Despite petition, Linzer unlikely to add more students to task force

Shane McKeon, Assistant Campus Editor

Provost Daniel Linzer showed no support for a petition that asks him to put four more students on a task force examining undergraduate academic experience in an interview with The Daily on Friday.

Linzer told The Daily that adding more students to the task force would be “counterproductive.”

“Students absolutely have to be listened to in various ways,” he said. “But the actual formation of these recommendations has to be seen as driven by the faculty, otherwise it’s not going to get adopted in the different schools.”

Associated Student Government President Noah Star, a Weinberg junior, and Executive Vice President Christina Kim, a McCormick junior, announced a petition at ASG Senate’s meeting Wednesday that calls on Linzer to increase the number of students from one to five on a faculty task force examining the undergraduate academic experience.

The task force launched in March and will draft recommendations to present to Linzer in Winter Quarter 2016.

Star and other ASG members used the slogan “If we pay, we have a say.”

Responding to the slogan, Linzer said students do have a say, but not in all things.

“You all recognize that you don’t determine the curriculum or how a faculty member grades a course,” he said. “The decision-making on what’s taught, how it’s taught and what gets credit is in the hands of the faculty.”

The petition notes that a similar committee drafted a report in 1988, and that committee had five students.

Linzer, though, said the comparison is misleading. The 1988 report looked at “all aspects of student life,” he said, including extracurricular activities and housing.

He said this task force, by contrast, has “no student life component,” just focusing on students’ academic experience.

And academic change, Linzer said, must be championed by faculty, not students.

“Faculty have to convince other faculty to vote on changes,” he said. “So the more this is seen as faculty-driven, the more likely it is to be put in place. The more it is seen as advocacy by students . . . Then, I think, it’s less likely that faculty will trust the outcome.”

Star said he doesn’t believe including a student perspective would “dilute” the faculty’s input.

“I don’t see why students and faculty can’t interact in tandem like they do in the classroom,” he said.

Star said the committee could help enact potential reforms ASG has advocated, such as easing graduation requirements and adding a Social Inequalities and Diversities requirement.

“They’re deciding how the school will move forward when it comes to academics over the next 25 years,” he said. “It’s essential to have students included.”

Linzer said the task force does use student input, in the form of data from “thousands and thousands of students” collected from surveys.

“Adding a few other undergraduates around the table doesn’t represent the diversity of student voices that we already have,” Linzer said.

Neurobiology Prof. Indira Raman, the task force’s chair, told The Daily additional student input can be shared through the task force’s one undergraduate member, Weinberg junior and ASG vice president for academics Riko Ohashi.

Ohashi declined to comment for this story.

As of Sunday evening, the petition has more than 900 signatures.

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Twitter: @Shane_McKeon