U must help student government play its role

It is imperative that there be adequate and meaningful communication.

Regardless of my or your opinions about the strategic positioning recommendations that were passed by the Board of Regents in June, the recommendations put forth by President Bob Bruininks will be implemented. The questions now are: How will this process work, and how will students be involved?

Student government wants to ensure optimum student inclusion in this process. More students should be added to the process at all levels. We also want a formal process for two-way communication between student government and the task forces throughout the process, not just once the recommendations are completed or are in the public comment period. Some may ask why we students should care about all this, what is student government whining about?

Here’s some history. There have been 34 task forces – committees made up of 10 people appointed by the provost office and the chairs of each task force – formed to make recommendations about how the University should implement the various initiatives. In short, 10 people for each subject meet to figure out how to do what the Regents want the University to do. Some of the task forces are looking at how the University’s administration can run better; most of the others are looking at academic issues like the writing initiative or the redesign of many of our colleges – yes, this is the General College issue.

Out of the 300 or so task force members, there are 10 undergrads and 12 graduate students. Many task forces that have no students at all.

On a positive note, each task force will be setting up advisory committees and/or having public forums. These advisory committees are where Provost E. Thomas Sullivan has said are the places where student involvement is the most crucial. There will also be a 30-day public comment period before the task force recommendations to the president are made final.

This whole process has been on a very aggressive schedule, and this stage of the process has the tightest schedule yet. Most task forces are meeting weekly, and many have a deadline of just a few months.

It is imperative that there be adequate and meaningful communication from the task forces to student government and the University community. It is imperative that there be avenues for feedback during the process. If there isn’t going to be a student on every task force, there needs to be some substantial way for our voices to be heard.

These advisory boards are a start, but the manner of their selection is crucial. Over the summer, both Minnesota Student Association and GAPSA were asked to give recommendations. Of the 22 students on the task forces, four are people that student government recommended. When asked about this, administrators have told me that many of the other students who are on the task forces were appointed because they had previously worked with the chair or had been recommended. This lack of consultation with student government should not be mirrored in the formation of the advisory boards or the process of gathering public input.

Also, the administration needs to find more ways in which students can be involved at all levels of the process. This repositioning process is one of the biggest issues the University community has faced in many, many years, and the results of this process will affect every student who comes to this University in the future. No one should be left out of this process, especially not the students.

Emily Serafy Cox is the University’s Minnesota Student Association president. Please send comments to [email protected].