MSA committees plan for busy year

Tracy Ellingson

Minnesota Student Association member Corey Donovan would like to make a change in his committee’s acronym.
“I’d like to throw another ‘A’ into ‘AA’ — for Academic Affairs Action Committee,” said Donovan, the current Academic Affairs Committee chair.
This year promises to keep all three MSA committees busy responding to controversial tenure proposals, the University president selection and the school’s budget review. Donovan said hot issues like these will not fall under just one committee, but will require attention from all of them.
The Academic Affairs Committee, however, is the one that serves as the voice in dealing with the University administration, and it will serve as the focal point for student opinion on tenure and other issues.
Committee members have already met informally to work on a tenure proposal that will benefit University students. The proposal could be finished as early as late this week, Donovan said. “Each proposal (presented by the regents and administration) has its problems for students,” Donovan said. “None seems to meet the needs of students. We’re trying to put something forth for them.”
Donovan said the problem with proposed tenure changes is the fine line between retaining world-class professors and removing deadwood. Donovan said tenure changes are needed because the student voice gets lost in the current system, with little student input into the process of granting tenure or in any proposed post-tenure review process.
Committee members hope to regain student input by making sure the administration gives more weight to student class evaluations when considering faculty tenure.
Professors and students have expressed concerns that if proposed tenure changes go through, professors may no longer have time to devote to things like student advising as they deal with the competition of decreased job security. Donovan hopes to address the issue in committee meetings. He said University students need faculty advisers because they encourage and challenge students to take courses most applicable to their field.
In addition to defining a student voice on tenure, Donovan said all MSA members will be watching how the University spends students’ money. The biennial budget review gives association members a chance to advise the University Student Senate on how it should be spending students’ money.
Donovan said last year’s MSA board had only one week to review the budget, limiting its ability to make suggestions for change. Donovan said that little advance preparation has long been a problem for MSA when dealing with issues.
“MSA has been reactive in the past rather than proactive,” Donovan said.
Donovan said a stronger student voice will allow MSA to create its own proposals for situations like tenure, instead of having to pick a proposal drafted by the administration or another campus group.
Donovan said MSA members will be drawn to his committee because of the issues it will tackle this year — issues that will make an impact on current and future University students. Donovan, who said that committee meetings are where a majority of work gets done, hopes that students will bring their ideas and concerns to the biweekly committee meetings.
“I love the different perspectives we get in MSA and I’d like to see more,” Donovan said.