MSA resolution articulates students’ concerns on tenure

by Tracy Ellingson

A rare case of complete agreement was the order of the day Tuesday as the Minnesota Student Association easily passed a resolution outlining students’ concerns with the tenure issue.
The resolution, which was introduced at MSA’s first forum meeting of the year in Coffman Memorial Union, set forth three criteria the association wants faculty and regents to consider before coming to any final tenure agreement. MSA resolutions normally incur some degree of debate, but this resolution met no resistance.
MSA members agreed any new tenure code must ensure the University’s ability to attract and retain world-class professors, hold professors accountable for the quality of their teaching and use peer and student input to achieve professor accountability. In addition, the group announced its hopes of bringing together student leaders, faculty members and all 12 regents for a discussion of the issue to assure that the MSA criteria are added to the final plan.
When the proposal was presented to the group, it was met with silence, an unexpected and unusual response to a usually explosive subject. Resolution coauthor Corey Donovan said he was surprised at the lack of controversy at first, but reasoned that the resolution sets out simple points that only serve to benefit students.
“Now that I look at (the resolutions), they are so simple,” Donovan said. “They’re the heart of what students want.”
Andrew Toftey, coauthor of the resolution, agreed with Donovan and said the overwhelming acceptance of the resolution — all but one of the approximately 50 forum members present voted for it — showed that the authors really hit on what is important to students when it comes to what they expect from their professors.
But one student present said the lack of debate on the issue puzzled him. “I was surprised that there was no outward objections to the MSA proposal,” said James Reed, vice chair of the student representatives to the Board of Regents.
“My personal reaction on it is there are a couple of aspects of the proposal that are subjective,” Reed said, “and I would like to have seen more input from the other student organizations at the University.”
But Donovan said all tenure discussions the group had before writing the resolution were open to students and members from organizations outside of MSA did provide input during the talks.
“Now the regents and faculty will really have something to work with when they want to know what students want,” Donovan said after the resolution passed. “They can just look at our resolution.”
Reed did not comment on the possible impact the MSA resolution might have on the discussions of the board or the faculty.