Less than one week after the head of the Institute of Politics (IOP) dissolved its Student Advisory Committee (SAC), IOP members committed to preserving student leadership in the organization presented sweeping proposals for change yesterday morning.
Responding to IOP Director Sen. David Pryor's criticism that SAC had become too insular, the students crafted their suggestions from two open meetings. Then, at a breakfast attended by more than 40 students, Travis F. Batty '02 and Francisco J. Flores '02, senior IOP associates, presented Pryor with their ideas: hold democratic elections, create meritocratic membership standards and revamp the structure of committees and leadership positions.
"The end result of the entire process will be a better IOP," Flores said.
Pryor, who has been fielding a flurry of suggestions for change by e-mail, said that he was very pleased with yesterday's discussion, which was the first open meeting since his decision to disband SAC.
"The proposal showed a coalition of student interests and had some very good concepts," he said. "I think we're working constructively on how we can make the IOP better, to open it up and make it more inclusive."
Pryor said he would consider the other proposals he received and will next meet with students after Thanksgiving. As of now, the SAC will disband Dec. 1.
"I can't say exactly where we're going because I just don't know," Pryor said.
The proposal made yesterday would create an objective standard for membership: attendance at two-thirds of two committee's meetings over one semester. Those who attended at least two-thirds of any committee's meetings would vote to choose the committee chair for the next semester.
This stands in stark contrast to the current system, where 15 to 20 SAC members choose new SAC members and committee chairs. Instead of SAC, there would be a student leadership board composed of a president, vice president, and six members at large, all democratically elected by IOP members.
Batty, who served as one of the primary authors of the proposal, said he was very happy with the tone of the meeting this morning.
"The meeting was a constructive discussion between students, staff and the director about the future of the Institute," he said.
Batty and Flores discussed the proposal with students at an open meeting Monday evening, where it was modified.
"We talked to 60 or 70 students before [presenting our proposal], and it was generally supported," Batty said.
Students involved in the IOP said they are optimistic about the proposals to the Senator.
"The response to their proposal has been very positive," said Robert F. McCarthy '02, a SAC member. "A lot of people were surprised with the speed with which they were able to put it together."
IOP members have batted similar reforms around in the abstract for more than two years.
Tuesday morning, in a closed meeting with SAC members, Pryor elaborated on his decision to disband the student committee. Though SAC members said that the meeting did not erase their resentment, they said they were happy for the extended explanation.
"Some [SAC members] definitely were [satisfied with Pryor's justification], but the majority
was not," McCarthy said. "We still don't think it was proper."