A Thank You to College Faculty

Sitting in Craig Lecture Hall on Wednesday, my fellow student representatives to the College Faculty Committee and I attended the first meeting we were ever invited to. Although students had been official members for over 40 years, due to a lapse in institutional memory, we had not been included in the meetings for as long as many faculty members could remember. During this meeting, faculty members were deliberating on whether to allow students to continue participating in the committee as voting members. After a lengthy discussion, the College Faculty voted to continue student representation.

As an active member of Oberlin governance for the past three years, I have learned extensively about the institution, our values, and the approaches the College has taken toward general administration. I have had the privilege to serve on both College faculty and general faculty committees, through which I have also learned about the efficiencies (or lack thereof) in Oberlin’s governance. But despite my privilege to sit on the College faculty committee, I did not learn of my voting rights until the end of the fall semester 2017.

As a History major, I have given a lot of thought to the role of institutional memory. Memory informs our understanding of our roles and how they were shaped. Institutional memory is especially important when considering major changes to the institution, as is the case in the Academic and Administrative Program Review process. As a College dependent on a labyrinthine governance system, we have structures highly dependent on collaboration and communication.

We ensure communication is through representation. One of the most impressive components of Oberlin’s governance is that we include many constituencies in our decisions and discussions. As a member of the Educational Plans and Policies Committee — a committee that makes recommendations for curricular changes — I have been privy to conversations surrounding departmental reviews, the creation of positions, and curricular changes. These conversations are not dissimilar from the votes being had in the full committee, and they showcase how student representation is meaningful and feasible.

I’m very grateful that the committee did not vote to disenfranchise students during Wednesday’s meeting. Maintaining lines of collaborative communication between faculty, administrators, and students is imperative to furthering successful relationships among the three. By voting to maintain the inclusion and voting rights of students, the College Faculty upheld a status quo of representation.