October 5, 2007
By Colleen MacPherson
The first meeting date has been set for a new forum established to discuss and debate a wide variety of issues relating to the experience of students at the University of Saskatchewan.
On Oct. 22, student representatives, faculty members and personnel from a number of administrative units will gather as the Undergraduate Forum, a new body designed to improve the lines of communication between students and the University, and provide input into solving issues and concerns that affect all students on campus.
“The student experience is absolutely an important issue for the University,” said Ernie Barber, acting provost and vice-president academic. “It is one-third of our recruitment and retention strategy,” along with marketing and programming, and responsibility for that experience “rests within each college, administrative unit and corporate service.” The broad representation on the new forum is “intended to bring voice and authority to ideas aimed at improving the overall experience of undergraduate students beyond curricular matters.”
Dave Hannah, associate vice-president of Student and Enrollment Services and forum chair, said he expects the group will address “issues that cut across boundaries on campus,” that might relate to student life, academic standing, student retention and success, academic structures, and campus services and facilities, to name a few possibilities.
He added he expects the forum “will deal with the biggest and most important issues. I don’t want this to be a forum that deals with 20 agenda items that could be dealt with elsewhere.”
Critical to its success, though, is that it be action-oriented, he said.The forum has no mandate to make decisions or set policy, “but it’s not going to serve any purpose for a bunch of people to get together and just talk about something.” The forum will therefore rely on its members, many being University officers, to carry recommendations for action or change from the forum to specific decision-making bodies like colleges or even University Council. Hannah said strong consensus from the Undergraduate Forum will lend it some credibility and “a persuasive effect.”
“The forum can’t make decisions but it can wield influence.”
Included in the membership are nominated student representatives, USSU executive members, associate or assistant deans from each college, the library dean, Student and Enrolment Services Division (SESD) personnel such as the registrar, director of enrolment and director of student retention, support and development, the student success manager from the University Learning Centre and the co-ordinator of undergrad services in Arts and Science.
The Undergraduate Forum stems from the University’s first Integrated Plan which indicated the governance structure lacked a way for student issues to be discussed, or for the University to hear directly from students.
Hannah said two meetings of the forum will be held this fall, and another two in the winter term. “We’re going to try that for starters. I would eventually like to see this group meeting monthly but these are busy people and we’re sensitive to the time demand. That said, these are people who believe in the value of the forum so they will try to make time for this.”