Staff Editorial

Loyola’s governance needs to be reformed

Dumbach and Cudahy Halls on Loyola's Lakeshore campus. Amerique//Wikimedia

Last week, our Editor-in-Chief compared universities to small cities with their own media, movements and governments. She said Loyola is a city worth covering, but as far of governance goes, Loyola — the small city that we call home — has some pretty big problems.

The Phoenix has said before that the newly elected student leadership must do its best to fight through the roadblock that is administrative approval — something that has been very elusive for past and present student referenda and resolutions. We said newly elected student President Michael Fasullo needs to be a firm, strong voice in order to bridge the gap between the student body and president’s office, especially during the current transition period.

But this is not where the conversation should stop. There’s more to Loyola’s current situation than just a need for strong leadership –– we need to look at the root of our issues.

The fact is, the current structure of governance at Loyola belittles student government and thus students’ voices. While the student body does need and deserve a strong leader from Fasullo, the current system of university government is in need of reform.

Why? Well, technically Loyola is a system of shared governance. This model entails multiple bodies — a Board of Trustees, the administration, faculty, staff and students — having a say in decisions. This means that university decisions are supposed to follow a chain of approval. Resolutions are passed and approved by the student senate and the student body president, then they go to Loyola’s University Senate and –– if they make it through –– they reach the president’s office and the Board of Trustees.

This system was one of the recommendations made by the accreditation committee that came to Loyola more than 10 years ago, according to former student President Flavio Bravo.

But we can all agree that Loyola’s version of shared governance is nominal at best. While there is a student government and University Senate that often work in tandem, neither has much sway in the administration. They function more as advisory bodies and are out of the final decision.

A true shared governance does not put all of the decision-making power into one body (the Board of Trustees and the president, in Loyola’s case). Having shared advising is not good enough. We need shared decision-making, including real debate between student government and high levels of administration up until the moment decisions are made.

This is a strong statement we’re making: Loyola’s current governance system doesn’t work.

Evidence of this is the fact that administration had already made a decision regarding the resolution to divest from companies linked to the Israeli presence in Palestine without even waiting for the student president to make his decision public.

The Phoenix does not, and will not, take a side on the resolution, but we will call out what we think is a failed governance structure.

Since we’re not in the business of pointing out failures without giving solutions, The Phoenix Editorial Board thinks there are five main reforms that are necessary to achieve real shared governance.

First, we suggest the creation of at least two positions for voting student representatives on the Board of Trustees. Currently, there are student representatives,  appointed by the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) president, serving in the University Senate and the subcommittees of the board. But this is not good enough.

Subcommittees of the board do not have as much decision-making power as the actual board, and having students serve as voting members when decisions are being made would ensure that student voice is included in final decisions. This will give students real representation and decision-making power.

Second, we believe the Board of Trustees and president’s cabinet should not be allowed to hold closed-door meetings (in which no students or faculty are present), especially when these meetings concern university policy and student-led proposals. Students keep this university running, and they deserve to be present when decisions that will affect their future are discussed and made.

In conjunction with this, and true to our belief that transparency should be at the core of all governance, we propose that detailed written reports — not just vague meeting minutes — from every Board of Trustees and cabinet meeting should be available on Loyola’s website within a week of the meeting. This will ensure proper coverage by university media and will serve as resource for students to be informed of what goes on at the meetings.

Having an easily accessible archive of detailed meeting reports would increase transparency of the Board of Trustees and president’s cabinet, something that seems to be seriously undervalued by those bodies, as shown by recent decisions and interactions with lower governing bodies.

Our fourth reform to Loyola’s government calls for an increased respect for the current decision process. It is only reasonable that all governing bodies in this university abide by the system we have, even if it’s currently not fully effective.

If SGLC passes a resolution, it goes on to the University Senate. If the University Senate passes this resolution, it lands on the president’s desk. That is how the decision-making process at Loyola is supposed to work.

As we said before with the divestment resolution, higher administration freely made and announced decisions about resolutions before they had even made it through the full SGLC process, let alone the University Senate.

By circumventing the decided upon decision process and raising its voice over those of the student government and University Senate, the higher administration has shown its blatant disrespect for the decision process. This disrespect needs to immediately become a thing of the past if Loyola is ever to reach true shared governance.

Finally, and as The Phoenix Editorial Board has previously advised, we want guaranteed student representation in the selection process of the new university president. Students should be present on the selection committee, ensuring students’ input on the important decision is taken seriously. The next president of the university will be at the helm of making our college experience and future degrees valuable and competitive in the market. We should at least have a say in what we want from a president and who we think would be a good candidate in the pool of applicants. Most of us can agree this is not an unreasonable demand.

When something isn’t working, it should be fixed. The current structure of our little city’s government is simply not working, and we are trying to fix it from the ground up.

We know the higher end of the administration (with few exceptions) doesn’t usually respond to The Phoenix’s requests or commentary. We know that our power resides in the same students who are underrepresented and whose voices are often ignored. But we believe these five suggestions should be taken into consideration by all levels of university government: the student government, University Senate and the Board of Trustees.

Unfortunately, we know this consideration will only result in changes if it is given by the highest levels of the administration.

If the student body takes action, if we decry this travesty of governance that Loyola has and respectfully demand appropriate and active representation, in the future this will no longer be the case.

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