Students must have input on programs

NIU administrators must listen to the Student Association as it pushes for more student input in program prioritization.

SA Senate is considering a resolution that expresses how disillusioned it has become with administrators’ support for shared governance in light of the way students have been forced out of the program prioritization process. This resolution is the first step in students’ push for being a part of the decision-making process in program prioritization.

Prioritization will undoubtedly change NIU as programs are cut, merged or grow based on how they are used. It will directly affect how students are educated and what areas of study are available to them, and students can provide invaluable feedback on criteria on which to judge the programs and deficiencies and areas of potential growth.

Yet, there are no plans to include students as members of two task forces that will make recommendations about program changes. Students are also not able to take a survey about what criteria programs should be judged on.

Instead, it appears administrators will rely on data about student interests and will encourage students to provide feedback about programs by contacting task force members.

That’s not enough.

NIU must create more opportunities for students to learn about program prioritization and be involved in its process. An elected member of the SA should be a voting member on the task forces that will review programs. Since SA representatives are elected, this person would have the backing of the student body.

But, NIU must protect this person just as it would the rest of its task force members: Members must know about NIU’s grievance policy and how it can be used to address concerns if a person thinks he or she has been treated unfairly. Information about NIU’s grievance policy for employees can be found at bit.ly/1Cya0mJ. For students, the ombudsperson can provide services for working out concerns with community members and can also direct students to information about the student grievance policy.

Administrators should also host panels several times each semester so students can ask task force members questions and provide them with feedback in a face-to-face format. This will help students hold NIU and its officials accountable and will give them a greater voice in the future of the university.

The SA Senate had its first reading of the resolution Sunday; at the next meeting, senators will vote on it. Administrators must act to renew student faith in NIU before then.

Shared governance

Another aspect of the SA Senate’s resolution is concerns about shared governance, which must be better defined. There is no definition for shared governance in NIU’s bylaws, and that muddies the issue of student involvement in program prioritization and future projects.

The SA, faculty, staff and administrators should create a more clear set of guidelines for how students and their representative bodies, like the SA, are involved in university decisions. Those guidelines should not be strict, but they should promote student involvement in governance.

NIU should meet with SA to talk about how student voices can be heard and how students can be involved in decision making when it comes to program prioritization.

Without this definition and a greater effort to include students in program prioritization, shared governance will become an empty term.