Student senate proposal to Board of Trustees calls for more student involvement

Olivia Fellows

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Student senate proposal to Board of Trustees calls for more student involvement

Olivia Fellows 

Student senate introduced a proposal to the Board of Trustees that seeks to improve and foster student participation within the board’s decision making. If accepted by the board, the proposal will seek more opportunities for student input and ideas on board decisions regarding students. 

Student senate president Rachel Jenkin, who co-authored the proposal along with incoming president Eric-John Szczepaniak, explained that she sees the proposal to promote the inclusion of more student voices on changes being made at GVSU. 

“We want student representation on our board, both in a literal sense for real-time commenting on the issues that they are discussing, as well as in a symbolic sense so we can have it documented that students are present at every meeting,” Jenkin said. “There are people making decisions that impact us as students, however, there is no one in that space to represent us through the tough discussions and voting.”

The proposal includes several requests including subscribing to open meeting, adding public comment opportunities and holding meeting in closed sessions only when empowered by the Open Meetings Act of 1976. 

Jenkin explained that in the proposal writing process, she and Szczepaniak kept students in mind, focusing on students’ rights and needs. Jenkin approached President Thomas Haas, the Provost, the Dean of students, members of the president’s cabinet and many others to see what could be done, even gaining references and input from people at out-of-state conferences. 

Currently, there is no legislation that encourages student participation within the board, however the student senate president does speak at two of the four board meetings. Every February, the student senate president gives a short report to the student and academic affairs committee regarding student concerns, and every April they give another report to reflect on the past year and introduce the new student senate president. 

Vice President of University Relations Matt McLogan explained that while students may feel the board needs more student input, student success and education are always a top priority for the board and they welcome new insight from students. 

“The board always considers the student perspective when making decisions that affect them,” McLogan said. “So does President Haas, who regularly invites student senate leadership to accompany him to Lansing to assist him in legislative relations and to testify before relevant committees of the House of Representatives and State Senate.”

GVSU has many student-led initiatives regarding policy and academics, including student senate. 

The University Academic Senate is the institution’s highest academic governance body. Five members of the Student Senate, including the president, are appointed annually to serve as members of the UAS. The organization makes recommendations to the Provost and president regarding such matters as curriculum, the academic organization of the university, the budget and other issues considered relevant to academic activity.

Regarding the likelihood of acceptance of the proposal, Rachel Jenkin explained that she would like to see real-time commenting on discussion during the academic and student affairs committee meeting by the student senate president, and a regular agenda item of student report during the public meeting to account for symbolic representation. She explained that she is hopeful about the acceptance of the proposal and is planning towards making steps to continue growing student participation within GVSU.

“I will be giving my April address to the board April 26 and will bring up these resolutions during that time,” Jenkin said. “I am not sure how it will go over but I am optimistic. Regarding student senate, we will continue to push for this. It is our job to represent students and that means in all spaces, continuously.”