EDITORIAL: Stop pretending to value student opinion; mean it

Illustration by Rob Gebelhoff/ robert.gebelhoff@mu.edu

Director of Student Health Service Carolyn Smith and Vice President of Student Affairs Chris Miller told members of Marquette Student Government Thursday night that Marquette is proposing a health insurance mandate for all students. During the meeting, Miller said student input in the process is invaluable.

But when one MUSG senator asked how Smith and Miller went about getting student input, Smith said they only talked to the Student Health Advisory Board, made up of approximately a dozen students. The Senator asked how long conversations about the mandate had been happening with members of that board. Smith’s response: “our discussions have become more fruitful as of late.” She later clarified that these conversations had been happening for about a month.

During the same meeting, Miller and Smith said they had been having this conversation with administrators for about five years.

So is student input really that invaluable? It doesn’t appear that way to us.

MUSG should have been notified about the mandate as soon as the discussion with the administration became serious, not just right before Smith and Miller proposed it to the Marquette Board of Trustees. Furthermore, MUSG should have been given more than a few days’ time to write legislation about the issue. And if the university really wanted our input, more students than the handful on the Student Health Advisory Board would have been asked for their opinions.

The last time we checked, more students than just MUSG and the Student Health Advisory Board attended this university. This mandate is going to affect hundreds of students, not just a few. If our say was really that important, a much larger and more diverse sample of the student body would have been surveyed.

This isn’t the first time Marquette has changed major policies that directly affect its students with little to no input from them.

When the majority of the members of this editorial board started at Marquette, there were three different meal plans from which we could choose. Last year, the two least expensive options were cut and the unlimited plan became the only “choice.” How many students were asked about this change?

What about the new alcohol policy? Administrators said that policy changes were a response to student input, but they nevertheless came as a surprise to most students. We’re sure a lot of students had voices they wanted heard on that issue.

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments related to student input is this year’s change to the Fr. Pilarz Forums. Prior to this year, students who attended the forum asked the questions. But now, Pilarz and Executive Vice President Mary DiStanislao ask students the questions and direct the entire converstion.

What happened to the transparency Pilarz talked about during his inauguration? We saw it last year, but why not this year?

Obviously student input isn’t the end-all-be-all of the decision-making process, but having a student’s viewpoint could never hurt. Administrators, if you’re going to say our input is invaluable, then mean it. Don’t patronize us. If what students have to say really doesn’t matter, then tell us we have no say. And you’d better believe we’re going to complain about that, too.

If you really want student feedback, ask us in ways that will produce actual results. Send us an email survey, give us a hashtag to tweet and let us voice our opinions at the Fr. Pilarz Forums the right way.

If the university doesn’t want student input, the Tribune does. Send us your thoughts, readers, about the proposed health insurance mandate, because they matter to us.

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