Shared management should involve student input – GW Hatchet

Officials finally made concrete progress this month on an issue that the GW community and administrators have been arguing about for years: shared governance. Faculty members of the Shared Governance Task Force have met with interim University President Mark Wrighton and board members for talks on how to get past the one-sided administrative decision-making that has plagued the last few years at GW.

Meaningful engagement between administrators and faculties is an important first step in building a more inclusive and harmonious way of running the university – but it is only a first step. Not only must university management keep its promises to actually design a common governance framework, but students must also be involved.

The board first announced these joint governance efforts when it delayed the presidential application process back in September. The board has undertaken to establish a formal structure whereby the faculty can provide input and be consulted on decisions made by the university’s management.

The term “shared control” is tossed around and often ends up sounding like a buzzword. Shared management at GW has become so skewed over the last few years that the initiative is largely focused on identifying what the term actually means.

In general, the concept of shared management at universities refers to the system by which faculties, administrators and shop stewards can make collective decisions after consulting each other. But at GW, this collaboration reached its nadir when former university president Thomas LeBlanc introduced the 20/30 plan to cut enrollment and increase STEM – the faculty felt blind-sided, and already divided relationships broke down even more.

But the usual understanding of effective shared governance – and the university’s plans to improve it – leaves students out. Board Chairman Grace Speights said officials intended to seek input from students in the presidential application process, but requesting input from people who pay to come here has taken a place somewhere between other violins and an afterthought in the board’s communication that move away from one-sided decision-making.

When administrators make a plan for how shared management works at GW, they should include students. Administrators should hold City Hall meetings specifically for students so that both students and administrators have a defined space to have a productive discussion on important topics such as the new strategic plan, student responses on how the university can improve their management of COVID-19 on campus, and get a check-in to discuss whether students’ needs are being met in the classroom.

Shared management for students means, just as it does for the faculty, giving them a seat at the table when it comes to making significant administrative decisions. It also means listening to students about their complaints to the university and providing effective responses that show that administrators are sensitive to what the students need and review. City halls for students and administrators are one way to achieve this, but administrators should also spend more time interacting with students on a daily basis.

Even if the individual students are only at GW for a few years, there will always be one student on campus, and it is crucial that the university takes its needs and views into consideration. Officials make decisions about the nature of the university itself, ranging from how diverse and inclusive the crop of admitted students will be, to which areas and majors the university prioritizes. GW’s reason for existence is more than just research and prestige – the students who choose to spend years learning here are the beating heart of the university. Not only should administrators understand this, but that concept should better inform their decision-making.

To get students more involved, administrators should consider conducting an application process for students interested in getting involved in decision-making processes, to apply and ensure that a diverse pool of students helps administrators and faculties provide student input.

Wrighton’s newfound place in the GW community seems to be a step in the right direction. The recent town hall meetings with the faculty are an indication of the new administration’s intentions to get past the complaints between the GW community and LeBlanc. But administrators should continue to tinker with their ideas for the university and expand their plans for shared management to students.

The editorial staff consists of Hatchet employees and operates separately from the editorial staff. This week’s editorial was written by opinion editor Andrew Sugrue and contributing opinion editor Shreeya Aranake based on discussions with cultural editor Anna Boone, contributing sports editor Nuria Diaz, design editor Grace Miller and text editor Jaden DiMauro.

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