Student Senate announced the students nominated to serve on the Academic Administrative Program Review Steering Committee in an email Tuesday. College juniors Sadie Keller and Faith Shaeffer, sophomores Nae Mclain and Janet Wu, and first-year Ilana Foggle were nominated to the General Faculty Council, which will choose three of the five to serve on the committee.
Senate Vice-Chair and College junior Cecilia Wallace said that Senate received a qualified pool of applicants for the AAPR Steering Committee, which will engage closely with the coming external financial review.
“Senate was not picking and choosing between opinions, but rather seeking clear dedication to current and future peers’ wellbeing,” Wallace said of the nomination process.
Foggle, a vocal critic of the administration’s new meal plan, highlighted her commitment to the student body.
“As the only first-year nominated, I feel a responsibility, if chosen, to advocate for all Oberlin students — especially first-year and prospective students, since many of the changes will be affecting us most,” Foggle said. “First-year students and prospective students are not getting their money’s worth for the meal plan and this is disproportionately affecting low-income students, especially [those] left without food over Winter Term.”
Fellow nominee, former Student Senator, and member of President Ambar’s transition team Keller also said she felt encouraged to apply for the committee to serve as a voice for others.
“I applied because I feel well suited to represent a variety of student interests, think about big issues from outside the campus, and connect the students and administration as we go through difficult conversations,” Keller said.
Other nominees echoed Keller’s reasons for applying.
“I applied for this position because I want to be involved in this all-encompassing review process,” Wu said. “If I end up as a committee member, I hope to be able to bring not only my experiences to the discussion table but also those of different facets of our student body. All [student experiences] are important considerations that should be taken when doing an extensive review of Oberlin as an institution.”
Some instead highlighted recent financial discussion as what prompted them to apply.
“Walking out of [Ambar’s financial talk], a lot of the buzz I was hearing was questions and worries students had about what all of that meant and how we go forward,” Shaeffer said. “I applied to AAPR in the hopes of making myself a resource [so I] can answer some of those questions when I hear them.”
The application process was abbreviated due to the deadline the General Faculty set for the Senate, which resulted in a short five-day nomination period and the absence of the interview process traditionally afforded to committee applicants. A decision on the entire composition of the AAPR Steering Committee, including three of the five students named by Senate, should be announced in the coming weeks.
The three selected students will serve on the 30-person committee, half of which will consist of faculty members. The remaining 12 non-student members will be comprised of trustees, administrative and professional staff, and union members, with President Ambar as chair. The committee members will meet weekly and coordinate communication with the student body via appearances at the Student Senate’s weekly Sunday plenary meeting.
The Steering Committee will guide Stevens Strategy, the educational consulting firm that will conduct the AAPR. Ambar used Stevens Strategy — which will review all aspects of Oberlin over the course of a year — while she was president at Cedar Crest College.
The administration has asserted in statements released to the student body that the review is necessary to “determine the optimal mix of academic programs and to ensure that administrative units are effective.” It has also stated that the review committee will help the College “minimize risks and maximize the process’s usefulness.”
Keller echoed the administration’s goals for the AAPR process.
“If selected, I’m hoping that the financial audit process can remain focused on serving as many students as well as possible, while debunking some myths about our financial system and remaining true to the values of our school,” she said.
While President Ambar has stressed the importance of a comprehensive review in which ideas arise from campus stakeholders, some members of the GFC have been wary of the consulting firm’s ability to review academic departments, prompting Ambar to promise to bring in a representative from Stevens Strategy to quell concerns. Additionally, all results will need the GFC’s approval before anything is presented to the trustees. The committee is set to begin their work this semester, with their final report scheduled to be delivered to the Board of Trustees at their March 2019 meeting.