U considers task force input

MSA and GAPSA leaders said more students need to be part of realignment task forces.

JP Leider

Members of campus student governments met with University officials Monday to discuss the future of student involvement in the University’s realignment plan.

Approximately 30 students are among the 372 people participating in more than 30 strategic positioning task forces.

Student involvement in the realignment process has been a point of discussion since last April, said Karen Buhr, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly president.

Both Buhr and Minnesota Student Association President Emily Serafy Cox said they were disappointed with the original number of students appointed to task force committees.

During the summer, 500 people were nominated to the task forces. Nominations were then forwarded to task force leaders for consideration.

MSA and GAPSA submitted a combined list of student nominations. From that list, the leaders of the task forces selected one graduate student and three undergraduates, Buhr said.

After student appointments were released, Buhr and Serafy Cox approached Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for student affairs, about student representation in the realignment task forces.

But complete representation isn’t what task forces are about, Rinehart said.

“The premise for the task forces was that we bring together people with the most knowledge or expertise in a particular area,” he said. “The disadvantage students had is that they weren’t known as well by faculty chairs as other faculty.”

Rinehart said instead of selecting someone from MSA and GAPSA’s list, task force chairs more likely chose a student they knew of, so they could “go with a known commodity.”

“It didn’t go as smoothly as it should have,” he said. “We maybe should have asked for more information from MSA and GAPSA about their nominees.”

The other problem with involving more students is that task forces were constrained to 10 people, Rinehart said.

While task forces have limited space and are all but closed, students will still have opportunity for involvement, Serafy Cox said.

One of the points of discussion was appointing more students to the steering committees, each of which oversees several task forces.

Another potential remedy discussed at the meeting involves GAPSA, MSA and the Student Senate joining forces and creating a pool of students that can be called upon by task forces for input.

Task forces will also likely create opportunities in the form of more public forums where students can give input.

That’s where students should be prepared to give their opinion, said Steve Wang, a student who serves on the services task force.

“It’s important that (students) come to the public forums, because that’s the time when the members of the task force are ready to listen to exactly what student’s opinions are,” he said. “If students don’t show up, it means we have a lethargic student body and we don’t care.”

In addition to supporting more public venues, MSA will actively pursue a more formal role in the process, Serafy Cox said.

“As student government we feel like this is our role – that our role is to be a voice for students,” Serafy Cox said. “We would like to see the task forces drawing on us as that.”

Buhr said GAPSA is pushing for student involvement to ensure that the needs and concerns of graduate and professional students are reflected in the changes to the University.

Although some students previously criticized the realignment process for less than adequate student involvement, Rinehart said students will have plenty of opportunity to make their voices heard.

“People have a strong interest in the University and what is going on. My belief is that this will be a great conversation that will be taking place over the next eight months,” he said. “And people won’t be excluded from that conversation.”