Doug Cohen: A chance to set the tone for student life

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Doug Cohen

Provost Steven Lerman, meet the student body. Student body, meet Provost Lerman.

As a new season of Student Association lobbying unfolds, Colonials are watching the provost directly handle student life issues, after the University added those operations to Lerman’s responsibilities last spring.

The strategic plan is the first major test of the provost’s commitment to the student experience at the University and will set the tone for subsequent interactions. Lerman must prove to students that he is receptive to their concerns.

Lerman is not exactly a campus celebrity. And in all likelihood, many students don’t know who he is. He’s not an avid tweeter like Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski, who constantly interacts with students. He is the chief academic officer, and in the past, that job has not entailed direct engagement with students on issues beyond school and studying.

But last week, Lerman held a town hall focused on incorporating a student life component into the strategic plan – a move SA president Ashwin Narla is trying to cement. But whether or not he chooses to give student life a home in this decade-long blueprint for the University will be largely symbolic of his willingness to work with students on issues in the future.

The provost must prove to students that he values their input and wants to make student life a top priority over the next decade. This is a chance for him to show that he considers student life to be just as important as academics. While academics are certainly one defining aspect of any university, student life is the other ingredient that completes the average student’s college experience.

While the onus is on students to rally behind the SA executives and show up at town halls with suggestions, they will be skeptical and discouraged if they feel their concerns are falling on deaf ears.

The provost deserves credit for responding quickly to the SA’s student space plan. He extended the hours Funger and Duques are open and agreed to cut two fees. And its admirable that he held a town hall to discuss the strategic plan with students.

But there is still a lot of work to be done on both ends. And now that everyone has been formally introduced, hopefully the real work can begin.

Doug Cohen, a senior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet Senior columnist and the former contributing opinions editor.

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