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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Other Student Government

While some UMB students may be vaguely aware of the Undergraduate Student Senate and Graduate Student Assembly, whose elections concluded last week, it’s a little known fact that each of the five colleges have their own governing bodies that allow students to vote on key academic and administrative policies.

Each of these internal college governing assemblies, boards, and senates has their own constitutions, bylaws and guidelines for student membership. Some, like the College of Public and Community Service’s Policy Board, allow students to run in a general election, while still others, like the College of Liberal Arts Senate, have academic department chairs appoint student representatives. When looking at present and past levels of student membership on college governance, however, a big problem becomes apparent: consistently low student participation.

The now defunct College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Senate allowed twenty undergraduates to vote and have input in decision-making. “One student from each of the academic departments could in theory be on the senate, if he/she were nominated by their department chair,” explained professor Marietta Schwartz, a past senate moderator. In reality, however, student participation on the CAS Senate was dismally low. The CAS Senate’s old website lists only one student member during the 2000-01 academic year.

According to Schwartz, elections and selections for the colleges’ student seats are in the spring, around the same time as the Undergraduate Student Senate elections.

The recent division of CAS into the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) prompted each college to create separate constitutions and governing senates.

The CLA Senate

The new CLA Senate allots four student seats, one from each of the college’s four major divisions: arts, humanities, social sciences, and interdisciplinary. Students are appointed to the senate by professors in their discipline. All but one of these seats is presently empty, according to CLA Senate moderator professor Linda Dittmar, who remarked, “We do have an undergraduate on our senate.” The CLA Senate meetings are open to students and any interested in joining should contact their department chair.

The CSM Senate

A draft of the new CSM constitution states that the CSM Senate will defer to the Undergraduate Student Senate and Graduate Student Assembly to recommend a student to sit on the CSM Senate as non-voting members-a policy that apparently was never communicated to either of the two student governing bodies. Both President Susan Smith of the Student Senate and President Caroline Coscia of the GSA were troubled by the fact that “for the last two semesters, we were never made aware of this new policy by anyone in CSM.” CSM Senate moderator professor John Ebersole acknowledged that, “At present, we have no student members.” The CSM Senate meetings are open to all students.

The CNHS Senate

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) offers several ways for an estimated 680 students to contribute to academic and administrative policies. Students can serve on the BS Program, Student Affairs, or Evaluation and Planning committees, in addition to the CNHS Senate. The college’s student representatives are elected, explained academic advisor Michelle Manning, who urges interested parties to consult their advisors.

While committee meetings are closed to the public, any student may view the agendas and minutes of past meetings by requesting them from the Dean’s Office. “Students can also participate in monthly department curriculum meetings by contacting their department chairs,” says Manning, adding, “Students should get involved because they can have a significant impact in both programming activities and academic policies.”

Participation has remained minimal, despite the fact that nursing students are supposedly alerted to these leadership opportunities. In an informal survey, twelve random students were asked to name three of the college’s governing bodies, when elections were, and who their class officer was. Only one knew who his class officer was, because it was himself. None could name all three of their college’s governing bodies, though over half believed that one of them was the Student Nursing Association, a national organization.

Management Faculty Assembly

In contrast to the other four college governing bodies, the College of Management has never had a formal policy allowing student representation on the Faculty Assembly. However, Associate Dean Janet Wagner cited a 2008 Strategic Priority Activity Plan memorandum from last fall that read, “increasing student participation in out-of-class activities provides professional development and leadership opportunities.”

Absent from the memo was any language that would give students formal representation or voting rights in academic or administrative policies.

The CPCS Policy Board

The Policy Board is a 13-member elected body whose open meetings are held biweekly. Professor Ann Withorn, co-chair of the board, says that this year’s elections will be held next fall. Students are informed about elections via their professors and flyers.

Regular student participation in recent years has been low to non-existent. Only one student was active in the 2000-01 academic year, and no students were active in 2003.

In 2003, the Policy Board adopted changes that reduced the number of student seats from five to two. Another change would allow students to create their own governing body. The new constitution states, “[the] Policy Board shall, in its bylaws, provide for the creation of structures and mechanisms to encourage meaningful student participation in governance.”

Over a year has passed since the new constitution was approved, and professor Terry McLarney, the undergraduate chair, says, “The bylaws on student governance have yet to be developed.” McLarney urges any interested CPCS student to bring their ideas about student representation to the table at Policy Board meetings.