The Student Association Senate passed Senate Bill #7 last Wednesday to create undergraduate advisory boards. Sid Richardson College Senator Justin Onwenu and Baker College Senator Anjali Bhatla introduced the bill to provide a space for centralized communication between faculty and students.
“A lot of times students are reactionary to things that have gone wrong in different departments,” Onwenu, a sophomore, said. “We wanted to change that.”
Onwenu and Bhatla, a junior, conducted a survey in the fall semester to determine whether students lacked an appropriate outlet to raise academic concerns. Of more than 300 respondents, 81 percent felt advisory boards were necessary. The survey revealed that currently, 52 percent of students discuss concerns with a professor, 17 percent talk to the SA and 23 percent felt there was no appropriate outlet for contact. Only six percent contacted the department directly. In addition, the survey highlighted the most pressing student concerns for the advisory board to tackle: class offerings, teaching excellence, experiential learning, curriculum changes and course evaluations.
Bhatla and Onwenu said they identified psychology, biosciences and political science as the first departments to receive advisory boards due to their popularity among students. According to Bhatla, boards will be modeled on the approach used by the economics department to implement curriculum changes, but will fulfill an even greater variety of needs. For the political science department specifically, Onwenu said students will serve as liaisons between the department and their peers for future events on the election.
Brett Ashley Leeds, a professor in the political science department, said she was enthusiastic for the implementation of the advisory boards.
“I am excited to receive more feedback about the kinds of courses and events that most excite our students,” Leeds said.
Janet Braam, a professor of biosciences, said she also believes advisory boards will open communication and help inform students of changes and opportunities in the department.
According to Bhatla, the selection process will be led by the SA Academics Committee on an application basis, in collaboration with the various departments. Departments will inform the committee on the mix of concentrations and years within the major they hope to see on their advisory board. Bhatla, who will serve as the committee chair for the first year, said she hopes many students will apply and that the process will be a lasting change.
“This is the first step,” Onwenu said. “Our long-term goal is to see it campus-wide throughout other departments. If students can get engaged it will send a message to the campus as a whole that students have a place in giving their feedback.”