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Student Voice

Student Voice

I wonder if it’s time to consider a great voice for student representatives on various university committees. Higher education tried this in the wake of the 60s, but then it withered, at least in many places, as student passions cooled and the difficulties of consistent representation from people with other distractions and a relatively short university presence became manifest.

Echoes of the “Occupy” movement have raised the representation issue, and the issue probably warrants some anticipatory attention. We have one student rep (a very good one, the current head of student government) on the presidential search committee. But I have no students on deans’ searches and other potentially relevant committees.

I do have, and have recently mentioned, a student advisory group, that I set up soon after becoming Provost. It sometimes spends more time than I would wish on student life issues rather than academic substance, but in its past meeting, offered really solid suggestions about several teaching issues, leaving me a sense that this was a forum that could be further utilized.

It’s still not clear how many students would really want to put in serious time on relevant issues, or how to expand the representative pool (currently our student leaders disproportionately come from very few majors, for example).

Students provided real assistance in crafting our Students as Scholars plan, and a decade ago a student rep was excellent on the general education revision committee. But these opportunities have been sporadic at best.

Faculty Senate, for all its virtues, spends less time than I think it should talking with student counterparts, even in deciding issues that affect students quite directly. There’s one venue where conversation could be expanded.

I actually don’t know whether many departments have organized student voice, and that’s another channel worth considering — again because students have a relevant perspective, often good ideas and because, as they say, in a changing climate an ounce of prevention is worth something.

Just a thought, at this point, not a campaign. But worth some thought perhaps.