LIZ MONROE, News Editor—The Denison Campus Governance Association (DCGA) Student Advisory Board has reassembled this semester after being abruptly deterred when the pandemic hit last spring.
The DCGA Student Advisory Board–which comprises 20 randomly selected students who work alongside DCGA in a democratic role–was established as a result of research conducted in 2018 by Nathaniel Beach ‘20 and political scientist Dr. Paul Djupe who continues to oversee the board. The team developed their research and plans for two years before a resolution to found the student advisory board was originally passed by DCGA in the spring of 2019.
In the earlier stages of research, Djupe conducted polls through his blog “One Twenty Seven,” which he runs and has students write for, to gauge students’ feelings about DCGA. With the data collected, Djupe and Beach compiled a list of students who completed the survey and used this to seek out individuals who might be interested in participating in the potential board.
“Not many people know what DCGA does and how much work [members] actually do. The student advisory board gives randomly selected students the chance to get acquainted with DCGA. It also builds the legitimacy of DCGA by providing formal buy-in from the campus community,” Djupe explained.
Djupe, who has been a professor in the political science department at Denison since 1998, explained that he does a lot of polling of Denison students and has tracked the popularity of DCGA on campus among students. He also typically runs senior seminars where projects like Beach’s tend to materialize.
Beach, a former Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) major from Pickerington, Ohio, explained that the “inspiration behind the board came down to democratic value.” As the previous Speaker of the DCGA Senate, he wanted to find a solution for the issue of “how can people who aren’t really interested in government affairs or politics still get their voices heard and have an opinion on policies or movements that might directly affect them.”
“To my knowledge, this is the nation’s first ever collegiate student advisory board ever. It stems from more progressive states on the West Coast. We wanted to see if it would work on a campus setting,” Beach noted.
As the Student Advisory Board was developed in 2020, there was a controversial resolution that was set to come before the board last year before COVID-19 hit– the idea to implement two mental health days as a baseline requirement for all classes. Unfortunately, the pandemic completely derailed the plans set in place by Beach and he was unable to fully launch the resolution before graduating.
This semester, the Student Advisory Board became the passion project of senior Mayank Kumar, a political science and religion double major from Calcutta, India. He is the current Speaker of the DCGA Senate and was a co-sponsor of the original bill to enact the Student Advisory Board back in 2019.
Over winter break, Kumar wrote out a new plan for the board and organized a board of 20 students that was representative of the student body.
“The students were completely randomly selected, but there’s a good mix of class years, genders, athletes and non athletes, domestic and international students, etc.”
This semester, DCGA is working on internal reform and changing its structure. With the student advisory board ready to go, Kumar thought this would be a great opportunity to have students deliberate over this reform.
“What’s cool about the board is unlike having a town hall or other deliberative forums where students can give input on issues, these students are representative of the student body and they may otherwise not have been interested in things happening in their community. This is definitely a liberal arts take on democracy,” Kumar said.
“This forum could be a good sounding board for any issues that students are facing in general. It’s also a great opportunity for students to develop their communication skills and perspective taking further,” Kumar noted.
Kumar explained that potential deliberation issues for the Student Advisory Board in the future could be things like student labor on campus or anti-racism. That being said, the possibilities of the student board go beyond DCGA resolutions.
“I’m more than happy to continue the good work Nathaniel laid down. I think something like the student advisory board is especially important in these highly polarized times,” he said.