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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor

The Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) governs calendar revisions, classroom and academic misconduct, graduation requirements and many other academic policies.  It is also the only committee that directly impacts individual students’ lives that still lacks student representation.

After last year’s discussions about increasing student stakeholdership, the previous SGA Vice President for Academic Affairs Julie Hoye ’09 worked with Associate Dean Kathleen Skerrett to add trial memberships for students to CAS.  Applicants were thoroughly vetted for the professionalism and confidence that such service would require. The SGA VPAA selected two student applicants to be interviewed by two members of CAS and ultimately appointed by the Dean of the College. 

One year and four student representatives later, CAS members, faculty, staff and students alike, unanimously hailed the trial as a success.  Committee members reported that student input in forming their policies not only made the process more just, but also provided unique insights about the practical effects of said policies. The Dean of the College, the Chair of the Faculty, Joint Board as a whole and a student initiative that passed overwhelmingly by popular referendum all joined CAS in formally recommending that student membership be made a permanent part of the Committee.

Sadly, on Monday, Feb. 1, the faculty voted 40-32 not only to reject the proposal, but also to immediately end the trial period and remove students from the Committee. Faculty expressed concerns about confidentiality and the appropriateness of students’ proximity to sensitive personal information about their peers.

Students already have extensive experience handling sensitive information on two student life disciplinary boards. For years, students have led the Judicial Council in adjudicating failures of self-governance with varying levels of severity.  Starting last fall, SGA and Student Affairs rewrote disciplinary board policies to significantly open up students’ stakeholdership in their own discipline and expand the trust that students place in their peers. The College Hearing Board, where the most severe cases concerning suspension and expulsion are heard, now includes student representation for the first time. Not only have students proven to be competent and professional, but they have time and again supported the notion that judgment by one’s peers is a vital tenet of self-governance.

Every disciplinary board reform was debated, amended and passed in open Joint Board meetings by students’ elected representatives in consultation with the existing members of those boards. Similarly, the proposed reform to CAS was supported not only by every member of the Committee, faculty and staff alike, but was also voted on twice by students, once by their elected representatives and a second time in a campus-wide referendum.

Grinnell College has for years complimented a liberal arts education with what has become one of our community’s defining principles: that students are not only capable of contributing to their own governance, but also that they are made more responsible and intelligent citizens of the world by doing so.  We are saddened that a slim majority of the faculty still do not believe students understand the implications of or professionalism required for such shared governance.

CAS, unlike the College Hearing Board, unlike the Budget Steering Committee, unlike the Board of Trustees and unlike the Presidential Search Committee, is now the only committee directly governing student life that operates without students. We are grateful to the faculty that supported this initiative and sincerely hope the faculty who opposed it will reconsider their position.

Members of SGA Cabinet Harry Krejsa ’10, Joanna DeMars ’10, Ben Offenberg ’11, Mairead O’Grady ’10, Alex Peitz ’10, Damian von Schoenborn ’10, Alex Schechter ’10, Gabe Schechter ’12, Ethan Struby ’10 and Cyrus Witthaus ’10

Former CAS Student Representatives Camila Barrios Camacho ’12, Elizabeth Maltby ’11, Jacob Reisberg ’10 and Sam Wice ’09

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