By NATALIE DIGNAM
Students have real power in the governing system at St. Lawrence. Students form one third of the university governing system at SLU through their role as delegates on the Tripartite Committees.
As the name suggests, the Tripartite Committees are made up of three parts: students delegates, faculty, and administration, who work together to make decisions ranging from academic advising to conservation. Students serve a term of one academic year.
Ideally, student delegates should represent the desires of the student body in the University’s decision-making process, but this has not always been the case.
In December, Josh Lashway ’13, former Thelmo Vice President of University Relations, outlined the problems faced by the Tripartite Committees in his report to the faculty council.
“Many students who I appointed to these committees reported that: (1) the committee never met, (2) the committee only met once, (3) nothing of value was accomplished, (4) the committee Chair did not take into account the students’ availability; therefore, the student could never attend the meetings, (5) the committee never asked for the student’s opinion,” Lashway wrote.
Although Lashway said some of the issues faced by the committees were his fault because he appointed students who were disengaged during the meetings, he said that students’ lack of education on their respective committees posed the biggest problem to maintaining a student voice in the University government.
Dr. Evelyn Jennings has served on multiple Tripartite Commitees, including the Academic Affairs Committee, the Faculty Life Committee, and is currently the Vice Chair of Faculty Council. She has heard of several issues with the committees, including inconsistent meeting times and lack of communication.
Jennings said that some communication issues lie in “the lack of ‘sync’ between the faculty’s schedule and Thelmo’s schedule of making appointments in the spring for the coming calendar year. It means that students are joining committees that have already been meeting for half a year and it can be hard to join in ‘mid-stream’, so to speak.”
Jennings said that she has advised committee chairs this spring to include student delegates in all committee communications and to make an effort to include students in the committee’s work.
Lashway advised his successor, Jack Holby ’13, not to appoint new student delegates until the faculty addressed these problems. Lashway wrote, “I do not feel that the student body’s voice has been taken seriously in recent years, which will continue until the committee structure changes.”
New delegates have been appointed for the Spring semester, and Jack Holby ’13, the Thelmo Vice President of University Relations, is working to improve the Tripartite Committees for future delegates.
Holby said he wants to consolidate each committee’s past reports for future reference. He also said his goal is to meet with each student delegate to inform them on their role in the committee. Informing delegates of their duties before they begin serving could help communication issues between the faculty and student delegates.
Holby also said that he hopes to “make sure students understand what past delegates have done and what the committee is about. Knowing past issues allows the student delegates to be more engaged in their role.”
In addition, Thelmo is proposing an amendment to their constitution which would require each of the Thelmo committee chairs to serve as delegates on their related Tripartite Committee. Holby said that this amendment would increase communication between the University and student governments.