October 26, 2016

Editorial: Delegates’ Agenda restructure restricts student voices

Last semester, the Delegates’ Agenda took a hiatus to reorganize and improve the process of picking and addressing issues raised by students. The agenda has students raise concerns about campus to Webster’s administration. The administration then responds to the students with how they plan on tackling those issues.

But in the past few years, the administration’s response has become less and less concrete and more vague when it has come to tougher issues to tackle.

The Delegates’ Agenda is one of the great things that makes Webster unique. It’s important that the institution is preserved and used for the betterment of the university. Improvements can come from students who live the “Webster experience” every day.

The reorganization is promising in some ways, but in more ways silences student voices. The Student Government Association (SGA) should be applauded for making changes to a process that they feel needs to be preserved, and The Journal does commend them for their hard work in this restructure. The changes take away the formal response to students the administration made in the past, and instead organize year-round committee meetings and also makes the final decision on topics left to SGA’s discretion (based off a student poll), instead a vote by the student body.

However, the reorganization does not give students a fair chance to have other students hear their concerns. The new structure takes the final decision out of students’ hands and puts the final say to SGA, where they decide based on a survey. This gives no chance for the administration to formally respond to students face-to-face and be subject to the further questioning of the student body.

This is important, because in the past, too often the administration has come back to the students with half-answers and veiled rejections.

Last fall, Webster’s administrative response did all but answer the concerns raised by students. The Journal wrote about this in November of 2015.

“When students asked for more security cameras around campus to help protect themselves and their property, the administration told them to act as human security cameras and keep an eye out for crime. When the students asked for more student budget employment to address the amount of students losing their on-campus jobs, the administration gave a list of non-answers about work study and offered a job fair. When students asked for access to faculty course evaluations, they were denied and offered syllabi access before signing up for a class (a small victory). The students asked for a stronger communication plan; the university suggested students sign up  for Webster Alerts and proposed a newsletter,” we wrote.

Last semester, we released a poll on our website we hoped would guage readers’ reactions to the administration’s response. The poll’s results showed that 75 percent thought the response was very poor.

The Journal encouraged Webster’s administration to revisit this fall’s issues at the spring Delegates’ Agenda with not only updates, but actual answers to students’ concerns even if the answer was simply “no.” Obviously, those topics haven’t been revisited, and with the new changes to Delegates’ Agenda, they may never be.

The changes to Delegates’ Agenda may have been warranted, but they take away any oversight the common student had, and instead put it into the hands of a handful of students, faculty and administrators hand-picked by SGA. That isn’t restructuring; that’s giving administration a good way to say no to a few people and not hear anything about it after the fact.

*Editor’s note: Sports Editor Jacob Claspille abstained from this editorial, as he is affiliated with SGA and felt he would be biased in his decision making.

Share this post