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At a breakfast meeting last Thursday, Institute of Politics (IOP) Director former Sen. David Pryor announced that he would unilaterally dissolve the IOP's 30-member Student Advisory Council (SAC), effective Dec. 1. Pryor will be handpicking new committee chairs for the next semester to replace the soon-to-be-abolished group.
Pryor's actions reflect the concern felt by many that SAC had become insular and alienating to many students who wished to be involved in the IOP. Though SAC members recognized the need for reform in a report they issued last spring, the IOP's poor retention rate and SAC's overall ineffectiveness as a governing body are two areas that SAC has been unable to address on its own. Though reform efforts were underway, they weren't moving far or fast enough. Reform was clearly needed, but the kind of swift and drastic reform Pryor has imposed would never have originated from inside SAC itself.
The IOP needs to find better ways to include students outside the self-selected leadership group. Significant efforts must also be made to improve retention so that sophomores who are rejected from SAC do not abandon the IOP altogether. Whether or not a similar structure for the student governing body is maintained after Pryor's restructuring, intervention was a necessary wake-up call for an organization that has been far too slow to address its substantial and immediate shortcomings.
We hesitate to endorse the way Pryor implemented this reform. Although Pryor was well within the realms of his power, it was rash of him to dissolve SAC in the way he did. He could have been more adroit in his intervention even though his motives and conclusions were justified and well-founded. The announcement comes as a devastating blow to many SAC members. They feel Pryor is being heavy-handed in his reforms for someone so new to the program. While SAC is not a typical student organization, some students are justifiably upset that they were not consulted by Pryor before he took these extreme steps.
We hope that these necessary reforms in SAC are implemented in ways that allow for more democratic and inclusive student input. We also hope that current SAC members will continue to stay involved at the IOP; it would be a great loss should those students who have worked and invested in the organization for the better part of their college years take their energies elsewhere. Reforms to address the problems of insularity and retention rates must, however, be the first priority. These changes should be instituted quickly so that organized student input remains as uninterrupted as possible but also becomes more representative of the student body.
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