Task Force on Student Voice Solicits Input

Next week, students will have the opportunity to participate in two focus groups that will inform the work of the Task Force on Student Voice, a newly created committee which aims to enhance communication between students, faculty, and staff at Harvard.

In an email sent to the student body Wednesday, Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson invited students to share their “thoughts about the philosophy and values that should guide student involvement” by participating in one of the focus groups.

The creation of the Task Force is the second phase of a two-part plan to increase student engagement on campus, and the focus groups represent an effort to include the voices of the entire student body.

In January, a Leadership Intensive Program allowed Undergraduate Council representatives to speak directly with administrators. Both initiatives have been spearheaded by Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds in conjunction with the Office of Student Life and the UC.

On Monday and Tuesday of next week, the Task Force will offer two focus groups as an opportunity for the student body to contribute to the discussion. The Office of Student Life has also created an online comment box for those who cannot attend.

While there are no guarantees that the administration will adopt any of the recommendations generated by the focus groups or the Task Force, Hammonds said in an emailed statement that the College values student opinion on the issue.

“We are hopeful that there will be recommendations we can act on,” she wrote.

The Task Force on Student Voice, created earlier this semester, is comprised of eight students—five UC representatives, a House Committee chair, and two student organization leaders.

There has also been some faculty involvement in the Task Force. Dunster House Master Roger B. Porter currently serves as the co-chair, and several deans and professors are a part of the Task Force as well.

Three months into their term, UC President Danny P. Bicknell ’13 and Vice President Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13 have made it a priority to introduce initiatives that aim to bridge the student-administration gap, a key point of their campaign platform last semester.

“Currently, we are looking to improve student feedback channels,” Bicknell said.

In addition to the Task Force on Student Voice, the UC also created the “Lunch with a Dean” program and worked with administrators at the Office of Student Life to establish regular office hours.

Hammonds said that while these initiatives represent a step in the right direction, she understands that this is an issue that will require sustained effort.

“One issue that needs to be tackled is ensuring that when students participate in decision-making committees, the information they learn there is shared with the broader community of students, and that they are, in turn, accurately reflecting student views to administrators and faculty,” she said.

—Staff writer Michelle Denise L. Ferreol can be reached at mferreol@college.harvard.edu.

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