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Restore purpose to CLC

Observer Editorial | Wednesday, October 22, 2003

It’s easy to wonder – such as the University’s Board of Trustees did – why student body presidents want to present three consecutive reports discussing student government reform. After all, it was the second time a student body president had addressed the University’s top policy-making body on the issue (Libby Bishop presented an outline of student government’s strengths and weaknesses in the spring) and a third report may bring up creating an endowment for student government events .

But of the three student government-related reports that could be brought before the Board of Trustees, Hallahan’s Thursday presentation addressed an issue that moved beyond student government reform and struck at the heart of student-administrator relations. Hallahan’s proposal to change the Campus Life Council from a recommendation-only body to one with real legislative force could have corrected one of the most prevalent problems on campus.

Or it did until the Trustees’ Student Affairs Committee effortlessly dismissed Hallahan’s proposal and mistakenly criticized his leadership of the committee.

The Trustees who ripped Hallahan apart and questioned aloud why the student body president was wasting face time with the University’s top policy-making body thought Hallahan should have addressed a different topic. But what they didn’t understand was Hallahan’s recommendations would have gone a long way toward improving the hostile attitude of students toward the administration.

Hallahan’s report called on the Trustees to change the Campus Life Council, which it created in 1977, back into its predecessor, the Student Life Council. The Trustees who originally created the Student Life Council in 1968 as a policy-making body saw it as a way to calm conflict between students, administrators and other factions on-campus. Less than a decade later, the trustees removed the group’s legislative ability and changed its name, and students have never since had a direct impact on campus policy.

In its current form, the CLC fails as an effective body for students and administrators to work together because student life officials on the CLC consistently block recommendations that come from student representatives, even though the body’s decisions carry no binding weight. Trustees who criticized Hallahan’s supposed lack of leadership as the chairperson of that committee fail to understand that votes on issues vital to student interests are split along student-administrator lines, and there’s little Hallahan can do to achieve a consensus. After all, administrators on the committee prevented him from even discussing, much less evaluating, resident assistant orientation procedures earlier this year. It’s no surprise that students feel apathetic toward their elected government if their leaders lack the power to make decisions – or even discuss – policy.

The Student Life Council, as Hallahan suggested in the report, has the potential to reverse this sentiment and make students feel as if they have a voice in campus policy. Under Hallahan’s proposal, the 18-member body would be composed of seven representatives from all branches of student government, faculty members, rectors and administrative officials. The SLC would have the ability to enact campus-wide policy.

Students were upset when the alcohol policy was unveiled a year and a half ago because they thought they weren’t involved in the decision-making process. Hallahan deserves praise for recognizing the sorry state of student-administrator relations and bringing it before the University’s highest level. The Board of Trustees deserves criticism for dismissing him so easily.