Students Neglect Existing Communication Channels
The trustees’ decision to create a task force to investigate adding student representation to the board is a credit to everyone involved. Student Senate deserves praise for creating the initial proposal and building a relationship with the board, as do student activists for adding pressure at a key moment and the board for showing flexibility and vision. This is an example of what college governance should look like: an active student body and a responsive administration.
Still students must continue pushing for a student representative. Creating a task force is an important victory, but by no means is it the same as actually adding a representative. Students must also be made aware of the fact that student representation in College governance already exists through faculty committees, many of which have seats reserved for students. Unfortunately, those seats often go unfilled, leaving important faculty committees without a student perspective.
The same impulse that inspires calls for student representation on the board should also encourage fuller participation in the representative structures already available. Students are intimately affected by what takes place on faculty committees, as they often influence institutional choices. For example, the Educational Plans and Policies Committee oversees the operation of academic departments, and the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee advises the President on financial aid policy. But unless students step up and volunteer, the student body will go without a voice on major issues. That would be a shame.
Many have complained that the principle problem currently plaguing the College’s governance is a lack of communication. Students, administrators, faculty, staff and trustees all seem to operate in independent silos, leading to resentment and misunderstandings on all sides. While students taking a more active role in College governance won’t necessarily solve this issue, it will certainly help. Filling these roles also adds legitimacy to students’ concerns regarding institutional governance, since unused communication channels give the false impression of a lack of student interest in governance.
One of Student Senate’s most critical institutional roles is selecting students for faculty committees, but if students fail to apply for those positions Senate’s role is lessened. Increased student engagement with faculty committees would also aid Senate’s current upswing. The more seriously students take Senate, the more seriously other parts of the institution will, too.
Make no mistake: The board needs to add a student representative, and the collective and widespread energy put toward these efforts has been imperative. But some of that energy should go toward taking full advantage of the representative structures that already exist. Many faculty committees only meet a couple of times per semester, meaning students can participate in College governance without taking on a huge time commitment. In the interest of the student body as a collective force, someone has to do it. You have nothing to lose but your apathy.
There are currently eight faculty committees with vacancies for student positions: Educational Plans and Policies Committee (one open seat), Academic Calendar (two open seats), Musical Studies/Double Degree (two open seats), Student Assemblies (one open seat), Winter Term (one open seat), general faculty committee for Equity and Diversity (several open seats), the strategic plan implementation committee for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (one open seat) and Dining Committee (one open seat). In addition, Student Finance Committee — the group that manages and distributes the Student Activity Fund — has five vacancies for next year; positions on SFC are paid while the other committees are unpaid.
Students can contact Student Senators Kai Joy or Cecilia Wallace to learn more about applying for these positions.