USG presents plans to expand hybrid course access, create absence system

The Undergraduate Student Government discussed improving course accessibility and student mental health at the Senate meeting Tuesday. 

The initiative, titled the Absence Notification Project and a collaboration with USG Vice President Lucy Warren and other senators, aims to alleviate the pressure on students as they adjust to in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s a project that streamlines a good, consistent way for students in the case of an emergency to contact their professors all at once,” said Sen. Hana Li, one of the senators involved in the project. “A lot of times, it’s really overwhelming to go and reach out and have to email each professor separately.” 

In an interview with the Daily Trojan following the meeting, Li said one of the project’s proposals would take the onus off students to report absences by creating a centralized system for both professors and USC to access. 

“Another reason that we want to implement this is just for the use of wellness days,” Li said. “If lots of students are missing a certain week or class, and there are a lot of absences, they can compile that data to see that we need a wellness day.” 

Li is also pushing to train instructors and faculty to attend training for online formats and increase access to hybrid courses, citing students’ struggles with shifting to an in-person format and issues with accessibility. 

“[It would] allow professors to be more accommodating with absences and sickness and emergencies, since we still are in this pandemic,” Li said. “A lot of people are having a really hard time transitioning.” 

Additionally, Li is working on a project that will deal with the disparate resources offered by USC orientations to transfer and spring admit students as opposed to freshmen admitted in the fall.

“I’m actually a transfer student myself, and one of the reasons I actually ran was because I realized that the resources offered to fall admits and transfer admits and spring admits was wildly different,” Li said. “The reason I ran to begin with was just a way to make campus more of a welcoming space.”

Li said she hopes to create more opportunities for students to feel welcome on campus and make sure that the entire student body feels included, starting with an upcoming meeting with the Office of Orientation.

USG President Alexis Areias also presented updates, including a project to find potential workstudy alternatives for undocumented students since they’re not eligible for federal funding.

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Areias said that, while the project is in its early stages, Provost Charles Zukoski seemed perceptive to the idea. 

“UC Berkeley has a great program — we’re looking into modelling or installing some sort of fellowship program,” Areias said. 

Areias has also been working with Trojan Awareness Combatting Overdose, a new organization created this semester to increase overdose awareness on campus and equip student organizations, such as Panhellenic sororities, with Naloxone, a medication that treats opioid overdoses in emergency situations. She hopes to spread awareness to other registered student organizations in the future and increase access to equipment. 

The Senate confirmed Holly McCauley, a senior majoring in English literature, as chair of the accessibility affairs committee. McCauley formerly served as the co-executive director for the Student Assembly for Accessibility and a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and the USG Accessibility Committee, she will lead the accessibility affairs committee in their projects for the remainder of the year.