In a school-wide e-mail sent on Thursday, January 17th, SGA president Jeremy Thompson announced that students will have the opportunity to apply for two available spots on the committee in place for the administrative reallocation process.
Responding to students who “expressed the need for student involvement,” Thompson said in his email that the two students, who will be selected by the Student Government Association executive cabinet, would be “full committee members” and “provide feedback on behalf of the student body.”
The two students selected will be required to attend a two-hour meeting every other week and read a significant amount in preparation for the meetings.
Each student will serve for two semesters and will earn academic credit in a form that will benefit them, according to Thompson.
“The university wants more perspectives,” said Thompson. “These two students are going to be representing Mary Washington.”
When asked about the size of the committee that these two students would be included in, Thompson was unsure, but noted that Larry Goldstein, the consultant hired as a facilitator in the reallocation process, estimated about 15-20 based on a meeting in November.
The process in constructing the committee in which the two students will be part is ongoing, but more answers will be given in February.
Thompson mentioned the concern among students about how the committee will make decisions.
“The one question students have always had is: how is the committee going to make decisions?” said Thompson.
Thompson stressed that they will have an answer to that question soon.
A previous issue of the Bullet, published on Dec. 6, 2012, said, “SGA cabinet has proposed that the executive cabinet, with direction from the SGA president, will interview and select three students to serve and report to the cabinet.”
Thompson stated Goldstein, the hired consultant, did not think students should be involved.
“The consultant mentioned to us that he did not see a reason for students to be on the committee,” said Thomspon. “[Goldstein] said students must be informed, but not participate in the task forces,” added Thompson, clarifying that he meant “task forces” as another term for the committees.
According to Thompson, Goldstein said that it would be a “massive amount of work” for students combined with academics, and that students would have a “short term perspective and strategic decisions have long-term consequences.”
Thompson respectfully disagreed, “If they’re not too busy, let them do it. At least let us try.”
According to Thompson, President Rick Hurley agreed that there should be a way to find a model where one student had a role and they agreed on two students as a compromise.
Thompson noted that Sean Simons, Legislative Action Committee chair, and Sarabeth Webb, Academic Affairs Committee chair, “did a tremendous amount of work to make sure students were represented.”
The two students selected will only be serving on the administrative committee for the reallocation process, not the academic committee.
Thompson addressed the reallocation, saying, “The faculty has been working very hard to make sure they are in control of the academics of Mary Washington.”
Thompson and Hurley agreed that “academically the faculty’s opinions may be very much in line with students,” said Thompson. ”We want a good education, we want our diplomas to be valuable; the teachers want the same thing that we do.”
Thompson clarified that Webb, whose job it is to work with the faculty and who was elected by the student body, will “keep faculty informed what students are thinking the entire time, so [the students] can still play a role in that process.”
“She’s the liaison,” said Thompson, “and she’s really good at it.”
When questioned about student’s concern for the academic committee, Webb said. “From personal experience a lot of our teachers do have the student’s best interest at heart, so I just don’t think they need to be concerned generally.”
She also said that the teachers involved, “want to see liberal arts succeed. I know the teachers on that task force are concerned with pursuing a liberal arts environment.”
Senior Philip Revak Green, a member of Students Supporting the Liberal Arts, spoke about the recent student additions.
“I think it’s a good start. I am interested to see how much input those students will actually have,” said Revak Green. “I think it’s great that we have gotten some degree of representation,” said Revak Green.
In regards to the lack of student representation on the academic task force, Revak Green said that students should have a voice.
“We invest significant financial resources and a very good portion of our life,” said Revak Green.
He also did not agree with the committee meetings being closed to all except those on it, and said that “there is more that we could do,” in reference to the SSLA and its concerns about creating more transparency between the reallocation decisions and students.
Answering to students concerned about representation, Simons said, “While some people may gripe about the lack of student representation on the academic committee, I’m not particularly sensitive to those concerns. Never has a student been involved with a process like this, let alone two students. I’m not going to complain.”
Applications for these positions are due on Feb. 3, and any student can apply.
The SGA executive cabinet intends to review these applications, interviewing students the following week. After the students are chosen they will attend the first committee meeting in late February, according to Thompson.
“We need to find students who know a lot about Mary Washington,” Thompson said, stressing the importance of a focus on academics as well as other campus activities.
Thompson stressed the words “responsible and dependable” in discussion of who will fit the two positions well.
The two students will learn a lot about UMW.
“They’re going to get a lot of information about programs on this campus, they’re going to see a lot of money, they’re going to see a lot of figures,” said Thompson. “They have to be as objective as possible.”
The students and the committees will keep the SGA informed and through them the SGA will keep the student body informed, according to Thompson.
He mentioned that a few sophomores and juniors have already applied for the positions.
Through this process there has been concern from students about not having a voice in the reallocation process.
“The student body elected me and all the executive cabinet to make decisions on their behalf. What we’re doing here is opening this up so anyone can apply and have input in the process so we can make this decision on behalf of the student body,” Thompson said.
Having students serve as full committee members “is a big deal,” according to Thompson, since no other school has done this before.
“I think it’s awesome that students will protest and let us know what they think,” said Thompson. “They should use the Student Government Association as a resource, and we’re trying to prove that to them every single day.”
Thompson says “students first” is his motto.
“I want to be as open and honest about what is going on as possible, because at the end of the day the SGA works for students,” said Thompson. “At the end of the day I’m going to fight for students.”