student senate zoom

Student Senate held its first all-senate meeting since COVID-19 forced Northwest to close its campus March 31, hosting the meeting on Zoom and broadcasting it on Facebook Live. 

When she entered the weekend leading up to Northwest’s spring break March 9-13, getting set to take a week off from classes and her role as President of Northwest’s 97th Student Senate, senior Asma Hassan, like most Northwest students, was pretty sure she had more time left on campus.

There were still weekly meetings to host on the top floor of the J.W. Jones Student Union, still office hours to hold and an election to oversee. There was still a half-semester left for Hassan and the other seniors making up the 97th Student Senate, one they’re now forced to navigate through Zoom conferences and group messages, with Northwest’s closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic bringing an abrupt end to the semester.

“Never did I think we would be experiencing a pandemic during this presidency,” Hassan said in an email. “Honestly, this is not the way I want to leave Northwest. I still have many thanks and goodbyes to give.”

In the wake of Northwest’s shift to online-only coursework and social distancing guidelines ordered by Maryville, Student Senate is working through the remainder of the spring semester remotely, often hosting cabinet and executive meetings through Zoom, Organization Affairs Committee Chair sophomore Bailey Hendrickson said in an email.

Student Senate also held a townhall-style meeting over Zoom March 27 in an effort to remain in contact with students while working remotely, Hendrickson said, and hosted its first all-senate meeting through the online conferencing service March 31 in an attempt to recapture some sense of normalcy.

The meeting, though, didn’t offer much normalcy for the senators. There were reminders for Student Senate’s upcoming election April 13-17, which will take place entirely online with no in-person campaigning possible. There were no allocations to vote on and no campus organizations present to request funds, with the remainder of Student Senate’s budget rolling over to the fall semester. And there were updates on civic service, an area in which the senate has helped stock food pantries both on and off-campus in the wake of the pandemic.

In the midst of the Zoom conference, which itself served as a reminder of COVID-19’s impact on daily life, there wasn’t much left for the senators to plan as they strive to serve a student population now scattered across the world.

“There were some events that we won't be able to have, and the closure does make it difficult to meet face to face with the student body,” Hendrickson said in an email. “However … we are trying our hardest to become creative with ways to connect with organizations.”

The March 31 meeting, which Student Senate broadcast on Facebook Live, served in some ways as the wake for the 97th Senate’s term. The first all-senate meeting since the coronavirus arrived in Missouri would also be the last of Hassan’s term as president, with the next full-senate meeting scheduled for April 21, when the results of the body’s upcoming elections are set to be announced, and with the results, Hassan’s replacement.

The meeting, bookended by goodbyes from Hassan that were at times emotional, brought updates from close to a dozen committee chairs and representatives with mostly nothing to update on. Representatives often used their time to encourage the rest of the senate amid the pandemic and to say goodbye to seniors whose on-campus terms ended a half-semester early.

“We don’t really have much of a report,” Governmental Affairs Chair Ben Kutz said before updating on an old committee project.

“We don’t have much, obviously,” Hendrickson said before explaining the limited contact the Organizational Affairs committee has had with student organizations.

“We don’t have much to report, either,” Student Affairs Chair Taylor Moore said. “We’re pretty much suspended for the rest of the semester.”

Without much work left to be done, the senators, for the most part, looked forward to both the fall semester and the potential end to a nationwide state of social distancing. They reviewed election policies and held an informative session for representatives aiming for new positions. They encouraged senators to spread the word about the election, which 633 students participated in a year ago. And as they prepared to move forward, gearing up for a fall semester still more than four months away, Hassan looked back on the last four years.

“This is definitely not the way I wanted to leave,” Hassan said in the Zoom session as she started to choke up. “I don’t want to start crying or anything like that because I’ve already been crying about it and stuff, but I just wish I could have been in person one more time and actually shared this. But, no — thank you for being here.”

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