Mills students barred from meetings that decide their futures

By
October 30, 2003

Mills College Weekly

As students of a liberal arts college, we often find that we are
encouraged to question and challenge the status quo, to delve
deeper into issues, and to explore the need for change. This is
exactly why The Weekly finds it of dire importance to address the
issue of student admittance at the various meetings that are
supposed to represent the Mills community.

We find it ironic that the very institution, which promotes
student empowerment through knowledge, would contradict that with
its own policies and practices. On the Mills campus, there are
three constituent groups that act as the primary decision making
bodies: the Board of Trustees; the Faculty Board; and the ASMC.

The Board of Trustees and Faculty Board conduct the whole of
their meetings privately, and are supposed to have one student
appointee. The appointee is selected by ASMC and is only allowed to
attend certain segments of meetings. While the ASMC conducts its
meetings publicly when it comes voting time and other “business
only issues,” the meetings are closed.

This means that every decision that is being made which will
impact our education and our lives, is made with very little direct
knowledge or input from students or other Mills community members.
A good example of this is the death of the theater arts program at
Mills.

There are students, alumnae, and faculty who are devastated and
furious about this decision. They question how a liberal arts
college can be without a theater arts program, and what this means
to Mills and the direction that it’s taking. Many fear that Mills
liberal arts school identity is in grave danger.

They are resentful of the unilateral decision that the Board
made. These are just some of the issues that the Mills community is
raising. Questions mount, because we have no direct access and
cannot get answers to the plethora of questions that exist.

If the Board conducted its business openly, students, faculty,
and alumnae would be able to address their concerns directly to the
people that have been entrusted with making the right decisions for
the college and its future. We believe that the Board can only
benefit from the invaluable input from students and the rest of the
Mills community. We also believe that it would set a precedent,
which other constituency groups on campus would soon follow, giving
way to a shared governance and a stronger sense of community at
Mills.

Exclusion is a standard in society, but it shouldn’t be part of
our college experience. We feel that Mills has an opportunity to be
a leader and set an example that promotes inclusion rather than
exclusion. In order to demonstrate this the Board needs to
recognize the value of the entire Mills community, and our need as
well as our right to access and participate on this level. This
acknowledgement is long overdue.

Furthermore, conducting business privately, whether intended or
not, sends only one message: there must be something to hide,
something “they” don’t want us to know. These perceptions can only
be shifted through a commitment to allow access to the entire Mills
community.

One major concern is that the ASMC, which is funded directly by
student fees, and has elected board members, hold part of their
meetings in private. The ASMC board is elected by students, to
represent students, and we should not be shut out of any part of
the decision making process. Some of the decisions being made
privately, on our behalf, are how our money will be spent; on
clubs, events, and so on.

Let’s not forget that we pay to attend school here, not the
other way around, which makes it all the more illogical that we
would be shut out of any decisions that affect us. In the
California public school system, all meetings are required by law
to be held publicly. Although Mills is not violating the law as a
private institution, it would be encouraging to think that the
administration might think beyond its legal obligations and
consider what is morally and ethically right.

Mills needs to take a long hard look at their policies and
practices and recognize that they are sending a negative, divisive
message to the Mills community.


Mills students barred from meetings that decide their futures was published on October 30, 2003 in Editorial

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