Photo of SGA President, Natalie Coppolino, and Vice President, Anne Philbin.
In preparation for the 2020-2021 school year, the University of Dayton’s Student Government Association offered the student’s voice to the administration making the COVID-19 protocols.
SGA President Natalie Coppolino and Vice President Anne Philbin began sitting in on the Path Forward committee meetings a week or two after their election in April. The SGA Director of Academic Affairs sat with the committee in charge of planning academics for the fall semester.
The Path Forward committee worked through the spring and summer creating a plan for students to return to campus for the 2020-2021 school year.
Coppolino and Philbin were utilized in meetings to give the administration the students perspective or reaction to protocols the university was putting into place.
“If the administration wanted a student perspective they would come to Natalie or I and we would talk to our executive team about it and just represent what the students want,” Philbin said.
Coppolino said they were approached by administration about their thoughts on messages to students, wording for signage around campus and social media posts such as making a Tik Tok.
Along with collaborating with university leaders, SGA has focused on helping the students understand the protocols for the year through leading by example.
“One of the main things that Anne and I have both stressed within the organization is that we’re student leaders and need to set an example,” Coppolino said.
She said she is encouraging people to not be afraid to have awkward conversations with friends and roommates about following the university guidelines.
SGA has had many of these conversations with students because students are confused about COVID-19 and the university’s protocols. They stress to students that they may not be happy about the rules in place but it’s the only way to stay on campus.
Coppolino and Philbin said they understand that not all students are going to agree on different policies but for the time being they are trying to respectfully represent the student body.
“I think we’re doing the best that we can,” Philbin said. “This is our first pandemic too so we’re trying to represent everyone in the best way that we can.”
The SGA leaders believe that the way UD has handled COVID-19 is centered around the students and their desire to have them on campus.
“They really put what students want into consideration before making any decisions which is not something I think a lot of other universities can say,” Philbin said. “I think that makes Dayton special.”
Both Coppolino and Philbin added that they were proud to serve on the Path Forward committee with people who cared about the wellbeing of the students.
One of the people who sat on the committee and worked with SGA was Dr. Mary Buchwalder, the Medical Director for UD. Dr. Buchwalder began working in March on COVID-19 concerns for the university and continues to work with university leadership, physicians from Premier Health and Public Health- Dayton and Montgomery County on the issue.
Speaking on SGA’s involvement in the decision making processes, Dr. Buchwalder believes that having the student voice be heard is very important and essential to the university and has been impressed by their work.
“I have been very impressed with Natalie’s and Anne’s professionalism,” Buchwalder said. “They have been available for meetings throughout the summer, which has helped the University understand students’ needs and perspectives as we navigate the pandemic. They have also been essential in helping students to understand the University’s plans and considerations.”
Buchwalder added that the coronavirus is a dangerous disease that students should take seriously.
“While young adults generally have brief or asymptomatic illness with COVID-19, we are just learning about some of the prolonged effects for them, such as heart issues that can limit athletes,” Buchwalder said. “Some young adults can also have very serious disease, and certainly can spread it to vulnerable populations on campus and in the Dayton community.”
SGA is currently hosting a convalescent plasma donation on campus for students who have recovered from COVID-19. The drive runs from October 14 to October 29. To sign up or receive more information call 937-461-3220 or email Natalie Coppolino at email@example.com.
“It’s a great way to give to the community and plasma is in really high demand,” Coppolino said. “You could really change a life if you donate.”