Rolling PG&E blackouts, weeks of student-led strikes, a nearly complete switch to remote learning in response to a viral pandemic, and a wildfire that devastated a large portion of Santa Cruz county were all departures from UC Santa Cruz business as usual since fall 2019.
In response, the Student Union Assembly Office of the President (SUA OP) began planning the Crisis Communication Team project in January 2021. Its primary goals are to provide information and resources to students during a local or campus emergency.
SUA president Shivika Sivakumar recalls feeling frustrated at being unable to reach out and help students during the CZU lightning wildfire in summer 2020. In addition, she wishes to provide information to students in a digestible and comprehensive way after seeing the informational yet lengthy public affairs emails from UCSC.
“[The Crisis Communication Team] is bridging the gap between information and resources and the students versus whoever’s working on it,” Sivakumar said. “The whole idea of the Crisis Communication Team is to help distribute accurate crisis information resources.”
The Crisis Communication Team is part of the CHANGE initiatives, an element of Sivakumar’s 2020 election for SUA President. Currently in charge of the project are Director of Policy Maria Dolores Castillo, Chief of Staff Sydney Eliot, and Sivakumar.
Main Goals of the CHANGE Initiative:
-Rebuild connections with students and mend relationships with organizations to increase transparency and outreach.
-Reform SUA to better address campus problems and implement actual changes that address key student issues.
-Represent students and be the voice of the UCSC student body in the administrative, local, state, and federal level.
Four subsects of the team are distinguished by task forces aimed to help with the communication processes. The four task forces are resource collection, infographic creation, information outreach, and volunteers. The team will communicate via Slack, a messaging app that allows teams and groups to exchange information through different channels.
Dolores Castillo said the team will initially use Slack for communication, then reach out to members of the UCSC administration and faculty for further information in conjunction with other student organizations. It will then be collected and made into flyers or infographics by the Crisis Communication team. Eventually, Student Media organizations participating on the task force, like City on a Hill Press, will organize and deliver the facts and resources to students.
“We’re trying to get all the information together. We really want to spotlight and help whatever is already being done,” Sivakumar said. “The whole idea of the Crisis Communication Team is bringing together all the different people and organizations and unions and centralizing it in a sense that we’re helping each other.”
To provide sufficient and accurate information from different perspectives to students, the Crisis Communication Team reached out to collaborate with different student organizations. On May 21, students and representatives from Student Media, UCSC medical organizations, and resource centers joined the interest meeting to introduce the project, held by SUA OP.
Jingjing Mo, a student from the Slug Fund Investment Group, showed up at the interest meeting last Friday. She thinks the Crisis Communication Team will be beneficial to the campus community.
“They mentioned they want so many different backgrounds and different clubs together,” Mo said. “That means people can see different things that we have not noticed, or even we have ignored.”
Previously, the Crisis Communication Team was called the Crisis Management Team, but changes were made due to liability concerns and the lack of training among student forces.
The next step for the project is to get the approval of bylaws from the SUA to establish the Crisis Communication Team under SUA OP, with the intention the team will be fortified by future SUA elects. In addition, SUA will continue to bring more students, resource centers and student organizations to the team.
“It is such a great feeling to finally be able to meet with interested students and be able to hold a conversation with them regarding their ideas, thoughts, concerns,” said Dolores Castillo, SUA director of policy. “In regards to providing more students with crisis information and resource availability, I know my team and I have been working toward establishing the team, figuring out what the team is composed of, its purpose, our goals, etc. However, none of that can actually be done without the actual team.”
SUA welcomes organizations and individuals to participate in the Crisis Communication Team. To join and learn more about the Crisis Communication Team, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or DM @ucscpresident on Instagram.
Link to sign up for the SUA Crisis Communication Team can be found here.