By Mike Sherr
Student Government (SG) met on Oct. 14 for their weekly general body meeting to discuss new and old business, including an emergency fund plan to College President Kathryn Foster.
To kick off the meeting, the organization first heard a presentation from a group called AmIOk in order to understand their message.
AmIOK is a 24/7 mental health hotline focused on providing confidential aid to students at the College who have experienced physical or emotional distress caused by a crime. The group is planning on expanding to provide aid to any student in Mercer County.
AmIOk representative Liza Woods told the general body that while the hotline is a place to get help, any serious emergency should be reported to emergency services.
SG then moved on to debate old business, starting with the request for a transfer of funds from the Office of Student Affairs to create a Student Union Emergency Fund (SUEF), which was introduced on Sept. 23.
The SUEF would reallocate $150,000 from Student Affairs to create financial relief for international, undocumented, graduate and other students who are affected by Covid-19 and were not eligible for financial aid through the federal CARES Act.
According to SG, there are an estimated 3,000 students who were not eligible for CARES funding due to a Title IX section that requires a student to be a citizen, permanent resident or be able to provide evidence of intent to become a citizen of the U.S., to receive a grant, loan or work assistance.
A committee made up of representatives from SG, the Student Finance Board (SFB), Division of Student Affairs, Division of Inclusive Excellence and the Office of Financial Aid would be created to grant these funds. Originally, the bill was set to be voted on by Sept. 30 but was tabled for two weeks due to concerns about student’s financial and legal privacy.
“I was against this because there were a lot of holes, especially for the people that it was primarily supposed to help,” said Santiago Salinas, a sophomore public health major and Head Senator of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science. “Since seeing it revised with protocols in place in terms of privacy for undocumented students, I now support it.”
Executive President Suchir Govindarajan also reported that the SFB did not endorse the request when asked if they would assist in the transfer. Their concern was that the SUEF would break guidelines for SAF funding. SAF funding is not allowed to be used to create scholarships. SAF funding is also supposed to be open to all students, and the SEUF would only allocate funds to students that meet specific criteria.
Ultimately, the request passed and will be sent to President Foster. SG and SFB will work together to create a better plan to reallocate these funds in the upcoming weeks.