SGA raises concerns about testing to COVID-19 task force

Members of the Suffolk University COVID-19 Task Force attended the Student Government Association’s (SGA) general meeting on Oct. 7 to answer the senators’ questions regarding Suffolk COVID-19 policies. 

Tim Albers, the task force’s business continuity manager, and Tracy Allen, director of medical operations, were both in attendance at the meeting. 

Senator Ana Luiza Bernardes raised questions about the availability of testing on optional commuter student testing day. She expressed a specific concern from a student who went to get tested during the site’s hours of operation but was not able to due to the absence of a nurse practitioner. 

“The test site should be staffed every Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and then they break for lunch, and then 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” Allen said. 

Allen said it is important that issues such as these are brought to her attention, as they should not be occurring. 

Senator Stephen Merrick shared concerns about the communication for testing. He explained that many students remain confused due to the many changes made to the testing process early in the semester. 

“I think it would be helpful for more clarification to be provided one final time, showing the students exactly what they’re supposed to do, who has to test, and when,” said Merrick.

Allen responded by asking the senators for their opinions on the most effective way to reach students, to which the senators responded that text alerts and even alerts issued through the student health portal would be helpful. 

One suggestion from the Senate was that COVID-19 testing should be made mandatory for commuter students due to their frequent exposure to individuals outside of the Suffolk community, especially on public transportation. 

“A vaccinated individual, who doesn’t have symptoms and no known exposure, is not actually required to test, nor is surveillance testing recommended any longer,” Allen said. “The residential students, because of their living situation, do have to test regularly. That comes from public health guidance from Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health as filtered through the Boston Public Health Commission.” 

After Allen and Albers were done answering SGA’s COVID-related questions, the Senate moved to open forum. 

During open forum, Senator Nathaly Lemus said that there has been a lot of conversation regarding sexual violence in nearby colleges and throughout Massachusetts and the U.S.

“I believe that this is especially important that we hold people accountable, not only within Suffolk administration but also Suffolk organizations and student organizations,” Lemus said. 

Senator Nathaly Lemus (center) requests Title IX representatives to speak at SGA. (James Bartlett)

Lemus requested that the executive board bring in representatives from the Title IX office to speak with SGA. 

“I just want to ensure accessibility and protection for… [all] people and victims that may be affected,” Lemus said. 

Senator Melissa Contover also requested that SGA and Title IX work to publicize resources about what Title IX is and does. 

“Maybe we can use the resources to publicize it for all students to be able to know where they can gain access if they do want to report any sort of sexual assault or misconduct,” Contover said.

Follow Grace on Twitter @egracedreher.