BY LANEY TAYLOR — STAFF WRITER
If you rely on financial aid to attend Centre, the confirmation of Betsy Devos should trouble you. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, Betsy DeVos should worry you. If you are a student in America, Betsy DeVos should terrify you.
Betsy DeVos’ confirmation will go down in history as being the first Cabinet nomination requiring the Vice President to vote to break a 50-50 split among the senate; Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing will go down in history as being the first to mention the need for guns in schools “to protect from potential grizzly bears.” Betsy DeVos was not able to: explain the difference between measuring a student’s growth by proficiency or growth standards, cite any personal experience with current financial aid options for college students, or take responsibility for ensuring students would not be victim to for profit colleges.
America noticed. Citizens deluged the Senate phone lines with 1.5 million phone calls the week before Devos’ confirmation. Protests sparked across the nation, from DeVos’ own hometown of Holland, Michigan to Washington D.C. itself. But what will it take to make America continue to notice?
The answer lies in elevating student voice in education policy. Thirty minutes away from Centre, students are doing just that. The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team is comprised of highly motivated students across the Commonwealth who endlessly work to transform students into partners in the classroom. These students have garnered national attention for their innovative work that includes conducting student roundtables, authoring research publications, and drafted legislation that reached the Kentucky General Assembly
In the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team publication, “Students as Partners”, Dr. George Patamor contests that students having a voice in the classroom is an inherent right. “The education system, “derive[s] its just powers from the consent of the governed,” or students. Children are required by law to spend thirty-five hours a week in school, yet they have no control over what happens to them while there.” The facts are simple: the Prichard Student Voice Committee have students under 20 who know more about education policy than Betsy Devos, and students across the nation have valuable insight into education policy that is often undervalued and underused.
At first glance, Centre College seemingly defies the national trends. Centre College’s council not only allows for the Student Government Association President and Speaker of the House to serve, but also regulates eight students elected by the Student Government Association to serve on the main council. However, by requiring these ten voices to solely come from the Student Government Association, Centre College is severely lacking diversity in the student voice currently elevated on the College Council that steers the trajectory of the college.
There is a desperate need for Centre College to realize that student voice in college policy making should not solely derive from the students who serve on SGA. By this precedent, Centre College is losing the insight of the first generation college student who had to prioritize navigating a foreign environment over running an SGA campaign. Centre College is losing the insight of the chemistry major who has rehearsal every Thursday evening for the fall play. Centre College is losing the voices that do not outrightly seek to be heard. These voices must actively be sought out in order to find the true pulse of the institution.
If nothing else, the confirmation of Betsy DeVos allows us to scrutinize the current mechanisms that create our education policies. If you rely on financial aid to attend Centre, more than 90% of students on this campus need your voice. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, 273 women and 85 men need your voice . If you are one of the 1,367 students on Centre’s campus, we need your voice just as much as any student serving on SGA.