Student Voice – Do We Really Have One? (Final Column Draft)

Generally I have an opinion for everything.  Some of these opinions I keep to myself, and others I voice unsolicited.  The recent student government elections made me contemplate if students really have a voice?  Sometimes it appears that university decisions are made from purely a financial perspective, recruitment effort, or public relations standpoint, all of which are great, but when does student input come into play?  Is it possible for shy freshman without reputations on campus to demand change or are the only voices on campus those of established leaders whose faces are plastered on all the posters? 

There have been times when I have wondered if my own comments and suggestions are ever taken into account.  Recently, the university has done many things to show that students do have a voice and it is not only valued, but also sought after.      

I personally enjoy most of what the cafeteria serves.  In fact I can tell you that on the day of the All American Rejects concert I ate my favorite meal the cafeteria ever served, ham and pineapple.  The flavors were so mouthwateringly good that I didn’t even mind standing in a long line to get seconds and probably even thirds.  However I can also tell you that on one of the nights steak was served, it was still mooing.  Luckily, the campus cafeteria does a good job responding to comments much like mine. 

Last spring several students tweeted to @unkdining saying they just want some American food like hamburgers and hot dogs.  Sure enough UNK Dining delivered because for the entire next week it seemed like that’s all we had. Sometimes they overcompensate as a tweeter said, “Stop with the burgers and fries! Do you really think we like eating the same damn thing everyday twice a day.”

 Even if students aren’t always impressed with the food options, taste, or price, UNK Dining does an excellent job of trying to please everyone.  Their social media presence and response quickness, as well as their many suggestion boxes, show that they care about students’ opinions.  They won’t always be able to accommodate everyone, but they look into problems, offer solutions when possible, and respond to comments. 

Venturing outside of the cafeteria and into the classroom, students were given a unique opportunity on Monday, March 25th and Wednesday, March 27th.  They were invited to sit in on Dr. Katerine Lavelle’s lecture on how rhetorical criticism can evaluate sports and Ms. Sara Basel’s lecture on interpersonal communication.  Both are prospective employees and student input was solicited to help make the decision.

The voices that should be heard are those of the students. Students are looking to professors to mentor, inspire, guide, and encourage them.  The relationships that staff members build with the students help determine the atmosphere of the university. When you are seeking a person who can manage a classroom, integrate projects and technology into their lessons, as well as uphold school ideals, help strengthen employee relations and moral, and make a difference, shouldn’t the students get a voice?  We are the ones being directly affected.  The decisions on who to hire will in part determine the education that we receive and everyone in the buildings is ultimately here for us.

On Wednesday, April 3rd and Thursday, April 4th, faculty, staff and students were invited to the third floor of Cope Stadium to observe and discuss the “shape” of UNK’s campus, pertaining to landscape changes including trees, sidewalks, walking paths, and sitting areas that will occur in the next 10-20 years.  Maintaining and making improvements to campus are long-going processes. Looking at project planning for something that won’t occur, or at least be completed, for another 10-20 years shows just how much goes into making campus the wonderful place it is. 

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