Medill invites students on faculty committees

Dan Murtaugh

Medill administrators announced Monday that they are asking students to join faculty committees that oversee decisions including faculty hiring and curriculum changes.

Medill Asst. Dean Roger Boye said administrators decided to place between one and three students on six of Medill’s seven committees after results from an undergraduate survey completed Nov. 2 indicated that it was the best way to increase student involvement in the school.

Both undergraduate and graduate students can apply for the positions by Dec. 10 and will be able to join some committees in Winter Quarter.

University President Henry Bienen asked undergraduate school deans last spring to survey students about their level of involvement in the university. Medill Dean Loren Ghiglione, who opens his office to students for two hours every Tuesday and Wednesday, said one of his goals is increasing student involvement in the school.

“(Bienen) made it a priority of his administration, and it was already on my agenda so I was happy to support this priority,” Ghiglione said.

Students will be able to serve on committees reviewing academic standards, curriculum, graduate school admissions, placement, technology, and faculty search and appointment. Medill by-laws prohibit students from serving on the school’s other faculty committee, which discusses promotion and tenure decisions.

Undergraduate, graduate and integrated marketing communications students can apply, and Boye said that on some committees, such as graduate admissions, it might make sense to have a student from each program.

The committees have between nine and 11 faculty members, and most meet about two or three times a quarter, although schedules vary depending on how much work the committee has to do, Boye said.

He stressed that students who apply for the positions must take them seriously. Students will be replaced if they miss two or more meetings and they must treat information discussed at meetings as confidential.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “We do what we can, and we hope students uphold their side.”

Assoc. Prof. Mary Ann Weston, chairwoman of the Search and Appointments Committee, said she hopes students will show interest in the positions and bring a different point of view.

“Students see things from their own perspective, which is undoubtedly a different perspective (than faculty),” she said.

Students already have input in some committee actions. When a student is charged with academic dishonesty, three students are selected on an ad hoc basis to join the academic standards committee to hear the student’s appeal. And students interact with finalists for faculty positions and evaluate them, Weston said.

Student involvement with these decisions is now being institutionalized, Boye said. He said administrators expect students will be solid contributors, but if there’s little student interest they might have to rethink the plan.

“It’s somewhere between set in stone and a trial period,” he said. “We’re plowing new territory, we have to see how it works.”

Student involvement in the committees is part of a larger effort in Medill to improve the feeling of community among students, Ghiglione said.

“Part of what we learn from being in a university is a set of values, not just a set of intellectual skills,” he said. “We learn things from being members of a community that you can’t learn being on your own.”

Medill junior Jessica Abo said that although she does not plan to apply for a position, she thought the proposal would be an effective way of incorporating student voices.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” Abo said. “It’s really important that they’re showing that Medill is following up on its efforts to increase student involvement. They know what they’re doing over there.”