Student leaders are working with the administration and members of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors on two new initiatives intended to increase engagement and enhance communication on issues of key importance to the student body.
The first is an innovative program that will employ crowdsourcing to allow the student body to bring their most important issues to the board.
Student Council, along with incoming Board of Visitors student member Daniel Judge, are inviting students to describe in 150 words or less what they would like to tell the board. The council’s executive team will choose the 15 most constructive queries and post videos of those proposals on the Student Council website. The process culminates with students voting for the two students they believe best reflect their voice.
Student Council will select a third student. The three who are selected will make presentations to the Advancement and Communications Committee, and co-chair John Griffin will report out to the full board.
“The model is based on the TedxUVA student speaker model,” Student Council President Abraham Axler said. “It balances the responsibility we have as elected representatives to express student concerns to University administrators and board members while allowing students who maybe are not in formal leadership positions but have a really great idea or a really big concern the opportunity to speak directly to the people who make decisions at the highest level.”
Axler said the Student Council has been in conversation with the Board of Visitors about increasing student input since the beginning of the academic year and that Griffin encouraged students to create a mechanism to help realize that goal.
“U.Va. prides itself on student involvement at all levels, and I am happy to see our students identify an opportunity and bring forward a creative approach,” Griffin said. “I appreciate the chance to improve the board’s engagement with them, and I’m eager to learn which issues the students select for discussion.”
Advancement and Communications Committee Co-Chair John Nau said he also welcomes efforts to build new avenues for dialogue on key issues. “Our student board member does an excellent job of representing student views, and this new effort will help broaden the discussion and decision-making process even more,” he said.
The second initiative involves the creation of two new student committees, one an advisory group on tuition and the other an advisory group on fees.
Axler said these were created in connection with the passage of U.Va.’s new Affordable Excellence program, a model that seeks to maintain the University’s value and academic excellence with a sustainable, multi-year financial plan that significantly lowers student debt for qualifying Virginians while identifying funding to support strategic priorities. The committees, he said, will create avenues for additional student input and address some frustration that emerged from the approval process of the new tuition and financial aid model.
The application process for both committees is open and work will begin in September. Both groups will have a series of meetings with Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick D. Hogan.
“This is a really wonderful opportunity for students to have more engagement on these issues and is another example of the exceptional student leadership at U.Va.,” Hogan said.
Judge said one of his goals is to help bring more students before the board and the new comment program is the first step in that process.
“It is important to note that this format is an experiment, but the resolve to increase the student voice is not,” he said. “This process is appealing because it removes the bias of one individual choosing who speaks for the students and instead welcomes a plurality of opinions at the University.”
The board also has named Judge to the finance committee.
“These innovations all aspire to the same goal, and that is to ensure that our shared stewardship of this University puts it in the best position possible to fulfill its mission of service,” Rector George Keith Martin said. “The students are really leading these efforts and that can only lead to good things.”