Students gathered Friday and Saturday to create a letter detailing what they consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of the USM Direction Package at the Student Vision 2013 Conference.
The goal of the two-day student organized event is to prepare a letter out of their discussions to give to the administration in an attempt to increase student involvement in the formation of the Direction Package. On Oct. 8, student body President Kelsea Dunham, sent out a call to action to all USM students asking them to participate in the conference. It stated, “This is an issue that requires as many of our voices as possible. It is time for us to speak up. We can either let others determine the future of this institution, or be a driving force for the university.”
According to Dunham, the main issue that students take with the Direction Package, which establishes a vision for the university, is the vagueness of the first draft. In particular, they were displeased with the last section, which leaves the “Tactics and Initiatives” of the Package “to be determined at a later date.”
“The plan is for us, as students, to touch on what our ideal university is and give that to the administration,” said Dunham. Her goal was to have students, “come together and come up with things that matter the most to us.”
Bob Caswell, executive director of Public Affairs, said in a statement, “the university exists for students. So an event designed to generate student input on our path forward is really important.”
While the administration and faculty knew about the event, Dunham asked that the conference only have students in attendance. She wanted the students to have a comfortable environment to share their feelings and opinions.
“We talked about our concerns about USM and what USM is doing well that we like. From that we moved into drafting a letter, which outlined some of the stuff that we were concerned about,” said Marpheen Chann, student body vice-president.
According to Dunham, some important goals were make USM a more attractive place for faculty to work, and creating more community responsibility. They also hope to come up with more alternative fundraising in order to avoid cutting more programs.
“USM shouldn’t be an alternative to other schools. It should be a leading institution. Whether is academically or socially, [it] should be a place where students want to go,” Chann said, as he explained his goals for the conference, he believes that USM should be a first choice in a school, not a last resort.
However, turn-out at the event was lower than expected. While 30 people registered for each day of the event, there were only about 15 attendees on day one and eight attendees on day two.
“I was disappointed at the turn-out, but it was interesting to to learn about the many types of experiences students have at USM,” said Dunham.
“It was a good start. [But] there needs to be more students represented,” said Christian Evans, a senior linguistics major. Evans also suggested that USM needs to have annual or semester meetings to gather student feedback about their expectations for the university.
“The outcome we want from this is a unified student body that speaks with one voice and has one vision. I hope that the administration actually listens to students. Or at least includes us in their conversations,” said Chann.
The attendees hopes to submit their suggestions to the administration before the next Direction Package Advisory Board meeting on Nov. 8. Their main goal is to have their suggestions realized and create a brighter future for USM students, Dunham said. “I think I have enough to present the administration with something. It may not be as comprehensive as I’d hoped, but it will be a start,” said Dunham at the conclusion of the conference.