Imagine if college life was more democratic. Not just in the discussion with your roommates when you’re getting dinner, or where you’re going for the night kind of ways, but actually a democratic process.
Imagine if a college was organized in a way that was more reminiscent of, say, stockholders in a company than students and administration, or perhaps in a more governmental style, with representatives and branches of government. Imagine if students had a hand in policy making and staff decisions.
This idea has been forming in my mind over the past couple of weeks as I watched the degree to which students and the administration worked together during the issues surrounding the change of policy in the Townhouses, as well as watching the formation of the student Judicial Boards with the Student Government Association and the Office of Student Affairs. As I watched students and faculty working together to solve problems on campus, the thought struck me. Students, and in all honesty their parents, are paying upwards of $35,000 a year to attend Springfield College.
Why shouldn’t students have more of a say in how campus is run?
Of course, to an extent this already happens on college campuses. As I mentioned earlier, the Townhouse controversy was an excellent example of students making their opinions heard and working out a compromise with the administration. Students are always encouraged to talk to the administration if they have issues with anything, and the SGA does an excellent job of representing the student body. But imagine a school where the student body had an active role in areas such as school policies, faculty hiring, community standards, budget issues and the like.
Students pay a large amount of money to attend college, and I feel that it would be only fitting if they had more of a say in what went on at their school. Think of our own system of government with a series of checks and balances, three different branches and a democratic process to elect our leaders. I believe that elements such as these could help provide a model for how to run a college.
This idea would require a fairly involved student body, but if a republican form was used, I believe this could be achievable. What that means is the student body would vote on class senators, much the way the SGA operates, but with a larger amount of power and input in the school. If each class had six senators who worked with the administration in all aspects of running the school, this would give the student body a say through their representatives.
The administration could act as a combination of executive and judicial branches, with veto power and the final say in matters of discipline.
Student representatives could run in a campus-wide election. There could even be a branch of parent representatives, because after all, they do pay a majority of the bills. Rather than just asking for student input on matters, the student body and parents would have a very direct role in how the college is run. Imagine the effect this could have on things such as faculty hiring decisions. Who knows professors and how they teach better than students? The same could be said for issues like the budget. Not only would that be excellent experience for students who are business majors, but that would be a very real way for students to help make serious decisions regarding the money they spend to attend an institution.
All of these ideas are utilized to an extent on the Springfield College campus. But I do believe that there is something to be said where the students are held accountable by the administration and vice versa.
Josh Ernst may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org