Student Government advocates safety and accessibility

From left are Student Government executive board members Shirley Gelman, Abigail Adeleke, and Amanda Rodriguez. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

From left are Student Government executive board members Shirley Gelman, Abigail Adeleke, and Amanda Rodriguez. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Student Government advocates safety and accessibility

By Ashley A. Williams
The Student Government executive board is excited to welcome students back to a campus with pandemic protocols in place, and it plans to be as available as possible for its peers.

As Abigail Adeleke overlooked the University of Miami Coral Gables Campus from the Student Government offices in the Donna E. Shalala Student Center earlier this week, a sense of pride overcame her. 

“The campus was absolutely electric,” said Adeleke, president of the Student Government. “I ran into people I haven’t seen since March, and it was absolutely amazing to see the campus as vibrant as it’s been in previous years.” 

Monday, Jan. 25, marked the first day of spring classes at the University. Hitting their one week mark in to the spring term, the University’s first-ever all-women Student Government executive board—now governing in its second semester—remains enthusiastic about its plans to foster a safe and fun learning environment for all undergraduate students. 

Returning students may not notice many changes, as this spring semester will operate similarly to the fall. New and transfer students, however, will adapt to course schedules that provide a combination of in-person and remote classes, as the University continues to promote public health guidelines and physical distancing measures on campus.

“We’re really excited for this semester,” said Adeleke, a senior majoring in journalism and psychology from Chicago. "We’re going to see an influx of students and so our approach as Student Government has been to continue to advocate for students because that’s what we can do now with the resources that we do have.”

Adeleke, Vice President Shirley Gelman, and Treasurer Amanda Rodriguez plan to use the same methods of communication as they did in the fall to be as accessible as possible for their peers. The trio’s main concern is making sure students are able to safely stay on campus and advocating for every type of undergraduate student. 

“Now as a student body and as students on campus, we understand what we need to do to have fun events that can actually work during a pandemic,” said Gelman, an international finance, marketing, and management major from St. Louis, Missouri. 

Gelman, who oversees the Freshman Leadership Council and serves as vice chair of What Matters To U, a moderated discussion series, said last semester provided a template as to what works best and how to achieve the most. 

“It was a shortened semester, just like this one will be, but now we’ve had more time to plan,” she said. “We had some events that were virtual, and we’re excited to do that again this semester.” 

Adeleke said her first semester as president was the least traditional—from mask-wearing to social distancing—but it feels like the University is operating more confidently in the new normal. 

“I think people may not necessarily notice the changes that are being made but our University is here for us, and there is a huge support system,” said Adeleke. “Continue to use us and continue to voice those concerns because that’s how we make change. It’s with those concerns and maybe even the negative feedback that we ultimately become a better University.” 

Increased diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts will continue to be vital to Adeleke and her team. Most recently, Adeleke assisted with a module that students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to complete within the coming weeks. A survey will also soon be distributed to all students, to get a sense of the racial climate on campus.

In the coming weeks, students will notice two helpful changes around campus. Eventually, the solar umbrellas that were being underutilized near the Whitten Learning Center will be moved to the University Center (UC) patio. This will allow more students to study outdoors for extended periods with the ability to charge their mobile devices and laptops. Also, automated rental charging systems will be offered in the UC soon. 

“Right now, the library allows you to rent chargers and such but we’re going to be able to move that to the UC. So, if you’re not necessarily in the library, you can move around campus with this charger,” Adeleke said. “We’re super excited about that.” 

The executive board said this semester will come with its challenges, but Gelman wants students to know that student government wants to do anything it can to support them. 

“I’m really excited to see everyone back on campus, and I would recommend that all students who are new this semester be sure to read their emails,” she said. 

Adeleke added, “We’re never too busy and are always here as a resource.”