the contact tracing processes the university has been conducting.
Students who have been traced to coronavirus cases are required to quarantine for two weeks, even if they have not received a positive test.
"We are getting legitimate reports, and the town police and campus safety and police have issued citations and referred folks to student conduct," Patterson said. "Our office has been very transparent that if you host an event that violates the governor’s order and university policy, you should be expecting not to be here."
SGA Executive President Robbie Miley briefly spoke about Elon's response to concerns regarding Postmaster General and Elon Trustee Louis DeJoy. DeJoy has made cost-cutting changes to the United States Postal Service.
Miley explained why SGA has been waiting to release a statement of their own on the matter.
“We didn’t feel as though we should speak on behalf of the organization because it appears to be more controversial than we thought,” Miley said. “We did not want to overstep our roles on exec.”