PSG Congress passes resolution for expanded accessibility for students

PSG Congress is recommitting on the current standardized policy for the University to allow students to attend remotely if they have a legitimate reason.

Left%3A+Photo+courtesy+of+U.J.+Bhowmik%2C+the+Professional+Student+Government+%28PSG%29+president.+Right%3A+Photo+courtesy+of+Victoria+Anderson%2C+the+PSG+vice+president.

Left: Photo courtesy of U.J. Bhowmik, the Professional Student Government (PSG) president. Right: Photo courtesy of Victoria Anderson, the PSG vice president.

by Roque Wood-Sinclair and Smile Tongkaw

The University of Minnesota’s Professional Student Government (PSG) Congress convened on Nov. 17, and unanimously passed a resolution titled, “Resolution Amending the Policy on Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences,” which aimed to help professional students gain more flexibility in attending classes in-person or online both during and following the pandemic.
During her candidacy for PSG President, Ujjoyini Bhowmik said she ran to boost accessibility for students.
“We saw that the University was able to provide education remotely,” Bhowmik said. “We also saw a gap.”
Bhowmik said the gap appeared to her when she became sick for two weeks as an undergraduate student in 2019. She said she missed lectures she needed to attend and her professors did not provide recordings.
“I was not well enough to get up and go to class, but I was definitely well enough to turn on my laptop and attend it from home,” Bhowmik said.
University mechanical engineering student Riley ​​Mathiasen is currently attending classes completely online due to a family member who has an autoimmune disease.
“Some of my classes were offered online, and some I arranged accommodations with professors to be able to complete their class remotely,” Mathiasen said.
The policy that is currently in place has put more responsibility on students to either record the class themselves, ask other students to record for them or watch them at night.
“We wanted a standardized policy around the University to allow students to attend remotely, if they had a legitimate reason,” Bhowmik said.
Some professional students said some of their professors will record and allow students to attend remotely, but some do not. However, Bhowmik said, students would benefit from class recordings and synchronous options if they get sick from COVID-19.
“Overall, I have had very positive experiences being one of the only students attending class remotely. However, I have only been in classes with lecture and discussion sessions this semester,” Mathiasen said. “I think it would be very hard to take classes with lab components remotely and still learn the concepts.”
PSG Vice President Victoria Anderson added, “We did connect with the needed stakeholders while trying to implement this policy within the University. And what’s really nice about [Bhowmik] and I, is because we have diverse programs. So between just the two of us, we have three different programs within the Professional Student Government, and also our executive board.”
Recently, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) passed the same PSG resolution in the University’s Student Affairs Committee and then brought it to the Forum body. The resolution was tabled by MSA to make more changes.
“I think what the [biggest] concern for us was just to ensure that there is accessibility for people who are sick, and people who are mothers who can’t attend classes sometimes, because they’re running late in a snowstorm, and they’re trying to pick up their kid from childcare,” Anderson said. “There’s so many different perspectives and diverse opinions that we can take into consideration.”
Zach Robole is a second-year at the University’s Law School, who is in favor of the resolution and said he would benefit from the expanded accessibility.

“My wife and I had our first son over this past summer. It’s really been great and overall he is a very healthy baby,” he said. “However, he started daycare right around the time that I returned to classes in September, and since then, he has been, shall I say, building his immune system and constantly seems to have a cold or worse.”

The creators of the resolution say they hope it will allow for students to be more comfortable taking advantage of online learning while taking care of themselves during the pandemic. In addition, the resolution aims to help professors take care of themselves as well, by holding the lecture online instead of in person due to health concerns.

“If this resolution was in place, my wife and I would not need to scramble to decide what to do if we were to wake up and find my son too sick to go into daycare. It would be somewhat silly for me to ask my wife to wait at home or figure something out with her employer while I drove up to campus for an hour and then came back home,” Robole said. “I think any professional student can attest to how far behind you can feel after missing just one class.”