University News

Undergrads to participate in Corporation meeting

Corporation members, students to discuss sexual assault, mental health in group discussions

By
University News Editor
Thursday, February 5, 2015

For the first time in University history, the Corporation’s February meeting this weekend will feature small group discussions with undergraduates about campus issues, in addition to the normal vote on the budget and tuition and fees, said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06.

Undergraduate Council of Students President Maahika Srinivasan ’15 and Alex Drechsler ’15 will also present proposals to the Corporation Friday on how to increase its engagement with the student body, Srinivasan and Drechsler said.

The Corporation meets three times a year: in February, October and May. Its February meeting will kick off Thursday with committee meetings, continue Friday with more committee meetings and the presentation by Srinivasan and Drechsler and conclude Saturday.

The opportunity for Srinivasan and Drechsler to speak arose after Drechsler called for the Corporation to add a voting undergraduate representative as part of the Student Power Initiative.

“That was not something the Corporation was comfortable with right now, so we spent a couple months thinking about what are different interim steps that we could take to increase communication … between students and the Corporation,” Drechsler said.

Srinivasan, along with other UCS members, helped draft a proposal in November to identify three potential alternatives to having a student representative that would still facilitate student engagement in Corporation affairs. “We wanted to make a proposal for measures that would really build trusting relationships between the student body and Corporation members,” she said.

The first alternative was to make small group discussions between students and Corporation members a permanent part of the Corporation meeting schedule, she said. The first of these focus groups will be piloted Thursday. One meeting will focus on issues of sexual assault and the other on mental health, with each group featuring about 10 students and 14 Corporation members, Srinivasan said. Sign-ups will be sent out in Morning Mail and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, she added.

The second alternative, which has not been implemented, was to have student representatives from University committees sit in on Corporation committee meetings, Drechsler said. “Having students who are … already held to high standards of professionalism and confidentiality … in our committee meetings is very important,” he said. This proposal will ideally be piloted at the next Corporation meeting in May, he added.

The third alternative involves formalizing approval of the young alumni position on the Corporation, Drechsler said. Alison Cohen ’09, whose term is set to expire in May, currently occupies the three-year position. Though it might be a long-term goal, Srinivasan and Drechsler will express to Corporation members “that the young alumni position is important, that it needs to be codified and that it needs to involve students,” Drechsler said.

To ensure student input in selection of the young alumni trustee, applicants could be drawn from the President’s Leadership Council, Srinivasan said. UCS officials currently appoint an undergraduate who will soon graduate to serve on the PLC the following year, and the young alumni trustee could be selected from those appointees to “create a pipeline” of candidates for the position, Srinivasan said. Young alumni trustees chosen through this process would likely possess relevant experience and “be more connected to the student body,” she said.

Student engagement will be a major part of the meeting, Carey said. At past February Corporation meetings, the Corporation’s Committee on Campus Life has held meetings centered on campus issues with undergraduates over breakfast, he said. But at this weekend’s meeting, the Corporation will play a more “proactive” role in trying to respond to priorities identified by UCS and the student body, he said.

Budget issues, including decisions on tuition and fees, are traditionally determined at the February meeting. “The Corporation receives the report of the University Resources Committee and receives recommendations from the president associated with that report,” which then “gets discussed at the Budget and Finance Committee and then acted on by the full Corporation,” Carey said.

The design of a new engineering building, the current construction of an applied math building and improvements to performing arts spaces will also be discussed, Carey said.

Regarding President Christina Paxson’s P’19 capital campaign, “individual committees have specific agendas related to advancements and ongoing fundraising in association with the strategic plan,” he said.

The Corporation will also likely discuss the University’s progress on addressing its $8.7 million operating budget deficit for fiscal year 2014, Carey said. “It’s been very publicly discussed that the University is dealing with a structural deficit … so certainly that’s something that the University has been every engaged in and actively working with the administration and the campus as a whole to address.”

The Corporation’s Committee on Campus Life and the general Corporation body will aim to continue discussing issues of sexual assault in light of the interim report released by the Task Force on Sexual Assault, of which Carey is a member. “It’s something that students I know have been very concerned about, as are members of the administration, so that seems like a timely topic for discussion,” Carey added.

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