Ashleigh Crouch, Correspondent
SGA President Jerod Sharp was elected earlier this year as SGA president, and has had the challenging task of representing students even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
Sharp, a cellular biology major, was elected SGA president with 914 votes to his opponent Kate Seibert’s 449 votes and ran on a platform of enhancing communication between the student body and the university administration.
“The SGA is here for anyone who needs someone to talk to or simply has questions about what is taking place on campus,” said Sharp.
Sharp discussed the SGA’s upcoming plans and the current student concerns with online learning on campus in an interview with The Chanticleer.
Sharp addresses online learning concerns
Several JSU students — both on social media and in interviews — have expressed concerns about online learning and questioned its effectiveness in educating students, with one student who said, “I am not learning whatsoever.”
Sharp explained that he receives dozens of emails each day from students about the issues that they are facing at Jacksonville State University, and that online learning is no exception.
“Every single concern students have raised about online learning is important because every single student and the issues they are facing are important,” said Sharp. He said that, as far as student feedback, he has heard “negative feedback, positive feedback, and even neutral feedback.”
Sharp encouraged students struggling with online courses to “keep pushing a little longer.”
“These are extraordinary times that all of us, including the faculty and staff, are doing the best we can to navigate,” he said. “I cannot speak for the professors of this institution, but I have a feeling they are having just as hard of a time with it as we students are.”
Sharp said that while he believes he “learns better in the classroom with an instructor lecturing,” he encourages JSU students to take initiative to help themselves and their fellow classmates do their very best in online courses.
“We have to be there for one another,” he added.
He also encouraged students to utilize the library, as well as the many other academic buildings and classrooms on campus, to study together in groups with other students in the same classes in order to help each other understand lesson material.
Election Day at JSU
The United States presidential election is fast approaching. In-person voting will take place in just under two weeks on Nov. 3. Millions of Americans all across the country have already cast their vote.
Just last week, American University announced the university would be closed and classes canceled on Nov. 3 to make “Election Day a university holiday.”
Asked whether or not he would like to see something similar implemented at JSU, Sharp said he would love to see Election Day turned into a university holiday or allow voting to be used as an excuse for missing class, but likely not this year.
“As for this particular year, the vast majority of classes are online, and I do not think these online classes would hinder a student from going to vote,” he said.
Campus improvements and fall 2020 plans
One of the changes Sharp, alongside the SGA, has made since the start of the semester is the implementation of the Student Diversity Task Force.
The task force includes representatives from a multitude of on-campus organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Full Spectrum, Umbrella Alliance, El Latido and the International Student Organization.
“These student leaders serve alongside the SGA Officers and a few student senators,” said Sharp. “They help us better understand what all the various communities here at JSU have gone through and are currently going through.”
Another group that Sharp and the SGA currently have in the works is a Culinary Council to help improve student satisfaction with on-campus dining options.
“This council would meet with Sodexo leadership to discuss the quality of the food here on campus, and how Sodexo can improve their operation to adhere to students of different cultures, diet restrictions, and overall health of all students,” he said.
Sharp expressed excitement with the SGA Presidential Cabinet that was approved by the SGA Senate last year during Ulises Herrera’s term as SGA President. This is the first year it has been fully functional, and Sharp says it has “taken off and soared.”
The SGA Presidential Cabinet consists of seven representatives: one from each school and a representative for graduate studies.
“They are hard-working and they help me to better understand the needs and desires of students from different schools and programs within said schools,” he said.
Sharp also discussed his plans alongside the SGA for the remainder of the fall 2020 semester.
‘The SGA plans on hosting at least one event per week for the remainder of the semester,” he said. “Our VP of Student Activities Scout Spears alongside the Student Activities Council has been working very hard to come up with ways to engage with students on campus while also retaining the guidelines outlined by the COVID-19 Task Force.”
To conclude, Sharp lamented that he and the SGA are present and ready to answer questions from students.
“We also encourage all students to speak up about the issues they are facing on campus,” he said. “If we do not know about the issues going on, then we cannot work to resolve said issues.”