Keep your eye out for the Quest’s continued ASM coverage, and the ASM’s own communications through their upcoming weekly progress update newsletters, their new Facebook profile, weekly ASM office hours, and upcoming working groups.

SEOUL  –  The Associated Students of Minerva held its first town hall meeting of the semester last Thursday in Seoul to discuss what the newly-elected representatives have been working on so far and hear concerns from students in the Classes of 2019 and 2020.

The Class of 2021 will have its first elections in the spring semester.

The main priorities of the ASM include: creating working groups, improving the new junior year Capstone course, addressing concerns about Minerva’s newer and stricter academic policies, improving communication and feedback channels system with staff, setting up the ASM to successfully scale with the addition of future classes, and increasing the leverage of the ASM.

Working groups are small teams of students who will tackle the issues raised by the student body, such as the work-study program and the Capstone course. Alberto Martinez de Arenaza, one of the three newly-elected representatives for the Class of 2019, believes the working groups should get “face time” with the relevant departments as new policies are created. This echoed a larger sentiment for increased student participation in large system changes.

“The ASM’s approach will be to systematically document and communicate student perceptions and concerns to avoid staff simply shrugging off the feedback as one-sided or skewed student opinions from a few loud voices.”

The ASM announced at the meeting that it has reached out to Dean of Faculty Stephen Kosslyn regarding student concerns over the Capstone course, which students have criticized for not sufficiently achieving its learning objectives. The ASM’s approach will be to systematically document and communicate student perceptions and concerns to avoid staff simply shrugging off the feedback as one-sided or skewed student opinions from a few loud voices, mentioned Urmila Janardan, another representative for the Class of 2019.

“This is especially important,” says Janardan, “because Minerva frequently centers on how their classes are better at achieving learning goals than other universities.”

Students at the town hall suggested creating an internal survey to collect constructive feedback from the general student body in addition to a specialized working group.

A broad theme expressed by ASM and students was a frustration with the previous lack of implementation or acknowledgement of a sizeable amount of feedback given by students to staff outside of ASM channels.

Several ideas were proposed to try and increase feedback structures. Shane Dabor, Class of 2019, suggested a contract between Minerva and students outlining the rights of students in any major policy changes. However it was not clear how this student group would be selected or how such a contract would relate to ASM. Another suggestion was to get feedback from staff on student feedback to ensure the ASM presents feedback at a time and in a manner that would be most effective for staff so that student effort is not wasted.

The representatives also discussed a need for increased leverage with the Minerva administration to be taken seriously by becoming a necessary part of the administrative decision-making process. Janardan thinks this will start with increased student participation at town halls.

“Another suggestion was to get feedback from staff on student feedback to ensure the ASM presents feedback at a time and in a manner that would be most effective for staff so that student effort is not wasted.”

“In order to boost our credibility with administration, it would be great to boost credibility among student body,” Janardan says.

Martinez de Arenaza also mentioned that as Minerva scales up, he foresees a future in which the ASM acts more like a traditional student government in its organizing tactics. Specifically, he mentioned that the ASM could end up “organizing collective action like a strike or not going to class” at some point in its future. Yet he made it clear that none of the current ASM representatives would consider such an action, highlighting such methods merely as a possible future outcome as a larger student government grapples with a more established university, particularly if more structural channels of feedback are not taken seriously.

The representatives and students also discussed how to quantify student feedback to demonstrate to the administration that student participation is essential to a well-performing education system, although Dabor said that in the past the administration had tried a lot of surveys which didn’t end up being that productive.