Student Government appoints COVID-19 response committee

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Speaker of the Assembly Jakob Lucas, center, calls for the legislative body to vote on fast tracking the legislative process of A.B.8, an amendment to the spring budget appropriations, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 in the Legislative Assembly room of the William C. Powers Student Activity Center. Discussion on the amendment was taken up 29 for, 2 against, and 1 abstaining.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Student Government created a COVID-19 Response Operational Committee to gather student input and develop legislation to address student needs at the remote assembly meeting Tuesday.

Speaker of the assembly Kerry Mackenzie created the committee, which was approved by unanimous consent. Mackenzie appointed the chairs and members of the committee at the meeting.

“The assembly should be providing some sort of coalescent knowledge about (COVID-19) so we can better assist and represent students to the administration regarding changes, adjustments and different services they need to offer to help students be successful,” Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie, a government and Plan II sophomore, named University-wide representative Gabrielle Wongso and University-wide representative Andrew Harmon as chairs of the committee. The other committee members are natural science representative Robert Salkin, communications representative Derek Foshee, undergraduate studies representative Benjamin Farias, nursing representative Huy Le and liberal arts representative Anisa Noor.

Farias, an undeclared freshman, said he wanted to work for the committee to represent students in the School of Undergraduate Studies and make their issues a part of SG’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a very different situation for (students in the School of Undergraduate Studies) because they’re attempting to transfer into the major they want to graduate with while all of this is going on,” Farias said. “No one is too sure about what the requirements are or what the new process is.”

Nursing freshman Le said he aims to let students know that there are University resources available for them during the pandemic, as many students have moved back home.

“It’s really important that we get the correct information out there to reduce the anxiety and stress that is already associated with moving off campus,” Le said.

Psychology freshman Noor said while trying to calm the student body, it is important to be realistic and address the actual issues going on.

“While it’s affecting certain students more than others, I think it’s really important that we remain empathetic with everyone and make sure that we are especially attending to those specific students’ needs … that might not have the same access to the Internet that some of us do,” Noor said. 

Mackenzie said although this committee is designed to lead SG’s response to the pandemic, the assembly as a whole should be working to help the student body.

“We all should be thinking about ways to represent students during this hard time,” Mackenzie said. “It’s a time when the assembly should be especially responsive and should be empowered to create legislation, carry out service projects, (and) do whatever we can.”