On Nov. 18, The Heights reported on the potential creation of an advisory board to oversee new political science program(s) funded by the Koch Foundation. In reading the article, I was disappointed by the proposed advisory structure, especially considering that it is in an area that so explicitly impacts the Boston College educational experience.
While professor Kay Schlozman accurately observed that “advisory boards connected to centers and institutes are common in academic institutions,” the BC administrative bureaucracy, along with many of its analogues in other institutions of higher education, has failed to sufficiently engage the student body when forming steering committees, advisory structures, or other administrative systems that are tasked with promoting institutional innovation and an inventive approach to a liberal arts education.
Two years ago, BC published its “Ever to Excel” plan, outlining the strategic decisions necessary to improve the student experience. First among these goals was to “re-envision liberal arts education at Boston College by sustained attention to the Core Curriculum, enhancing faculty quality and engagement, and leveraging the strengths of undergraduate programs.”
If the University has committed itself to re-envisioning a liberal arts education, why has it not tried to re-envision the advisory structures that inform this education?
As competition between the best institutions of higher education continues to grow, it is in the University’s best interest to explore the different ways in which it can engage with its most valuable resource: the student body. By capitalizing on the immense human capital BC has recruited to the Heights, the University could not only improve its academic offerings and strategic initiatives within the framework of valuable student input, but it could also provide additional opportunities for students to become accountable for their educational experience, beyond GPAs and exam scores.
Currently, the primary engagement that occurs between faculty, administrators, and students is mediated through the Undergraduate Government of Boston College. While I am a proud member of UGBC and believe that our work is beneficial to the BC community, our efforts are often limited through the channels in which we have traditionally engaged. Without expanding the role student leaders have in these advisory structures, I fear that BC will face difficulty in completely fulfilling its long-term goals.
BC is exceptional in many ways. Most of all though, BC is exceptional because of the students who are privileged enough to call Chestnut Hill “home.” As faculty and administrators alike embrace their awesome responsibility to create the best institution of formative higher education in the world, there is no question that meaningful engagement with the student body in advisory boards and other steering committees is the best way to support the success of their efforts.
Dennis Wieboldt, MCAS ’23