USG Hosts Town Hall During Coronavirus Pandemic

Hunter’s Undergraduate Student Government held a Zoom town hall last Wednesday where it addressed coronavirus-related concerns.

USG hosts a town hall meeting at least once a semester, and this one marked the first held during the coronavirus. Representatives shared information on delays with financial aid and bursar, online events, ideas for the postponed commencement and coronavirus-centered resources. They also answered student questions on new grading guidelines, professors who imposed strict exam policies and refunds for dorms, concerts and student activity fees. 

The school paused developments on any matters that students voiced before distance learning to prioritize COVID-19 related issues, said Kamalpreet Kaur, USG’s president. “We’ll be following up when all that settles down,” Kaur said.

Student Welfare Commissioner Hardik Bhaskar addressed students who said they have faced delays trying to contact the financial aid and bursar’s offices. USG brought up their concerns in a recent meeting they had with Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, who told USG those offices should reply within 48 hours to students, according to Bhaskar. He also said the administration will investigate the delay.

“If you’re having issues, you can message us on Facebook, Instagram and email,” Bhaskar said. “We are here to help. It’s just a tough time.”

The student government posted resources for students affected by COVID-19 on their social media pages, said Finance Commissioner Elise Wang. They also listed activities they have started planning to maintain student life during the coronavirus. These online projects include a talent show, an art class, a Netflix party, TikTok challenges, quiz games, a Humans of Hunter Instagram page, and a place on social media to share student cooking videos. 

USG also addressed graduation, which CUNY recently postponed. Graduating students should contact USG about their commencement preferences, said Evening Affairs Commissioner Gaelle Chawki. USG proposed either smaller in-person department ceremonies or one large event for spring and fall graduates in January 2020. When they post their meeting minutes on their website, the notes will include how students can reach out about their preferred option, according to Raisa Karim, the senate chair.

Hunter College’s Thomas Hunter Hall. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Representatives answered questions they received through a Google Docs they shared online prior to the meeting. 

Students asked about dorm, concert ticket, and student activity fee refunds, which have all been approved. USG brought up dorm refunds during their meeting with Raab, who said CUNY oversees the dormitory refunds, not Hunter, said Sabina Kubayeva, the residence life commissioner. Chawki said while the school will refund student activity fees, Hunter will not pay back any of the technology fees since they are in use for students in need of laptops.

“We’re not sure how the refund will be made,” said Chawki. “When we know, you guys will know.” She also said the college will refund the $5 fee for the spring concert by check or by a deduction to any balance a student owes on CUNYFirst.

One student asked if Hunter could enact a universal pass or all-As system instead of the current credit/no credit policy. Kaur said they brought up a universal pass system to the Board of Trustees, but eventually they decided on the new grading policy. 

Many students emailed Karim about online exam limitations such as strict time limits or no backtracking on questions. She advised them to first talk to their professors, but if nothing changes, to ask other friends and classmates to email the professor as well. They can also reach out to administration and department chairs, said Karim. 

“Always be respectful and don’t impose,” said Karim. “If they don’t care just go one step higher. Hopefully they will listen but if not please contact us.” Karim said she helped students in professor Manashi Chatterjee’s chemistry class dispute their exam’s no-backtracking policy.

USG limited audio and video use to its representatives during the meeting after it was zoombombed. Zoombombing refers to when internet trolls enter public Zoom calls and display inappropriate content. Kaur said that if people refrained from displaying offensive content, USG would have allowed other students to speak.

USG explains the zoombombing during the town hall. Screenshot captured from the @hunterusg Instagram.

“Just because of that reason we’re going to adjourn the meeting,” said Kaur. “We would have opened it up to questions but just to keep the integrity going and ensure that we do not unintentionally hurt or upset anyone, we will not be allowing questions through this platform.”

Kaur said they would continue to reply to any inquiries on their social media platforms or their emails.

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