Academic Senate in need of senators
December 10, 2008 12:22 PM
Although the recent CSU budget cuts have caused an uprising in student activism, SF State’s own Academic Senate, the university’s largest decision-making body, has only been able to fill two of the 21 student positions on its committees.
“It’s been a constant problem, not only this year but year in and year out,” said Academic Senate President Shawn Whalen on the lack of student involvement.
As of Dec. 8, online committee rosters show that 19 out of 21 seats are vacant for Associated Students, Inc. representatives on committees that span issues from enrollment to graduation requirements, according to the Academic Senate’s Web site.
“Anyone who has complained about the way things are run here at SF State should consider joining one of the Academic Senate committees,” said Marc William Ong, vice president of university affairs for the ASI, in an email. “Due to shared governance, students have a power in voicing their opinions to the faculty and staff, whether they exercise that right or not,” he said.
James Sheldon, a graduate student studying education, is one of two student representatives that attend the weekly Academic Senate meetings on campus. Sheldon also sits on the Academic Policy Committee, which is responsible for studying and recommending educational policy. The ACP, according to its Web site, must approve essentially every change in curriculum. But although the ACP makes important decisions that affect every student studying at SF State, Sheldon is the only student on the committee, leaving three empty seats on that committee alone.
“You really learn about how the campus works, how decisions are made,” said Sheldon of his experience. Sheldon is a graduate student and puts his senate experience on his resume. Whalen said that Sheldon has made “a number of significant contributions” though his involvement. In addition to the resume boost, the experience also gives him a chance to network with professors.
“You get a chance to know faculty in different ways that you ordinarily would,” he said. “Normally you’re in a class and they’re the teacher and you’re the student … You get to see them in a different capacity, I found that really valuable.”
“Students should be involved in the senate because the policies passed in the senate have a direct effect on their education,” said Professor Wei Ming Dariotis in an e-mail. Dariotis, who chairs the Academic Policies Committee, said that Sheldon has often “swayed” decisions through his authority as a student senator.
Sheldon recalls when the recent class retake policy was being created—a policy that made it impossible to retake a class if you got a “C” or better—and how he was able to put in his two cents during the meetings.
Instead of an election process, students join the Academic Senate or its respective committees by meeting with the ASI and becoming appointed, Sheldon said. The most important characteristic, according to Sheldon, is enthusiasm.
Although students can join the Academic Senate alone—there are three seats on the senate for students, two of which are filled—Sheldon recommends joining committees as well. In the committees, ideas are discussed and then presented during the AS meetings.
“We need to get students [in there] right when an idea is being discussed and not just at the very end of the process,” he said.
“Unfortunately, most students on campus do not know or realize the significance of their student voice,” said Ong.
Below is a step by step process of how a student can get appointed to the Academic Senate or Academic Senate Committee through Associated Students:
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