WCU’s new University Advisory Council gives all campus groups a voice

CULLOWHEE — With the formation this fall of a new University Advisory Council composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, staff and administration, Western Carolina University is at the leading edge nationally in university governance.

That’s the word from a national research and higher education consultant who has worked with Western in establishing its “four-cameral” model of governance, which is the culmination of a three-year effort to develop a new model of university governance at Western.

“The inclusion of all voices, from all four major stakeholder groups in the life of the university, within a single council is virtually unique in the United States,” said Ed Penson, president of the Penson-Stawbridge consulting group.

The University Advisory Council brings together members from all four campus groups — students, staff, faculty and administrators — and provides each group with an equal voice in making policy recommendations that affect the campus as a whole, or that substantially affect two or more groups. The council is designed to coordinate university-wide initiatives, facilitate discussion of campus-wide issues and foster effective campus leadership.

“This council truly represents good governance where all elements of the university are represented and where everyone’s voice will be heard,” said Bill Haggard, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and chair of the council. “The development and implementation of this council has been a grassroots effort with upper-administration support. It truly puts Western on the leading edge of governance trends.”

Western student Dave Whitaker, secretary of the council, said he is excited to be a part of the process. “From a student perspective, including student voices in the council shows that our opinions matter. It’s important to get feedback from the students, and from all campus groups, to get something accomplished,” Whitaker said.