Background and Motivation
The University Student Faculty Committee (USFC) is the highest level of student representation in the university. As outlined in Article II of the USFC Bylaws, the following are the duties of the USFC:
- To study problems of university-wide student interests and submit recommendations for their solutions to the proper university authorities.
- To defend the right of all students to have freedom of speech and an opportunity to express their opinions responsibly and within the bounds of the American University of Beirut’s Code of Conduct.
- To communicate to the student body information on university issues within the competence of the USFC.
- To initiate and promote student activities in coordination with the University.
- To use allocated funds generated through the student activity fee to support student activities in accordance with existing USFC-approved funding procedures and University policies.
- To establish sub-committees to study various issues in accordance with the USFC Bylaws.
However, the USFC is not purely run by students. The USFC bylaws state that the President of the University and the Dean of Student Affairs are the Chairpersons of the committee’s meetings. They also mention that the Chairperson’s is used to break a tie (Article III, Paragraph 5). Thus, their roles overshadow that of the student elected Vice President (VP) and strip it of any actual executive power:
Student representatives’ agency is further diluted by the presence of 6 faculty members in the USFC who carry voting rights. Faculty members have a large influence on student matters debated in the USFC, given that they constitute a quarter of the USFC’s voting members.
Throughout the past year, we noted several incidents that demonstrate the dysfunctionality of this institution. Some examples include the fact the Dean of Student Affairs only called for 12 meetings this year, in a clear violation to the bylaws that set a meeting every other week as stated in the Bylaws (Article XII – Meetings, Quorum, and Decisions), and did not call for any meetings place during the summer term. Additionally, several proposals that serve the student interests, were not put on the agenda by the dean of students.
Proposal: Transforming the USFC into an independent Student Council
We propose replacing the USFC with an independent Student Council that is only composed of students, has extended prerogatives that allows it to effectively fight for student rights, and allow all AUB students to contribute through Student Committees.
We propose achieving this transformation through the following steps:
- USFC Bylaws Committee to develop a structure and bylaws for an independent Student Council to replace the USFC. The bylaws should cover the election process, composition, and duties of the Student Council.
- The Bylaws Committee should set regular meetings open to the student body over the upcoming year to work on proposing a structure and bylaws for the independent Student Council.
- A draft should be ready by March 2019. Once a draft is available, it shall be presented to AUB students through a town hall meeting for feedback.
- The final proposal should be ready by April 2019 to be voted upon in a student referendum.
- If the proposed Student Council is accepted, the USFC must vote by two-thirds to dissolve itself and a new Student Council shall be elected in the following year.
The final proposition for a Student Council must fulfill the following conditions:
- The President and the Dean of Student Affairs and Faculty members should not chair or attend Student Council meetings. Coordination with the administration would occur through special meetings that are set to discuss common issues.
- The Student Council agenda should be exclusively set by student representatives and announced to all AUB students ahead of time.
- A Student Council representative should be included in the decision-making process of the Board of Trustees in matters that relate to the students and directly affects them.
- Constraints on the Student Council budget should be revised to fit the needs of students.
- Student Committees open to all AUB students should be established, through which students work directly with their representatives on proposals and projects.
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