To the University Community: In regards to the referendum to lower the number of student representatives on the Academic Senate, I would like to make a few points as to why its passage will benefit both students and the Senate. I first address the faculty, but I will spend the bulk of this letter addressing students.
To my colleagues on the faculty, the job of the Academic Senate is to “speak for the University Faculty.” The number of student senators is much larger than the typical number of student senators at our sister campuses. 12% of the vote, particularly on resolutions or RTP issues, is too much. This is particularly true if you come from CBE, CEAS, or the Library where the students’ voice is currently louder than yours.
To the students, I note that the Academic Senate is very much like the ASI Board of Directors, as well as state and federal legislatures. Most documents come out of committees. After the documents are debated and refined by the committees, these bodies put them up to a full vote. Most of these documents are approved with, at most, minor changes.
ASI gets 2 votes compared to the faculty’s 9 on the Committee on Instruction and Curriculum (CIC), which is responsible for the University Catalog (including general education), graduation requirements, and many other student-related issues. In fact, ASI gets 2 seats on all but 2 Senate committees. The proposal does not change that allocation, but ASI has not sent a single student to vote on any Senate committee in at least 8 years.
This points to a number of systemic issues in ASI. ASI does not require its leaders to be on Senate committees. Instead, it tries to recruit students to serve by sending out flyers with a short explanation of what the various committees do and without commenting upon the compensation. This has been ineffective.
Additionally, there seems to be no real feedback mechanism. The three students who hold the title “academic senator” within ASI are not on the Board of Directors. They do not submit regular reports to the Board.
According to the ASI website, “The purpose and duties of the ASI External Committee shall be to […w]ork closely with […] the Academic Senate, and the University Administration to advance students’ issues.” Yet, according to the minutes of last year’s External Affairs Committee, the student senators are not members of the committee. The VP of External Affairs is not on the Senate this year.
I suggest that ASI’s officers be assigned to sit on the most important committees, including (but not limited to) the Senate’s. It could define all representatives to be members of the External Affairs Committee, who could then report to the committee regularly. This way, the officers who serve on the Senate know the issues and the discussions that accompany them. The VP of External Affairs could then report to the Board on these “external” issues to get further feedback.
If the ASI Board were to implement such a plan, the representation of students on the Senate would be far more effective than it is now, whether the number of seats on the full Senate is 7 or 3.
(Mitchell Watnik is the Chair of the Academic Senate at CSU East Bay.)
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 12:40 pm.