As students at a public college, we have the ability to try to make changes to our institution, to change it to better suit our needs. Georgia Highlands has two large “forums” in which students can voice their opinions to the administration as well as the student body. One of these “forums” is of course the paper that you are holding in your hands right now. All of our readers have the ability to write to the editor and make their voice heard. We try to write articles and op-ed pieces that adhere to the topics of the letters to the editor. This is a student paper, so all students are free to write for us as well.
Another way to voice opinions to administration would be to join the Student Engagement Council, which is Georgia Highlands’ form of student government. The SEC consists of representatives from GHC’s student organizations and also has what are called “student at large” positions for people who are not affiliated with a club but want to represent students as a whole. These meetings are open to all students at GHC and anyone who wishes to raise an issue at these meetings is welcome to do so.
There are a few committees that have seats available for student members including the Student Affairs, Diversity and Information Competency Program committees. Students can be nominated to work with these committees and have a direct influence over the decisions made.
Since GHC is a (mostly) two year college, a lot of students are not as concerned with activism and changing their institution. The mindset of a large portion of students seems to be that “I will be gone in two years, so why try to make changes?” These students are not considering the students coming after them or the faculty and staff who plan to work here for years to come.
An example of students influencing change was in 2004, when a new smoking policy was passed that essentially prohibited smoking on campus. The president’s cabinet and SEC both approved of the policy before it was put in place the first of that year.
Last year GHC administration began what is unofficially referred to as “decentralization.” This was a plan to make each GHC campus more independent with student support services and student life offices on each campus. None of these decisions were brought up before the SEC and by fall semester of 2011 many changes had already taken effect. Student Support Services was essentially dismantled, splitting it into three departments and removing the paraprofessional who would greet students and schedule appointments. The Office of Student Life was also split up, making an independent coordinator in charge of Student Life events on each campus. This change has had the effect of reducing the quality of Student Life events, compared to before “decentralization,” while students are still paying the same activity fee. The coordinators in Student Life seem to be stretched thin between organizing events and working with student organizations.
Although some policies, such as decentralization, are beyond the ability of students to affect, either through SEC or the SMP, hopefully our administrators are aware of the fact that this institution is ultimately for us and if they consistently implement policies that degrade our enjoyment of the institution, that we will not recommend the college to our family and friends.