Mercer University Student Government Association’s (SGA) COVID-19 Task Force is making time for the student body’s questions and concerns about the pandemic by hosting a town hall meeting to provide a space for dialogue between students and faculty and staff.

The event will be held Thursday from 7-9:30 p.m. in Willet Auditorium. CDC guidelines will be observed through socially distanced seating and mask enforcement. There will also be an online Zoom attendance option. Online registration is required.

Registrants will be entered into three giveaway raffles that will be held during the event. Participants can submit their questions on the registration form or on a separate online form.

The idea of creating the COVID-19 Task Force was brought forth by two SGA senators, Sheridan King and Harrison Ivins. Senator Jacob Ward was appointed chair of the group, which serves as a subcommittee of SGA’s Campus Safety and Improvements Committee.

“Our goals are to educate students about COVID-19, help reduce transmission of the virus, and also to promote better health outcomes on the Macon and Atlanta campuses,” Ward said.

Once the subcommittee was formed, it began the important task of deciding what steps to take to help address student concerns and wanted to do something “big.” After three weeks of brainstorming, the idea of a town hall was proposed by Student Correspondent Adrienne Latham, who also will be the moderator of the event.

“The goal is to hear how students feel about the situation,” Ward said. “There’s a lot of confusion on our part, and we realized that although the faculty and administration want to help, they don’t necessarily see it from our perspective.”

Alongside the task force’s intentions to ignite conversation, answer questions and alleviate doubts or misinformation, Vice President and Dean of Students Dr. Doug Pearson also believes that this event will help faculty and administrators to acquire better insight into how students are handling and feeling about the current situation.

“I think from the administrative standpoint, it is a great opportunity to hear firsthand from our students,” Dr. Pearson said. “Too often, when we’re talking about these things with each other, we forget to bring the students in and hear directly from them.”

Featured faculty panelists include Dr. Pearson, Vice Provost Dr. Kelly Reffitt, Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Christian Wells and Mercer Medicine Clinical and Billing Services Director Kimberly Pitts.

The panel will also feature School of Medicine Professor Dr. Jeffrey Stephens, one of the top infectious disease experts in the Southeast.

“Dr. Stephens can talk as an expert on COVID-19,” Dr. Pearson said. “He can address some questions students may have about why we are doing the things we’re doing.”

Ward hopes this event will be able to not only inform students but also set the stage for future event opportunities.

“I hope we can get insight on plans for this semester and how they were determined and plans for next semester,” Ward said. “I also hope that this sets precedence for making more events like this in the future to establish a partnership between students and faculty with a more hands-on connection going forward.”

Dr. Pearson wants participants to know that the University is looking out for its students’ best interests.

“I want to demystify and clarify some things for some students. Judging from the questions already coming in, I think there are some pieces that we may be able to help fill in the blanks,” he said. “I hope the students walk away knowing that we truly care about their health, safety and success at the University.”

 

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Jacqueline Lamothe, a Lilburn native, is a sophomore journalism major and graphic design minor at Mercer University. Jacqueline is a member of the Student Government Association, Leadership Mercer and National Council of Negro Women.