Student Viewpoint: Danielle Lee Dupuis

Student Leaders Unite Around Top Priorities

Danielle Lee Dupuis, student member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and senior at Bridgewater State University, reflects on the collective priorities of our public campuses’ student leaders at the midpoint of their annual agenda.

1. What are the top issues for Student Advisory Council leaders this year?

The top priorities of the Student Advisory Council (SAC) are aligning with the Board of Higher Education’s Big Three strategic agenda which includes access and affordability for all students. We are looking into advocacy for an implementation of open educational resources (OER). The SAC is also trying to be involved in Advocacy Day at the State House in order to lobby for public higher education funding within the Governor’s budget.

This academic year, the SAC has undergone changes in each leadership position. There is a new Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Parliamentarian (new position), and 2 Segmental Advisors for the UMass/Community College segments. I serve as the Student Member to the BHE but also as the Segmental Advisor for the State University segment. Though this has been challenging for the group and retention has been tough, we are looking at a larger membership than ever and are working to re-establish parts of our by-laws and media advocacy through our Policy and PR Boards, which will hopefully continue to grow the SAC.

2. At your midyear retreat on January 20, you heard a presentation on Open Educational Resources, from staff at Northern Essex and UMass Amherst. What were some of the key takeaways?

There were many key takeaways from the OER presentation including the importance of advocacy in order to have task forces or phases of implementation on each campus. We learned about statistics related to OER and how many resources are actually out there. We also discussed online access codes that add additional cost for students, books that are hardly ever used, and strategies for cost cutting.

3. Bridgewater State University President Fred Clark urged students to advocate for a better budget for higher education this year. What was his message, and do SAC leaders plan to act on it?

As mentioned, the SAC is also trying to be involved in Advocacy Day in order to lobby for public higher education funding within the Governor’s budget. We will be traveling with our individual campuses and setting up meetings with legislators and representatives in order to secure funding. Also, students want to collaborate on a public relations campaign centered around these funding issues so that others can be informed, rather than having it swept under the rug and not considered in the budget.

4. What's the biggest barrier for student organizers? How do you recruit for SAC, stay active in SAC and still manage to juggle classes and work?!?

The biggest barrier for the SAC is to find a central location for students to meet that is travel accessible. Many students do not have their own transportation or have scheduling conflicts that prevent them from attending due to the length of travel. However, we are trying our best to offer remote participation and centralize these locations so that everyone can comfortably and realistically attend. We are also trying to work with the SGA advisors of each campus to see if their students can secure travel stipends or travel reimbursement for driving or taking the train to these meetings.

All in all, I do not think this has put too much stress on the group. Though juggling many involvements and classwork can be difficult, we fill out a Doodle Poll before each meeting is scheduled to ensure that the time and place works best for everyone.

5. If SAC can only accomplish one thing this year, what do you think it should be?

Retention. We can build this group up and accomplish many advocacy goals and tasks this year, but if there is no one to continue our work in the fall, I personally believe we have failed. We are trying to ensure that each campus is required in their own SGA By-Laws to attend the SAC meetings, or to send designees, so that each campus voice is heard. Obviously we cannot enforce this, but we want this to become highly encouraged and that each school will ensure their voices are represented. If this can happen, all of the advocacy comes easy. Group dynamic and planning can be affected by lack of retention.