Taking Academic Senate seriously

   This past Wednesday was the monthly academic senate meeting. Academic Senate is the governing body of the college. It is comprised of all faculty, deans, the president, select staff members and student representatives. Student representatives are elected by division in the fall of every year. Despite massive publicity, begging, and pleading, the turnout for students to run for student senator or simply to vote for their representation is dismal. If we do not care about our own representation at these important meetings, then why should our professors? We need to take the privilege of having a vote in senate seriously.
I have been an academic senator for two years; I think I have gained a lot from the experience. It is fun getting a little peek into how decisions are made and the way professors interact amongst each other. And it is most rewarding to have a voice and a vote at the meetings that shape Beloit.
Academic Senate was the body that decided to change the curriculum. The senators elected last year were influential in trying to make known the desires of Beloit students in regards to requirements and capstones. Academic senators sat on the Curriculum Oversight and Administration Committee, which evaluates all course proposals. However, student senators do not have any influence in the decisions on tenure, financial allocation or board of trustees meetings. My experience on senate has made me understand how the decisions about the future of Beloit College are made and how we as students can be effectively involved in that process.
Not all of the meetings are interesting.  This week’s meeting consisted almost entirely of committee reports, information about the board of trustees meeting from President Bierman and a contextualization of project goals for the rest of the semester from Ann Davies.
The really exciting parts of Academic Senate happen in the small development/deliberation groups that occur in the weeks between senate meetings. At these groups we have talked about the modular campaign and the goals that professors have for providing resources and opportunities for students. It was an enlightening experience to sit in a room of faculty, some familiar and some not, and hear them ask question such as “how can we give our students more opportunities?,”  “how do we encourage them to get involved off campus?’ and “how should we use our resources to better their experience?” Student senators attend these meetings so that our voice, the Beloit college student voice, can contribute to the answers being developed for these questions. Student senators provide the student body with the opportunity, the power, to influence the decision making process at our school.
Student involvement in Beloit governance is unique and delectably Beloit-ish. However, I cannot help but feel that we are not using this power. I would say that the majority of students don’t know what academic senate is, or who their representatives are. They do not realize that through the student senators, there is the opportunity to have a vote on vital decisions and to make opinions heard to a large group of influential people.    There are three things that we, as a student body, should put on our radar about Academic Senate:
1. Your current senators are: Caitlin McDonough ‘12, Carrie Hatcher ‘13, Xiyu Du ‘11, Tessa Wood ‘12, Patrick Firme ‘13, Isaac Bamgbose’13, Erin Tuffy ‘12 Charlie Baxter ‘14, Bryant Conkling ‘12 Amber Dormain ‘13, Ian Hedges ‘12, Raksha Ashlaysha ‘13, and Benjamin Robinson ‘12. We are responsible for representing you, and you need to hold us (and future academic senators) accountable for reporting to the campus at large about upcoming decisions and discussions.
2. Take academic senate seriously. Run for election in the fall, or at least vote for your representatives. If you want to have a say in the governance of Beloit, and in the direction of Beloit, here is the place to do it.
3. Student senators have traditionally been elected based on division lines. Divisions were disintegrated with the new curriculum and we as students have to address the question of how to represent ourselves. There are 13 student senators; how do we make sure that the diversity of the student body is represented?
If we take the governance of our school seriously then we will be given more opportunity to take a part in it and have more influence in the direction of Beloit College’s future. If you have any questions or are just curious, feel free to contact any of the student senators.



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