The Secretary from Out of State

Emmy Campbell, a senior at Kutztown University, discusses coming to KU from out of state, running for Student Government Board, her position as Secretary, and the difficulties SGB has faced dealing with COVID-19.

 

As Emmy Campbell walked into the Starbucks in the McFarland Student Union, she looked every part of a Student Government Board Representative. She wore a Kutztown University beanie, a Kutztown University Admissions rain jacket that was still covered in snow, and a deep maroon mask with a print of Avalanche, the school mascot, on it. She dropped off her book bag with a quick “hello” before hurrying up to the counter to order the warmest coffee they had. The snow had come down hard in the last hour, much earlier than the weatherman had predicted.

Emmy, originally from New Hampshire, is a senior set to graduate in May of 2021. She is a Secondary Education Major with a focus in social studies and a minor in English as a Second Language. Since her freshman year, she has been a member of the Student Government Board, serving for three years as the Secretary of the club. She now is in her last semester before graduate school and her last year as Secretary. With many new challenges, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, facing her and her eventual successor, Emmy is doing what she can to help being Kutztown back to a semblance of normalcy.

“I knew that when I went to college, I wanted to do something new,” Emmy told me, sipping her coffee slowly. “When I graduated high school, it was me and fifty other kids in a barn in the middle of June. That’s when I knew I had to do something different. So I ran for SGB”.

After contacting some of the people she had met through the Kutztown University Facebook page, she began her campaign. She would post in the Facebook group, ask her friends to post on their social media platforms, and talk to whoever she could about running. Before long, she was elected as a freshman representative to the Student Government Board. She then ran every subsequent year, eventually attaining an e-board position as the secretary during her sophomore year.  

“It’s my favorite thing to do here, stress and all,” Emmy told me. “I was a little overwhelmed by it all at first, but I’m really glad I went with it”.  

Between her studies, jobs, and position as secretary, it is clear that Emmy likes to be busy. Before this year, she would spend 15-20 hours in the SGB office per week, over triple the minimum amount of time required of an e-board member. Now, she balances student teaching with her e-board responsibilities.

“The secretary is responsible for taking minutes at the meetings. I try to make them pretty much direct transcriptions,” she told me. “I keep track of our board's attendance, too, and assign people to their governance committees, which contains a mixture of staff, faculty, and students”.  Not only does she perform these duties, but she attends meetings with President Hawkinson and the Student Body President Agostino D'Ancona, and other high-ranking Kutztown University faculty.

Recently, her meetings, with faculty and fellow SGB members, have been concerning one main issue: COVID-19.

“This entire year has centered around COVID,” she said with a slightly pained expression. SGB has had to focus a lot of time and energy on working with President Hawkinson and his administration to decide how Kutztown will respond to the virus. Nearly one year after the United States went into its first quarantine, SGB is still working on how to deal with COVID.

Two of the biggest things SGB has done in wake of COVID are the wellness day activities and the rapid testing that was required for move-in and is available every wellness day.

“Curtis, Agostino, and I make up the Emergency Management Team. We fought very, very hard to get testing on campus,” Emmy explained. “The issue was in the legislation. We could not legally tell someone to get a test to be able to move in”. As a public institution, Kutztown University cannot create or enforce its own laws as private schools can. Where a private college can require students to wear a school uniform, Kutztown legally cannot enforce any law that is not actual state law. On November 17th, however, P.A. Governor Tom Wolf announced a new COVID-19 protocol for the state of Pennsylvania, including a mandatory COVID test upon return to campus, and available testing throughout the semester. With that legislation passed, SGB was able to bring rapid testing to Kutztown’s campus.

“Testing was offered during move-in, of course. It is also offered every wellness day and before the students go home for the semester to make sure they go home with a negative result,” she said. “It is covered through the C.A.R.E.S. Act, so students don’t have to pay for it”. The wellness days, as well, have also proven difficult to manage.

“The wellness days had to happen, of course,” Emmy said. “No matter how bad we wanted our week off, we knew it wasn’t safe. There was no way we could prevent people from going to parties or going out of state. So, Dr. Hawkinson wanted to incorporate the wellness days, originally known as reading days”. 

There are five wellness days in total this semester. They are February 11th, March 10th, April 2nd, and April 20th. The other wellness day is held on Saturday, April 3rd, which caused some tension between SGB and President Hawkinson.

“Spring break is supposed to be five academic days off for students. So we asked President Hawkinson “why is there one on Saturday?”,” Emmy said. “They explained to us that it was for graduate students who take classes on Saturdays”.

Out of a total student body of roughly 8,300 students, about 1,000 of them are graduate students. Out of the 1,000 grad students, only the 100-200 Social Work majors have classes on Saturday. The Saturday wellness day applies to, at most, 200 students, which is less than 0.025% of the total university population.

“We felt like we were not being heard,” Emmy said, with the slightest hint of exasperation creeping into her voice. “So, we created a petition on Engage, so only students could sign it. We got close to 2,000 signatures on it and presented it to Dr. Hawkinson”.

Emmy sighed, frustration written on her face.

“He kept his decision, though. It ultimately came down to the fact that we needed 70 academic days on our calendar, which seemed strange that we would not have had those five spring break days worked into the calendar already, but there was nothing more to be done. I have my thoughts on the matter, but we decided to make the best of what we were dealt,” she finished.

To help make sure that these wellness days felt truly like a day off, SGB set off to create the wellness day activities. They recommended that no homework should be due, no classes should be held, and that there should be activities provided by the school to give the students something to do since their spring break had been segmented down to individual days.

“We tried to make the wellness days fun, and, so far, it has been an outstanding success. The henna line in the MSU was almost always full, the food truck we ordered had spectacular food, even vegan options, and the ice sculptures we brought in were extremely popular,” she said, a smile returning to her face. “I can’t wait to see how well the rest of our activities go over. We are planning a cosmic theme for March 10th, and a Kutzstock theme for April 20th”.

A lot of work went into planning these wellness day activities. Companies need to be reached out to, finances needed to be secured, and all of the plans needed administrative approval before anything could be purchased. Of course, COVID restrictions still need to be followed and taken into consideration when planning these events.

“It’s been a challenge, honestly, to put all this together while still running our day-to-day business. COVID has definitely been the most difficult thing I’ve had to face in SGB. I’ve had to adapt and change how we run our meetings, how we are able to interact as a club, and how to build bonds between our members when a lot of our normal team-building activities have been changed due to COVID. It’s been a challenge, for sure, but one I was confident we could overcome,” she said. “I’m confident in the new generation of SGB representative, so even after I’m gone, I’m sure that things will return to normal sooner rather than later”.

Emmy finished her coffee, pulling on her maroon and gold Kutztown University coat, tugging down on her Kutztown University beanie, and looping her KU Avalanche mask over her ears. With a wave and a cheerful “see you around!”, she went off into the dying afternoon sunlight, heading home to prep for whatever the week held in store.