Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, March 21, 2019

University partners with organization focused on promoting student voices in decision-making

Student Voice Index rates how colleges utilize student input in university matters

University partners with organization focused on promoting student voices in decision-making

Student Government President Valentina Fernandez attends a Student Voice Index Panel.

AU has begun a partnership with the Student Voice Index, an organization which seeks to grade college campuses on student input in institutional decision-making on university matters. 

The organization, which has yet to assign a grade to AU, considers frequency of meetings between university administrators and student government officials and whether the school’s governing board has a student representative with speaking rights. Although SVI hasn’t graded AU, their online tool suggests that AU will receive an above-average score, as the University does have a student trustee with speaking rights. 

The partnership is led by Student Government President Valentina Fernández and Secretary Alex Behle. The pair attended a National Campus Leadership Council (NCLC) forum back in September and found the SVI initiative, which is run by the NCLC, worthwhile for AU. The head of the NCLC, Andy MacCracken, is a former student government president, which helped facilitate AU’s partnership with the program.

“AU is fortunate to be an early partner in the index because we’ll be receiving personalized recommendations on how to improve student communication with respect to university governance,” Behle said.

He said that he is confident that AU values student voices and hopes this will lead to further improvements.

Although the partnership will have no immediate impact on university policies, students are nevertheless passionate about amplifying student perspectives across campus.

Freshman Eden Yanaitis said it often feels like student voices aren’t considered on a number of topics, particularly those that affect underclassmen.

“There were all these problems with freshmen dorms this year and it didn’t seem like the University was even hearing all of the student complaints,” Yanaitis said.

Having previously served as the student trustee on the AU Board of Trustees from 2017-2018, Fernández is uniquely positioned to comment on the student voice at AU.

At the event, at which NCLC held a number of panels with student government leaders from various universities, Fernández stressed the importance of student government as a conduit between students and university administrators, saying that students “won’t be able to speak the same language as someone who has worked in higher education for 30-plus years.”

While noting that AU’s policies on student input for institutional decision-making are imperfect, Fernández wanted to reassure students that their voices are heard. 

“At many schools, student representatives like me only occasionally meet with officials, but I have both formal and informal meetings very frequently,” Fernández said.

aweinstein@theeagleonline.com 


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