U Committees Need Stronger Student Voices

Student representatives sit on many committees formed to govern the U, but some appointed students fail to attend the meetings and neglect their responsibilities.

The U has 59 committees responsible for overseeing everything from campus health to student behavior, and 30 of these committees have students sitting on them.

“This campus runs by committees,” said Rick Henriksen, academic affairs board chairman for the Associated Students of the University of Utah.

The system does not always work, however. Students sitting on the committees may forget about meetings, the professors and administrators who chair each committee may not call meetings, and sometimes committee members do not believe they can make a difference, Henriksen said.

In some cases, students might not know about the committee meetings at all, such as the case of the Student Broadcast Council, Henriksen said.

The committee oversees the actions of student radio station K-UTE?the station that recently lost much of its funding from ASUU. Lack of student control over the station was cited as one of the major reason to cut the station’s funding.

Only one of four students who sit on the council attended meetings this year.

Henriksen said cases like this are “not uncommon.”

Senator Jason Morgan, engineering, proposed a resolution in the Student Senate chastising the members of the broadcast council for not attending the meetings. The resolution failed because many students argued it was a flaw in the appointment system and not a problem with the students who sat on the committee.

“The fact of the matter is it is ASUU’s responsibility to make sure there are four people at the meeting,” said Senator Sam Swenson, humanities, as he spoke about the bill. “I think there was a breakdown of the system.”

The lack of student participation in the Student Broadcast Council came up many times during the debates surrounding ASUU’s funding of K-UTE. ASUU Vice President Mike Nelson, who sat on the council last year, said he was not made aware of his appointment to the council.

“I had no idea I was supposed to be on this committee,” Nelson said. “Beth [Fratkin, K-UTE graduate student adviser] was sending me emails to an ASUU account I didn’t even know I had.”

Henriksen has been trying to solve the problems surrounding the appointment of students to committees.

“There was a major effort this year to get students to just sit on one committee,” Henriksen said.

ASUU also hopes to put up a University Committee Web site for next year that will include a listing of all the committees, the students appointed to them and the contact information for all students and faculty on each committee. ASUU leaders hope this site will allow students to be proactive about their committee appointments instead of waiting for committee members to contact them about the meeting times and places.

“We want a centralized location where students can get the information,” said Ben Lowe, ASUU president. “There never really has been a centralized way to communicate with committee members.”

ASUU is also taking applications to sit on one of the committees next year, instead of simply appointing any student willing to accept a position. But Henriksen does not anticipate getting the needed 123 applications to fill all student slots on the committees. He is confident, however, that enough students will volunteer by the beginning of Fall Semester.

“There are enough people out there who would be willing to do it,” Henriksen said. “If a student wants to make a difference, this is the way to do it.”

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