Jack Corby, the newly sworn-in executive president of the Student Government Association, plans to tackle initiatives on communication, diversity and connecting the campus community that he promised in his campaign.
Corby said working alongside other student leaders will aid in carrying out his “Five C’s”: continuity, communication, community, culture and care to benefit those in the Elon campus community. He hopes to connect different areas of campus and make students more aware.
“The job of the student body president to connect those layers and to make sure that every student who wants to have a voice, and can voice their opinion, has the ability to voice their opinion,” Corby said. “I just want to make sure that I'm doing everything I can to expand my worldview a little bit. And make sure that everyone's voices are heard here at Elon”
According to the SGA Constitution, the executive president is responsible for representing the student body in “official dealings with the students of other colleges or universities, and in all dealings with Elon University faculty and administration.” Corby believes it’s his job to ensure student voices are heard across the university community.
During his term, Corby said some of his main priorities are centered around advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and overcoming the disconnect students have felt in regard to the university’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The university’s COVID-19 response
Corby hopes to improve communication errors he and other students have noticed in the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and said he wants to add a student representative to the Ready & Resilient Committee.
Students like Elon sophomore Stephanie Miljanic said she thinks miscommunications between the university and student body have been the biggest challenge this academic year.
“I think the biggest issue we have is the lack of communication,” Miljanic said. “I think there is a void where we don’t get all of the information we want. I had a COVID-scare, and I couldn’t get a test, and the school wouldn’t talk to me, wouldn’t pick up my calls. I was stuck in this cycle of getting voicemails.”
Miljanic said adding at least one student to the Ready & Resilient committee would help overcome the disconnect she feels exists.
According to Ready & Resilient Committee Chair Jeff Stein, throughout the past year, the university has incorporated feedback from students and members of the community.
Stein met with Corby recently to discuss plans on how to make regular communication a priority, and both are open to exploring ways to increase student representation. Corby said he spoke with Stein about sitting in on Ready & Resilient conversations, but said the university doesn’t want to have a Ready & Resilient Committee in the fall.
Corby said conversations surrounding adding a student to Ready & Resilient will continue if the university deems it as something they need in the fall.
“They recognize that we need a couple more student voices in the room,” Corby said. “That’s not something that they want to leave out. But for right now, the Ready & Resilient Committee is in a groove and if it's something they deem they need more in the fall, those conversations will take place.”
Connecting the campus community
During his tenure as executive president, Corby said he wants to execute bigger picture ideas that he outlined in his campaign, one of which is highlighting areas of campus he believes normally aren’t showcased — the arts.
“We have a beautiful arts department on campus,” Corby said. “The people there are very talented in everything they do, just like every Elon student, and they deserve to have their art and their talents showcased a little bit more.”
Corby said he wants to alert students across all disciplines of performances in advance and thinks he can use his position of prominence to create awareness. He said he wants to work to connect different areas of campus together that typically wouldn’t be affiliated.
However, he doesn’t believe it’s fair to create incentives for other organizations to attend events and wants to encourage students to attend by being present himself.
“I think that takes away from the nature and the culture around those types of events, so that’s not something I ever want to do,” Corby said. “But just showing that they're still students and that those events are fun and enjoyable for people who might be in different communities that normally wouldn't go to those events is the way I want to showcase them.”
According to senior music theatre major Haile Ferrier, having support as an artist is an important part of her Elon experience. However, Ferrier said she wants more support from the university, like how she feels the new director of music theatre Julio Matos has given to students.
“He has made me feel supported and ready as an artist than I have in quite some time,” Ferrier wrote in a statement to Elon News Network. “I thank him for not only immediately taking on the deepest struggles in our department but also offering up opportunities I never thought I would get at Elon leading to growth that would help me down the road.”
Corby said he believes the performing arts department has a lot of talent that deserves to be seen by more of the campus community.
“I think it's connecting different areas of campus to them areas of campus that normally wouldn't get connected,” Corby said. “Reaching out to main pockets like athletics and Greek life, and residential neighborhoods to really advertise their shows within those areas of campus and just trying to bridge those gaps as best as we can.”
Ferrier said she believes the support for the arts comes monetarily and through mentorship and training.
“We constantly see the university bringing back successful alum while the students currently in our program are fighting for fair treatment, new spaces, and funding needed to further our training,” Ferrier wrote. “Without this support, we rely on our professors who can only do so much in order for us to get to where the university inevitably want us to get in our careers so they can bring us back and advertise us as successful alum.”
Student mental health
Since the start of the pandemic, platforms like Zoom and WebEx have been used for hybrid teaching, and Corby said he wants the presence of those platforms to continue in a post-pandemic world.
He believes students need the option to take classes remotely not only if they are feeling physically sick, but also for their mental health.
“Right off the bat, I want to see Zoom or WebEx options stay in place for those mental health days,” Corby said. “And kill the stigma around forcing yourself to go to class and forcing yourself to do something if you wake up, and you're just not in the headspace to do that.”
According to Stein, the university has yet to determine if remote alternatives will be offered in the fall semester and Ready & Resilient is still working on recommendations on how to proceed.
Getting support for these initiatives
Corby recognizes his limited perspective in getting some of his goals accomplished and said he has to work with other student leaders for real change to happen.
“I am a white, cisgender, heterosexual male, and I'm a large presence on campus,” Corby said. “I am probably the most privileged person you’re going to find in society. It’s up to me to educate myself and to speak on the needs and wants of different types of students.”
Corby said he will work with his executive board — on which he is the only male — to accomplish his goals. He said working with a coalition of students with different interests and backgrounds will enrich the diversity of SGA.
“It's on me to work with my entire seven-person cabinet, two of which are diversity and inclusion directors to make sure that their voices are heard in areas of campus they represent,” Corby said.
By appointing two of the eight seats within the cabinet to work directly on diversity inclusion, Corby hopes he can work with different cultural organizations and offices on campus to provide aid with their initiatives and make them accessible to the whole campus community.
Corby said initiatives like the 2019 pilot program that put free menstrual products in bathrooms around campus are programs he wants SGA to continue. He hopes that as the two-year pilot program that expires on June 1 that SGA is able to start up an expanded and more inclusive and permanent plan.
Corby said if the program does not get renewed, it will not be in place for students next fall and this decision has to be made by May 6, which is SGA’s last business meeting of the semester.
Corby said the timeline for each project will be different, but believes some are more pressing than others. The success of some of Corby’s goals will rely on the senate — senators and the at-large council are responsible for drafting and voting on legislation.
Corby is responsible to fill the open in seats in the senate. As of April 4, there are 17 open seats — 16 in the entire Organizational Council and one open senate seat in the School of Education.
“It’s really just waiting and getting our senate in place,” Corby said. “Then seeing what they want to do and the ideas they have and trying to connect my five C's [and] the other three executive’s goals over the next calendar year and anything that the Senate wants to do, working together to get those things done.”