A&S Tribunal helps students form a voice on campus

UC organization provides outlet for activism, seeks new members

By Bryn Dippold

In early 2020, after COVID-19 moved classes online, the University of Cincinnati implemented a pass/fail option. This allowed students who were worried about the effect of a low grade on their GPA to choose to have their instructor either pass or fail them, thus ensuring that remote learning wouldn’t reflect on their record. 

The College of Arts & Sciences was one of the first colleges to adopt the pass/fail option, and eventually, each college on UC’s campus would adopt the policy. The A&S Tribunal, the College of Arts & Sciences’ student-led governing body, was instrumental in the implementation of this policy.

Isabel Slonneger, vice president of the tribunal and a double-major in international affairs and environmental studies, recalls the purpose of the pass/fail initiative: “Tribunal is for advocating on behalf of students,” she says. "Pass/fail has been vital for students, especially those who do not thrive in an online learning environment."

Members of the A&S Tribunal.

Members of the A&S Tribunal.

The pass/fail initiative is just one of many that the tribunal has spearheaded. In addition, the tribunal has been behind other campus-wide initiatives such as Clean Up Clifton, Sustainability Month, Mental Health Awareness Week and the McMicken Initiative, which is a plan to have Charles McMicken’s name removed from McMicken Hall.

Amisha Saini, tribunal presdient and a neurobiology major on a pre-med track, says that being a part of the Tribunal has given her a voice.

“I’m not afraid to state my opinion now,” she says. “You know, before, as maybe a high schooler, I would have a really good idea, and I would think, ‘Eh, it’s not possible.’ But it is possible now. If I want to have a Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m able to now have a Mental Health Awareness week. I can pull resources from my other positions and from this position to raise awareness and money for it, and it’s spectacular.” 

Pass/fail started with a petition from the A&S Tribunal and spread farther than they imagined. Many of their other initiatives began the same way: Small ideas to benefit students that ended up benefiting UC and the community as a whole. Being involved at the creation of these ideas is one of the benefits of joining the Tribunal, and on Monday, Jan. 24 the group had their first meeting of the spring 2022 semester, opening up to new students interested in change at UC whatever the idea may be.

It's really cool to see stuff change, and to see your own thoughts and opinions and ideas being put into the university.

Isabel Slonneger, A&S Tribunal

Though the group has made significant efforts on UC’s campus, the A&S tribunal is one of the smallest at UC. While some student tribunals have upwards of 50 members, the A&S tribunal has around 20 members. Saini hopes to drive membership and involvement in the new year.

Because of the small group, Saini mentions that the tribunal is missing out on many perspectives. “I only see my perspective of things, which is biology and pre-med,” she says. “We miss out on such a huge population. We’re missing communications, we’re missing journalists. There’s so much we’re missing on terms of perspective, so we only work on what we see as problems.”

Currently, the A&S tribunal has eight members on its executive board: President, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, two chairs for mental health and sustainability efforts, and two senators who represent A&S in the student government senate. That leaves about 12 general body members, whose responsibilities vary. 

“They can help sub in for one of the senators if they wish to, or really, they could even have their own initiatives,” Saini says, referring to the work of a general body member. To join the tribunal, students “just have to show up to a meeting,” Saini says. General body members have one meeting every other week on Mondays at 5:00 p.m. in TUC 427.

While the initial commitment is low, the wide variety of initiatives and opportunities leave ample room for growth. “If you want to be able to make a different on campus, tribunals are a really good way to do that,” says Slonneger. “I try to convince as many people as I can to be a part of one of the branches of student government. It’s really cool to see that stuff change and to see your own thoughts and opinions and ideas being put into the university.”

You can learn more about the A&S Tribunal and get in contact with them on UC’s website or on the tribunal’s Instagram page.

Featured image at top: Students take part in a meeting. Photo/Jason Goodman for Unsplash.