Missouri Students Association Vice President Matt McKeown is working to get the student body more involved in the Chancellor’s Standing Committees as part of his goals this semester.
The committees all consist of undergraduate students, graduate students, administrators and staff members who meet to address issues that affect the university and student life.
The 30 committees overseen by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin vary greatly, addressing a variety of concerns.
“The goal is to sit down and talk about the best course of action to best address (student) wants and needs,” McKeown said. “It’s really great that there’s a mix of administrators, students and graduate students, so there are a lot of voices on the issue.”
Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, reminded MSA to get their recommendations in on time to make sure that the committees are getting the best representation from the student body.
“The chancellor believes it is important to have student voices, so we want them to participate actively,” she said. “It’s important that MSA reaches out to a diverse group of students and gets them to express interest.”
MSA will not have direct control over each committee because they function independently, McKeown said. There is a chair for each committee who is a staff member or administrator.
McKeown said his role is to increase participation; he is increasing representation and productivity of each committee.
Brian Dabson, associate dean of policy and outreach, is the chair of the Campus Facilities Planning Committee. This committee discusses how the university uses its land, the location and design of buildings, and infrastructure while ensuring environmental and energy sustainability.
“The chancellor knows that decisions are always better if they engage a variety of voices and ideas, and are subjected to constructive scrutiny from students, staff and faculty,” Dabson said in an email. “The way the campus operates should be of great concern because decisions made now will impact the look and functioning of the university for decades to come.”
To encourage more student participation, McKeown put an application on the MSA website so it was more visible to students who have an interest in voicing their opinion. By increasing representation, McKeown said he hopes that this will increase the productivity of each committee.
“In the past, there were some students who weren’t as enthusiastic about the topic of their committee, and apathetic attitudes can be dangerous,” McKeown said. “I’m hoping that with a new, fresh batch of students who are really passionate about an issue and see something they would like to change will help make the committee more productive and get the best representation possible.”
McKeown said the size of each committee varies, along with the number of students on each committee.
“Since MSA is responsible for appointing students to these committees, it’s important that MSA makes good (appointments) because they make a difference around campus to things that are important to the students,” Scroggs said.
McKeown said he anticipates some first-year growth pains, including not having as many applications or finding out a student who was appointed later isn’t fulfilling their duties.
“The first year of trying to set a standard and getting something off the ground will be a challenge, but I think it will be good,” he said. “I’ll be able to learn a lot from seeing how these new appointments function by hearing back from the committee chairs and identifying what is and isn’t working.”
McKeown said he hopes to continue putting applications for the committees on the MSA website every year so they will continue to grow in size.
“Ideally, the student sitting on any of the committees should have a real interest in the subject matter, want to learn more about the issues, and be willing to come to meetings prepared and be sufficiently confident to participate constructively in discussions,” Dabson said.
McKeown said there will be a precedent for future vice presidents. This will make it easier for the next vice presidents to work with committee chairs and have a stronger stance on how to get students more active. He hopes that the increase of student involvement will have a chain reaction throughout the university.
“By getting students who have that driven thought process, they come in with new ideas,” McKeown said. “If they come up with a plan of action, the university will implement it. The effects will trickle down because it’s a great resource to be able to bounce ideas off people who have been at the university for a while and know how to make the most out of their committee.”
McKeown said he estimates he will have his appointments for the year made by the end of this week, since many committees start meeting the second week of September.