SGA new term delayed by COVID-19 pandemic, but transition is underway

Tel Wittmer (right), junior in secondary education, is student body president-elect. Lane Lundeen, junior in fisheries, wildlife and conservation science, and Wittmer will be sworn into their new positions as the leaders of Student Governing Association on April 9. The start of the term, which was delayed because of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting K-State, will start differently than they expected. (File Photo by Bailey Britton | Collegian Media Group)

Due to an extension of spring break and the move to limited university functions, the new Student Governing Association term starts April 9, one week later than the originally scheduled April 2.

At the beginning of the term, current student body president Jansen Penny, senior in industrial engineering, will swear in student body president-elect Tel Wittmer, junior in secondary education. In addition, student senators will be sworn in by Hannah Heatherman, speaker of the student senate and senior in finance and organizational leadership.

Those student senators usually have in-person new senator training before the term begins. However, this year it’ll be a little different. Instead they’ll use pre-recorded lectures and quizzes which must be completed before the term begins.

“They could take that at at their own pace,” Penny said. “They will all be at different experiences and skill levels.”

Before senate on April 9 and 16, there will be one hour sessions over Zoom to discuss parliamentary law and debating in senate.

In addition, nominations for speaker of the student senate will be accepted during senate April 9 and the nominees will have the opportunity to present their platforms either live or with a pre-recorded presentation during the meeting.

“It’ll be interesting, … I will tell you that,” Penny said.

Currently, SGA is in “mission critical” mode, Penny said. They are working on legislation that is time sensitive and must be passed before the new term starts. If legislation does not pass, it won’t be carried into the next term.

“Any piece of legislation that is not wrapped up by by the end of this process will have to be introduced and get through the brand new senate,” Penny said. “What I can predict and what would happen is that … someone in the next term who would take that same piece of legislation and maybe make some edits to it, and then submit it here on like April 16.”

One thing that must be passed in the new term is a new tuition and fees model which will be presented to the Kansas Board of Regents in June. The Tuition and Fees Strategy Committee will begin discussions in a couple weeks, Penny said.

“We’re letting … administration get their feet back under them before we begin discussions,” Penny said.

As leadership changes during a hectic time, Wittmer said his priorities are learning from Penny and ensuring that student voices are heard.

“One thing Lane [Lundeen] and I are very intentional about is making sure that all students are heard and listened to,” Wittmer said via email. “As we move forward into the beginning of our term, it is imperative that students know that we are currently and will continue to listen to and advocate on their behalf.”

Wittmer is working with Penny to develop his skills and identify his role as student body president. He said this has been a more challenging transition than anticipated, but it has provided a great learning opportunity.

Moving forward, Wittmer plans to make open communication a priority for students.

“In a lot of ways we are very fortunate to have access to the technology we currently have, so that we can stay in contact with those around us,” Wittmer said. “As members of SGA we will continue to communicate with each other to the best of our ability for the students we represent.”

Currently, Wittmer and Lane Lundeen, junior in wildlife, fisheries and conservation biology and vice president-elect, are focusing on building their cabinet.

Student senate meetings are still open to the public, but after a Zoom debacle involving pornographic content, leadership will be looking into internal monitoring systems. Interested parties can ask for the Zoom code to enter meetings.

My name is Bailey Britton and I am the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.