The Executive Committee of the University Academic Senate recently posed a question about student representation on its various committees. Although Student Senate is allowed to appoint members to fill the seats, many remain empty as representatives fail to attend meetings or neglect to be appointed.
Representation on the Student Senate, itself, has been an issue in the past as graduate students seek to assert themselves as voices of valuable contributions to the university. The Graduate
Student Association has attempted for many years to secure seats on various senate committees; as
of yet, an agreement has not been made. However, both the Student Senate and UAS should
reevaluate their policies.
After all, if they say that hindsight’s 20/20, why is graduate student representation on UAS and
Student Senate committees even an issue? Why is it a question whether to encourage and seek out
graduate student representatives?
Their presence would serve two purposes: they’d represent present graduate students and they’d
lend a fresh perspective to present undergraduate students.
Not only are graduate students current members of the university community, but many were past members of the undergraduate body. Having since graduated from the younger student generation,
these members have had time to reflect on their undergraduate experiences and evaluate the
problems that they faced. Their different perspective and ability to retrospectively identify issues
and critique university procedures would serve the student and faculty senates well.
Their seasoned nature allows them to speak on topics that current students might not be aware of.
Perhaps they can pinpoint weaknesses in their educational experiences that led to their inability to
secure the job they fought for. Perhaps they can better articulate what the university lacks as far as
career services or counseling or academic support goes. Either way, they have had time to digest
their undergraduate experiences and can possibly offer better solutions (and identify more
problems) than current undergraduates.
What’s more, as present constituents of senators, GVSU’s graduate students deserve equal
representation on the Student Senate and UAS. The decisions of both groups impact the
educational experience of the elder students; thus, those students should have the opportunity to
Student Senate previously explained the lack of graduate representation on a lack of applicants,
without considering why no applications have come: Senate has made it clear from past
interactions with GSA that it’s a hassle to make the effort to include graduate students.
If the purpose of the governing bodies is to represent student and faculty opinions in large-scale
administrative decisions, though, then all students and faculty should experience equal
representation. If the university neglects to listen to a large section of the population, those views
will never be heard or taken into account as decisions are made.