Representing the student body:

Student Advisory Council offers guidance

The newly assembled Student Advisory Council members met for the first time with JSC President Elaine Collins on Friday, Oct. 23, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from student clubs to faculty evaluations.

“What we tried to do is to get folks on that group that would represent a number of different parts of our campus so that we’d have a representative whole,” said Collins.

During the first meeting, Thomas Gunn and Taryn Colby were elected by the council to be the co-leaders of the group. Zachary Levy was elected to be the secretary.

“I think part of it is just leadership training in general…” said Collins. “I’m not the chair of this group, so it’s turning that leadership back to the students to say, ‘How do you want to govern yourselves? How do you want to work with the administration to get your ideas out?’”

Gunn further explained how extensive the students’ roles are in the council.

“President Collins was very clear that she wants this council to be student run and led, so we were tasked with that job,” he said. “We will create an agenda for the meetings, approve this with our elected secretary, Zachary Levy, and with President Collins’ assistant, Cecilia North, and we as the co-chairs will lead discussion in our meetings based on the agenda we have organized.”

Collins is highly involved in the meetings as well, responding to students and keeping a notebook to write down their points.

“She responds to everything,” said Paul Massey, JSC junior and member of the council. “She likes to make sure that she understands what people are trying to say before we move on, and she keeps a notebook with her where she writes down everything to bring up later. And she’ll interject her own thoughts and ideas into the process as well.”

Collins had a Student Advisory Council at her last position, which is where she got the idea to create one at JSC.

“I found that working with students was very helpful,” said Collins. “I always found that students made really great decisions and helped us to build better and stronger programs and programming.”
Dave Bergh, dean of student life, and Sarah Golden, coordinator of community service, also attend the meetings.

“The first thing we brought up was the issues with clubs and how they end up getting run on campus,” said Massey. “Difficulties, first of all, starting clubs, difficulties getting funds for clubs, difficulty working with the SGA to accomplish anything with clubs.”

Other issues that were brought up by various members included improving the advising system and inter-departmental communication, the extra cost of independent studies, student fundraising (particularly with “Giving Tuesday”) and keeping students involved on campus.

“I, of course, brought up the issue of the professor evaluations not being taken seriously like they should be,” said Massey. “I also mentioned the names of a couple professors who I don’t think should be teaching any longer.”

A topic that has been brought up multiple times to Collins is classes that aren’t offered on a regular basis. According to Collins, students have brought it up at the Advisory Council meeting, at the State of the College Address and during the interview process before she was even hired.

“If a student is campus-based, then what role will an off-campus course play in their experience?” said Collins. “I mean, I can see pluses and minuses, so I just think that’s a good item to address further and really think about.”

According to Collins, there has already been discussion about this topic, among others, between herself, Bergh, the dean of administration, and the dean of academic affairs.

“One way to make sure that students have access to these courses is by having really clear maps of when courses were offered, and then being able to really stay true to those maps,” Collins said. “[It is] both student responsibility, and our responsibility as well. So, we make sure that the courses are offered and you make sure that you get the appropriate advising so you know when something is going to be offered. We’re working on that.”

According to Collins, the first meeting resulted in a “very lively” discussion between the students and herself.

“Everything’s still getting sorted out, but the first meeting was mostly just a free-for-all of what problems we think we need to talk about.,” said Massey. “From this point forward, we are planning to have an agenda for every meeting that is set by the co-leaders of the council… As long as you stay on-topic, whoever wants to speak can speak.”

Collins said that the meeting wasn’t just bringing up student concerns; the students also had the opportunity to express what they were satisfied with on campus.

“A lot of them talked about the community, the size, the fact that you kind of knew people in your classes and weren’t anonymous, things like that,” said Collins.
Massey said that students are encouraged to go to advisory council members with issues they think should be addressed. He also said that he is planning on adding the topic of expanding language courses to the agenda for the next meeting.

“The SGA handles club activities and day-to-day stuff, whereas the Student Advisory Council is meant to affect the college on a policy level,” said Massey. “We are how things get changed, basically.”

Collins agrees that the responsibilities of the Advisory Council and the SGA should remain separate; part of the first meeting was to make sure there would be no overlap in the two groups’ roles on campus.

“I have a very positive outlook for this council,” said Gunn, “as I think it is very important for the president to understand things from a student’s point of view, and I think we as a council are so far doing a fine job of that. Taryn and I are truly committed to finding positive solutions for the items brought up in this council. The last thing we want is for this space to become a complaining session.”
Gunn isn’t the only one who has high hopes for the future of the Student Advisory Council.

“I imagine that policies will be recommended and different things that will be more concrete and visible for students will be recommended, and you’ll be able to get a sense of that soon after more meetings take place,” said Collins.

The student-nominated members of the Student Advisory Council are: Megan Cavanaugh, Taryn Colby, Ashley Goddard, Thomas Gunn, Ellen Johnson, Ross King, Zachary Levy, Jillian Lauren Lisitano, Hunter Mallette, Paul Massey, Amari Moulton, Mikayla Turner, Sarah Golden and Allison VanNorden.
The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16.