Changing University Policy with our Work: Writing to the Student Senate

The University of Minnesota has a robust senate system involved in policy decisions that  affect everyone at  the University, and there are several individuals and committees that process requests. 

Ultimately, all policies are decided by the Board of Regents, but many groups can bring issues to its attention, depending on the nature of the issue. For example, both the Faculty Consultative Committee and the Student Consultative Committee can bring attention to policies involving Student Academic Integrity. However, issues regarding Professional Development and Recognition can only be brought up by the Professionals and Administrators Consultative Committee. 

Educational Policy is the category that can be brought up by the greatest number of committees because of the immense number of stakeholders. Therefore, Science Court has multiple ways students could present our research to potentially implement a policy change. 

The class will likely present changes to the grading policy and supporting research to the Student Senate – as opposed to other senate sub organizations– because it was previously involved with grading policies. 

When classes transitioned online during the Spring 2020 semester, the Student Senate was involved in a change allowing students to be evaluated on a Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S/N) basis – also known as pass/fail – instead of a typical A-F basis. While this policy passed with relative ease at the time, there was more resistance to continuing the grade change for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters as courses remained online. Given the need to implement change rapidly, the Minnesota Student Association (different from the Student Senate), provided a resolution on the matter at a University Senate (the Student Senate is one part of this) hearing during the “New Business'' section – meaning opposing groups didn’t have as much time to prepare a counter argument. Such a presentation came as somewhat of a surprise, so opposing parties did not have as much time to prepare a counter argument. This may have been part of the reason that the resolution was ultimately passed.

Science Court can choose from multiple options with the Student Senate on how to present our ideas to the Board of Regents, who ultimately decide University policy. 

Before presenting to the Board of Regents, our ideas must first be approved by the University Senate, and there are multiple processes that must be followed depending on the nature of our request. The main way ideas can ultimately be presented to the Board of Regents are through a Resolution, Statement or Letter. 

Generally, a resolution is written with the goal of implementing a policy change, while letters and statements are aimed solely to bring administration’s attention towards thoughts about current policies. However, these are not steadfast rules. Resolutions can be brought up to administration for acknowledgement of issues and statements and letters can request changes to policy. Ultimately, the Board of Regents must comment on anything that the Student Senate (or any other senate within the University Senate) brings to its attention. However, a  resolution must first be posted to a committee or subcommittee within the University Senate, which must approve for Senate action. Then, the resolution is posted on the docket for action, and the Student Senate will review the resolution before sending it up to the administration. A statement or letter, by comparison, is approved by a committee or subcommittee and directly transferred to administration. 

Stay tuned to hear which path Science Court takes!