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College Councils: Better Student Representation

January 24, 2013
When I began at the UW last quarter, I was unaware that students had the opportunity to be part of an organization that valued student input in the decision making process. Once aware of the impact of College Councils, I immediately talked to the news editor about featuring the importance of the Council in the Daily.
blog postThe idea  of a Student led Council addressing concerns normally left up to administrators was a new concept. As a student, I was interested in learning more about College Councils and evaluating whether student input really made a difference.After speaking with various people and organization representatives that made College Councils a reality, I was interested in joining the Council myself. I want to become a positive influence for those around me and have the opportunity to not only contribute my ideas, but provide better representation for the students as a whole.

With the guidance of the The Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS),  the formation of student councils for every UW academic school and college became a reality early last year. The creation of college-level Student Councils gives students the opportunity to directly have an immediate impact on their education. Since then, the formation of student councils has given students the opportunity to talk to their individual college deans about issues that affect students across campus.

“It would be very helpful for us to have an organized student group that would give us some input on proposals as they take shape,” said Robert Stacey, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

College Councils were created to increase student input on decisions normally handled by PACS and administrators. Although The Provost Advisory Committee for Students (PACS) has made decent strides in guiding the Provost on issues such as the annual budget, financial aid, admissions, and tuition, it does not fully understand how specific policies impact students firsthand as they cannot entirely represent students from each of the 16 academic schools. Communication between PACS and each academic school is needed to represent the priorities of students.  Student Council members will address their concerns to PACS, and in return they will write those concerns into recommendations. PACS will act as the organizer, helping Student Councils collaborate and connect.

“The goal is that students down the line are visibly and effectively engrained in the college-wide budgetary process,” PACS Chair and ASUW Director of University Affairs Michael Kutz said.

As Deans are developing their budgets and are planning for the future, students will be able to provide feedback on impending decisions or raise new ones. Student involvement in policy-making decisions validates the administration’s desire to address concerns brought up by the students. It is a more collaborative process that demands attention to further implement policies that students push to evaluate. Thus, institutionalizing the student voice allows for stronger communication between students and administrators.

“College Councils will become part of the university culture, where students are reached out to before decisions are made,” ASUW president Evan Smith said.

Student Council members will aid administrators in making decisions based on well-rounded information when advising the Deans of colleges about issues of planning, budgeting, and offering input on course and program fees. Members were required to publish a set of budgeting principles that indicate student concerns and outline the types of things the council is considering investing in for each academic school.

“Student Councils are not only a good way to communicate with students in the school, but to let the students outside the school talk to the Provost about what each academic college is doing,” said Steve Sefcik, Associate Dean of the Foster School of Business.

The School of Law, Foster School of Business, and Colleges of Build Environments, Arts and Sciences, Education, and Social Work currently have College Councils. Other schools and colleges will join in setting up their own Student Councils in the future. The structure and meeting times of a college council varies. However, it is essential that each council’s structure stays representative of the students within each school. Many of the academic schools have already begun to hold council meetings that gather a few times a month to discuss issues that are relevant to their school.

“We hope that students would be gathering opinions from their peers in the college and represent more than just themselves,” Kutz said.

While the selection process is based on key characteristics, which varies according to each academic school, students are encouraged to be part of the decision making process. Depending on each college, students apply to participate or are directly approached to join each year.

For my fellow College of Arts and Sciences students, the application opens every April and students are on the Council for an entire year. Community involvement and student interest are one of the few components that the Dean of Arts and Sciences looks for when choosing students to participate.

I encourage everyone to apply who wants students like us to have a say in what goes on at UW. We have the ability to make a difference within the UW community and not solely leave every decision up to administrators. We can bring about change and offer input that can alter the way specific issues are handled. Make your voice heard because in the end it is your education and future that is being discussed at the Student Council.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 18, 2013 7:37 pm

    Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this article to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a very good
    read. Thank you for sharing!

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