SGA discusses plans to implement open course syllabi

By KATY WILNER | April 19, 2018

At their weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Student Government Association (SGA) discussed implementing several initiatives including open syllabi, creating banners to protest gun violence and communications with faculty. 

Open syllabi would enable professors to make syllabi available on SIS before course registration. Posting syllabi in advance would allow students to look at the content of the class before enrolling. 

SGA believes that this will improve mental health on campus because students will be able to better organize their schedules. Executive President Noh Mebrahtu has previously stated that he hopes open syllabi will decrease academic stress on students.

SGA met with administrators on Friday to discuss the open syllabus initiative. The administration relayed that an IT team is currently working on a prototype version of the program. The IT team asked SGA to select classes for this prototype. These classes will have their syllabi posted on SIS in August. 

Mebrahtu aims to implement a final version at the end of next year.

“Hopefully by then it will be up and running for all the major classes, and it will be set up by spring of 2019. If not by then, at least fall of 2020,” Mebrahtu said.

SGA will articulate these ideas and other propositions at the Faculty Assembly meeting next Thursday. 

The Faculty Assembly meeting gives the student government a chance to voice their goals for the upcoming year. Executive Vice President AJ Tsang stressed the importance of this meeting, saying that it offers SGA an opportunity to speak directly to the faculty. 

He also mentioned that because SGA has a very limited time to speak, it is important to plan out specifically what ideas they wish to discuss with the faculty.

“This is a huge thing because it’s 100 to 200 of them in one room, altogether,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity to pitch really what SGA would like faculty to do to help the student experience.”

He said that SGA only has about 15 minutes to speak to the faculty at the meeting.

Tsang said that SGA will discuss the need for better mental health resources, posting class syllabi on SIS and promoting Turbovote, an online voting registration service. He also suggested that SGA speak to the faculty about the student body’s request to build a student center.

“There are whispers that they want to create a faculty lounge of some kind — so parallel efforts,” he joked.

Freshman Senator Sam Mollin addressed the importance of talking about improving mental health resources at the Faculty Assembly meeting.

“We can talk to them about how serious this issue really is,” he said. “If you impart the benefits of doing this and what happens if they don’t, that will be helpful.”

Students also suggested that SGA talk about mental health sensitivity training with faculty members.

Junior Class President Ash Panakam suggested that faculty incorporate this training in regular faculty meetings.

“A specific request we could make is talking to department heads to see if they could do trainings during the departmental meetings,” Panakam said. “It’s a quick way to get a lot of people involved.”

SGA also passed a bill to sponsor the creation of 60 banners to protest gun violence. This bill marked the 30th bill put forth on the floor this term, the highest number of bills ever put forth in one term of SGA.

These banners will be used for upcoming student demonstrations to protest gun violence. Each banner will be designed to represent a different school affected by school shootings in the past few decades. 

“There are countless mass shootings that cannot logistically be included in this demonstration,” Tsang read from the bill. “Rather, the visual representation of the deadliest school shootings is intricately tied to the understanding that exponential amount of these banners represents the 32,000 victims of gun violence a year.”

The bill proposes that the banners represent all communities affected by gun violence, not just schools with highly publicized shootings, and that this idea would be articulated in speeches throughout any future demonstrations.

SGA allocated $480 for these banners, which will be able to be reused for future demonstrations. 

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