Principles of Student Participation in Academic Affairs

Policies and Rules for Undergraduate Students

In considering the role of students in academic affairs, the university is guided by one overriding principle: individuals who are directly affected by decisions should have the opportunity to participate appropriately in making those decisions. In addition to fulfilling this philosophic principle, increased student involvement in academic affairs also will yield desirable benefits for the University, both as an institution and as an academic community. Institutionally, the University needs the support and experience of all its constituents to make decisions appropriate to its public responsibilities. An academic community fosters cooperation among its members insofar as community goals are grounded in mutual trust, commitment, and informed deliberation.

Participation by students may manifest itself in a diversity of styles. Such diversity, however, should not preclude the articulation of considered guidelines and goals. First, student involvement should be active, rather than passive. Moreover, while the faculty should provide leadership, student involvement should move toward full and direct participation in academic affairs. Finally, the overall objective of student participation is to increase the University’s responsiveness to changing educational needs of the academic community and the society at large.

The University is also cognizant of the diversity of academic units that initiate courses, provide instruction, evaluate courses, and recommend changes in programs. The basic unit with which a student is associated may be a department, a college, or possibly an interdisciplinary program. As the home of its student majors, the academic unit provides the most appropriate location for substantial student involvement. At this level, student involvement should be stimulated and provision made for student participation through whatever means a unit uses to develop and evaluate its program.

The academic unit is the focus of most student-faculty contact and is thus the most appropriate base of support for student academic organizations. Such organizations should be encouraged. Student representatives, selected from academic organizations, should be chosen by the students themselves.

Beyond the basic academic unit, many decisions that affect the student’s educational experience and opportunity are made at the college or campus level. While the faculty of a college must necessarily decide on academic programs and degree requirements, student experience and reaction can enhance the appropriateness and effectiveness of this educational policy making. Most colleges include student representatives on their committees–a practice that is more meaningful when the representatives are chosen by their peers and actively represent their own college student organization.

Most academic units invite student participation in such areas as the evaluation of teaching, advising, and curriculum. In many cases, students are also involved in the selection process for hiring prospective faculty.