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Subject:

student's Role ...

From:

Guillermo Uribe <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 26 Apr 1995 09:00:19 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (104 lines)

An ongoing discussion in HEPROC-L --Guillermo
 
 
In many ways, the avenues for greater student involvement
already exist, though their effectiveness varies greatly
from university.  I am a policy analyst at the student
government of the University of British Columbia in
Vancouver (also a grad student) .  In my own experience ----
unfortunately I can only speak for Canadian universities and
colleges --- university governance structures include a
great many students, from university board of governors, to
academic Senates, to faculty councils and departmental
councils.  Student governments in many cases are able to act
as a liaison amongst students serving in different
components of the university's organizational structure.
Many student unions in Canada have sought to build up a good
reputation on campus by providing much-needed feedback as
well, backed up by good research, good advocacy and good
public relations with faculty and administration.
 
Here at the University of British Columbia, our student
government works with the university on a wide range of
issues.  We are currently finishing a lengthy consultation
on tuition policy, and some of our recommendations have been
incorporated into the University's plan.  The Students'
Society of McGill University recently completed a major
strategic planning review of the university's operations.
Their conclusions were well received, and why not?  they
brought together students with experience in various
'sectors' of the university (library, faculty admini-
stration, etc.).  I have no idea to what extent american
colleges and universities incorporate students into such
structures.  In my own experience, the average Canadian
campus contains a small, but potentially useful base of
student-experts: students who have served the University in
some way and who have had a chance to observe their
institution's operation from the "client" side (God I hate
that word).
 
Of course, the depth and expanse of student input varies
greatly from institution to institution.  Overly hostile
relations between students and faculty or students and
administrators can be a major impediment.  And student
governments (or student representatives) need to realize
that the cultivation of good relations with other campus
stakeholders is a necessity if they are to have a real say
in how things run.  At the same time, there is no place for
the insipid paternalism that is the defining characteristic
of so many adminsitrators and faculty members.  I don't
agree that students should have the final say over all these
matters, as the client-based approach to running a higher ed
institution may suggest; this is particularly true in the
case of decisions related to academics (e.g.  curriculum,
teaching and course evaluation).  In all fairness, I believe
that many students expect to have more of a say than they
are rightfully entitled to.  But in the end, students have a
pretty good idea what is good and what is bad, effective and
ineffective, useful or useless.
 
As an undergrad, I sat on my faculty's regulations and
appeals committee as one of the three appointed students.
From my experience (adn I think it's the same across the
board) my fellow students and I were thrown into an
administrative module with no real experience and, more
importantly, insufficient historical background.  The
faculty administrators and members were not forthcoming with
this information.  Many viewed our presence as a nuisance if
not a complete breach of propriety.  Had our student
government provided us with the necessary information and
coaching, our effectiveness as student representatives would
have been greatly enhanced.  Had our administration and
faculty counterparts adopted a less adversarial position, I
think students appealing would have been better served.  If
our elected student leaders lobbied the faculty deans more
effectively, a better working relationship could have
emerged.  It still can.
 
To sum up, I think that that the average university or
college already has the structures which can act as a
conduit for student input into the learning higher
ed. institution, as I said: Board of Governors (or
equivalent), academic Senate, faculty and departmental
administrative organs, and last but not least, independent
student governments.  And it is really the student
government that can bring together students in these various
areas, to wit:
 
The divisions that characterized the typical campus in past
decades are counterproductive.  Territoriality is the bane
of an effective and responsive institution.  Nevertheless,
students, faculty and administrators see things differently
and likely always will.  These differences of opinion are
not, in themselves, counterproductive --- indeed they are
the stuff on which a learning organization must thrive.  But
it is clear that more cooperation is needed badly on many
campuses.  Many students have taken the initiative in this
area.  Unfortunately, many of us are still waiting for
others to catch up.
 
Well, enough said ...
 
Alex Stephens, Policy Analyst <[log in to unmask]>
Alma Mater Society, UBC Student Government
Vancouver, CANADA

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