Letter to the Editor: More student leaders deserve support

Because so much news from Student Affairs was reported in the last edition of the Northeastern News, I thought it would be helpful to respond to a few issues myself, in this forum.

We are fortunate to have student leaders who are enthusiastic in their desires to enrich campus life and inspire their peers to better the Northeastern experience. I see how committed they are – dedicating generous amounts of time to give students as a whole a strong voice – one that is heard clearly by the administration and the faculty.

One goal of mine, as vice president for student affairs, is to help provide more opportunities than ever for students to become involved in organizations that help achieve their academic, personal and career goals outside the classroom. Joining an organization is often a student’s first step toward becoming a leader and can lead to excellent opportunities not only for social growth but for networking, personal or professional development and self-expression.

There are more than 200 registered student organizations currently operating at Northeastern, and more students are getting involved than ever before. The strong leadership that I have personally been witness to has led me to the following conclusion: Northeastern has reached a point in which more of these strong leaders should be recognized for the time and effort they dedicate to enriching campus life.

A policy that was instituted in 1989 states that the President of the Student Government Association (SGA) and five additional executive board members are to be awarded free tuition, which is contrary to the national norm. I believe the decision to focus solely on six leadership positions is, in fact, exclusionary. Having worked with and among several other student leaders in many varied organizations who are not awarded with free tuition, the 1989 policy now seems very outdated. After all, student groups who are among the most active on campus today, including the Resident Student Association; the Latin-American Student Organization; Northeastern University Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Association; the Council for University Programs; among others, did not exist back then, and I believe the leaders of these organizations deserve the support, recognition and benefits that SGA enjoys.

This led to the idea of developing a new program that will allow the administration to recognize the efforts of a greater number of student leaders with a “Leadership Scholars Program.” Under this program, Northeastern will have the capacity to support 30 to 40 student leaders, rather than simply awarding tuition scholarships to seven student leaders. And I strongly recommend that our SGA provide a stipend to those elected to their e-board, as is the case at most institutions that provide compensation for student leaders.

The idea is to make the available funds benefit a larger number of students through leadership scholarships. This has never been about cutting costs or budget reallocation. We want to help students realize their full leadership potential in student organizations – not make them feel unappreciated for the work they do.

Last week, The News reported that the full tuition scholarship was not unlike those at other institutions, citing Ohio State University as an example. Research into this matter has shown that less than a handful of schools, including three public universities in Ohio, none of which Northeastern compares itself to, grant full tuition to student government leaders.

I also feel compelled to clear up any misinformation about the Student Affairs departmental restructure. Over the past several years, things have changed at a rapid pace at Northeastern, and all departments must keep up with these changes and the varying needs of students by focusing on growing areas, such as, in this case, leadership and engagement. The comprehensive co-curricular leadership programs that my staff and I look forward to developing, coupled with the financial support that we will now be able to share among many more student leaders will help strengthen Northeastern’s leadership programs immensely. This is a plan that I am proud of, and one that was shared with the SGA e-board on the very same day that my staff learned of it, and the day before the university at large was notified. While I value the input of the SGA in virtually every student-related matter I am involved in, this restructure did not involve the hiring of new staff, but was instead a decision to promote four deserving members of our team – a decision made by me after consulting with Enrollment Management and Student Affairs staff, senior administration and, most importantly, students.

Both the Student Affairs restructure and the new scholarship program are signs of great things to come, as well as the move toward SGA direct elections. I look forward to working with student leaders on these and other future projects.

– Ed Klotzbier is the vice president for student affairs and an alumnus, class of 1987.

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