By Jonathan Kettle, Staff Writer
A new course is being offered at both Orillia and Thunder Bay campuses this term aimed at teaching students how to work effectively with the University.
Students in University Governance, more passionately known as POLI 3519 to some, is one of the first of its kind in the country. The idea stemmed from a conversation between LUSU President Roman Jakubowski and Dr. Doug West, an associate professor of political science at the Orillia campus.
Many students aren’t aware that LUSU operates through a system of committees, requiring about 30 students in all to function properly. How well does LUSU perform when those committees are running under-manned? The quick and easy answer is that it doesn’t. This year, these committees have been working with significant vacancies, and to Dr. West, that means something needs to be done.
“Students fought hard over the years to get the privilege to be on those committees. But if it’s hard to get students to be on them, maybe it’s because they don’t know what’s in it for them. So, why don’t we create a course, and see if we can get some of the current students on committees to take it?”
Thus, POLI 3519 is born. Dr. West and Jakubowski’s initial conversation about this was in December. That’s right; this course went from a first conversation between the two to a ½ credit course in under a month.
A welcome break for the students will be that the course content will be driven by student input. There are no fixed set of criteria for what can and will be discussed, and “people will learn as they go, you can’t practice this. There is only one way to learn it and that is by doing,” Jakubowski stated.
University Governance will also be featuring an array of guest speakers, both from within Lakehead and beyond. Jakubowski and the other students in the class are hopeful that Lakehead University President, Dr. Brian Stevenson, will share some of his experiences in governance with them.
As of this date, eight student representatives are enrolled in the class. Amanda Gallo, a fourth year political science major and former Argus editor, is enjoying POLI 3519. Amanda say, “the class is providing us with an excellent opportunity to meet with other student representatives, discuss the issues most pertinent to students, brainstorm solutions, and learn more about the ways we, as student representatives, can bring those issues to the table in each of our respective positions and hopefully, bring about positive change.”
She continues, “we’re a class made up of student representatives who represent LUSU on a variety of different university governance structures and committees in Thunder Bay and Orillia.”
A key part of this class is simply having components driven from both Orillia and Thunder Bay students. It’s no shocker that a divide exists between the two campuses, both geographically and socially. Some students feel like they function as separate entities, with only the thinnest of connections between them.
“We decided we had to have students from both sides… One of the students wants to do some work on what Orillia really needs,” Dr. West continues.
One of the prerequisites for the courses is that students have to have been on a university committee before enrolling in the course.
“It’s going to give students a reason to join the committees, but it’s also like a form of service learning, inside the university. We’re doing a service to the university, to LUSU, and to students themselves. They’ll build a set of files about how the committees work, so that when people take over the committees in the future, they’ll be able to pick up a file and see where the committee left off.
“I believe that students need a little momentum and a little motivation to do this kind of work,” Dr. West says.
If the course runs smoothly and can accomplish what Dr. West and the LUSU President have in mind, then students can expect to see the course running in years to come; and hopefully we’ll all see results around Lakehead, too.