UW Today

May 18, 2011

UWs new ‘Pact with Students a response to changing times

News and Information

Read the text of the UW’s Pact with Students.

A changed environment for higher education in Washington is prompting a change in how UW students will be involved in decisions that affect them.

The change also has prompted the creation of a formal “Pact with Students” that delineates the Universitys commitment to carrying out its vision: educating “a diverse student body to become responsible global citizens and future leaders through a challenging learning environment informed by cutting-edge scholarship.” The pact states, simply, “the quality of the student experience will always be our primary goal.”

“Were entering a new world,” Interim Provost Mary Lidstrom says, “and we needed to re-affirm, through a formal statement, the Universitys promise to our students.”

Students have recognized this changed environment, and as a companion to the pact have proposed the creation of the Provosts Advisory Committee for Students. The proposal has been greeted warmly by Lidstrom.

“Ive been meeting with a group of students informally all year,” she says. “I knew that if we received tuition-setting authority wed want to create a group formally through which we could gather student input.

“When we discussed the students ideas, I suggested that the committee be structured broadly, so that it could provide feedback in general about budgetary issues that affect students.”

As now conceived, the committee will be analogous in most ways to the Faculty Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting, providing advice to the provost on budget proposals and acting as a sounding board for ideas and future directions.

“It will be good to hear from students on a variety of matters,” Lidstrom says. “We really need a group that can provide students advice on a broad range of issues — such matters as budget cuts and future investments, what quality means to students, what are the key elements of the student experience, the potential impact of differential tuition and the role of financial aid.”

“The state budget cuts have forced the University to make tough decisions which have a direct impact on the quality and accessibility of our education,” says Sarah Reyneveld, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS).  “The committee will ensure that students are at the decision-making table to weigh in directly on policies that impact students, such as the decision to repeal a tuition waiver or raise tuition.”

“The prospect of the UW gaining tuition-setting authority certainly motivated our push for a student advisory board in part,” says Madeleine McKenna, president of the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW). “Regardless of what happened in Olympia this session, however, ASUW and GPSS wanted to make sure that this committee would be in place as a means to provide informed, comprehensive student input on planning and budgeting decisions.

“Budget cuts have undoubtedly intensified student demand to provide more input in how increasingly scarce dollars are allocated. At the same time, in such a climate the administration has an incumbent responsibility to provide students with greater transparency and accountability in these decisions.”

The advisory committee, which may come into being as soon as the end of May, will have 14 members: seven at-large ASUW members, four at-large GPSS members, the ASUW and GPSS presidents, and the student representative on the Faculty Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting. Students will be able to serve two year terms, although seniors will also be eligible for membership. “One year is hardly enough to learn about the UWs budget process,” says Lidstrom, “so two-year terms are important.”

“Provost Lidstrom has been a tremendous leader in crafting the ‘Pact with Students, to assure that future provosts will include students in university decision-making,” Reyneveld says. “I believe codifying both the advisory committee and the pact are essential to ensuring that the administration is accountable for involving students in all levels of university decision-making.”

“I expect this structure will work very well,” Lidstrom says.