SGA passes “Gender X” resolution, discuss COVID-19 policy and closed testing site with Suffolk admin

Housing Chair shares recent upgrades to Suffolk buildings, elevators

The Student Government Association unanimously passed a resolution at Thursday’s meeting that would extend gender inclusivity protections in the university’s registration systems.

According to the resolution, Suffolk has affirmed its support of transgender and non-binary students in the past by allowing students to choose their name in these systems, including their school email, Blackboard account and MySuffolk account.

The resolution stated that since the option of “X” is allowed for a gender marker on Massachusetts drivers’ licenses, and because Suffolk is dedicated to the protection and inclusion of transgender and non-binary students, this option should be available to students.

It calls for Suffolk to create a gender “X” option and allow students to choose their honorifics (Mx., M., as well as include an option for a write-in). Students should also be allowed to choose which gender they want to room with in university-sponsored housing and have the option to move in early to prevent being outed to their family, according to the resolution.

The resolution was authored by Sabrina Liu, chair of SGA’s Diversity Committee and Class of 2023 senator, and co-sponsored by Class of 2023 Senator Ana Luiza Bernardes, Senator at-Large for International Students Xin Yi Yap and Class of 2024 Senator Nathaly Lemus.

“For me, it was frankly unacceptable that Suffolk lacked the necessary technology within its systems to affirm its trans and non-binary students,” Liu said in an interview with The Journal. “We pride ourselves in being an inclusive and welcoming community, but that attitude needs to extend beyond words and this resolution was created to take steps to create this reality.”

Senators talk Suffolk COVID-19 protocols with admin: “No plans in place to tighten anything,” says Coyne

Also at Thursday’s meeting, members of Suffolk University’s administration spoke with senators about campus COVID-19 regulations.

Dean of Students Ann Coyne said Suffolk’s COVID-19 task force has kept a close eye on the alarming uptick in cases in Massachusetts over the last week.

“It’s day-by-day, and none of us knows what the next day is going to bring…” Coyne told the senators. “We also meet with the City of Boston to learn what the mayor is thinking of doing. But at this point, we have no plans in place to tighten anything.”

Coyne added that the university will not loosen COVID-19 restrictions anytime soon.

“Students have asked us to reduce or to lighten the guest policies in the residence halls, but honestly, we have very low numbers of COVID when you think of our population, and part of the reason our numbers are so low is we really limited guests on campus and guests between buildings,” she said.

The university is in the process of changing one aspect of its CoVerfied app, which tracks test results and symptom reports for students in order to allow them access to Suffolk’s buildings.

Senators expressed concerns that students have been screenshotting cleared usage statuses on the apps in order to check in to the buildings without having to report symptoms or test negative. Coyne said the administration received one report of this happening.

Students who do not typically come to campus once a week are not eligible for testing on campus. However, Coyne said that filling out a form on the app to lift any access restrictions before students arrive on campus will give them access to the buildings if they are not eligible for on-campus testing.

Vice President for International Affairs Sebastián Royo said students, faculty and staff should check the CoVerified app for any restrictions before they get to campus to get tested so they can address any issues beforehand.

“The reason why we are asking people who participate in the testing program to come at least once a week is because this is a tracing program. This is not a one-off test just to see if you have COVID-19 today,” Royo said.

Thursday’s discussion also turned to the COVID-19 testing site in the Sawyer Building that closed on Oct. 5. Coyne said the testing center would likely remain closed through the spring, leaving only the testing center in Sargent Hall open.

“Anything is possible depending on what the circumstances are,” she added, referring to the possibility of the site reopening.

Royo and Coyne said the testing center was closed for several reasons.

“We have more nurses now in the Sargent center…” Royo said. “We also got complaints. I should emphasize that the Sawyer Center was not ideal because of the lack of space and privacy. So that was another consideration.”

“There was an opinion piece [in The Journal] that the student objected to it being closed and possibly even said this is because it costs too much money,” Coyne said. “The testing site was closed because it just wasn’t getting the numbers.”

The opinion piece in The Journal also discussed how the author did not feel like she could socially distance herself from others at the Sargent testing center specifically because the classroom the site is in is narrow, tight space, several people will remove their masks to swab and blow their noses at the same time and because there can be groups of people waiting to get tested.

“The general student population really wasn’t going [ to Sawyer],” Coyne said. “They were going to Sargent. So instead of keeping it open we decided to go to Sargent. It’s five more minutes, ten more minutes; it’s part of campus…” Coyne said. “But to be more efficient and to use our resources better, that’s why we moved to Sargent Hall.”

In other news… some Suffolk elevators and buildings upgraded, new general member elected

Senator for the Class of 2022 Logan Casey, who serves as the chair for SGA’s Housing and Facilities Committee, told senators about maintenance work that was recently done on campus.

Casey said he learned about the projects in a meeting with Suffolk’s Director of Facilities Ashley Lindsey.

Over the summer, the Sawyer Building’s roof was replaced, insulated and painted white to help keep heat out of the building, Casey said.

The Ridgeway Building’s elevators, along with five elevators in 73 Tremont, were also upgraded over the summer. Casey said this work has made it so that when elevators go out of service in the future, it will take less time to fix them.

“The elevators were awful, everybody knows that. The problem is mostly with capacity,” Casey said at the SGA meeting. “There are simply too many students at our school going out all at one time when classes end.”

Casey said the university cannot make the elevators bigger or add any more of them to the buildings. Despite this, he said SGA could look into other solutions to long elevator wait times on campus.

“We can look into other solutions. More broadly, changing schedules, staggering them or something like that,” Casey said.

SGA also elected Tiwa Odumakinde, Class of 2021, as a new general member.