College of the Atlantic, ME Participatory Governance

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College of the Atlantic, ME, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Ongoing

Source File:


Responsible citizenship requires collaborative attitudes and skills. This is the main rationale for COA's commitment to participatory governance and consensus building. It is exemplified here by creative ways of running meetings, resolving disputes, utilizing computer technologies, and working in partnerships with outside communities.

In keeping with the central ideas of community and responsibility, the College governs itself through a combination of participatory and representative democracy. Students serve on all College committees, from Academic Affairs to Personnel, with full voting rights. In addition, five alumni now serve on the Board of Trustees.

The All College Meeting, held every week and moderated by a student, is a regular assembly where the work of the committees is reviewed by the community as a whole. In a recent orientation for new students, a former All College Meeting moderator expressed her appreciation of COA's governance system in these words:

"At COA we have a unique opportunity to affect the directions of our lives. As students we choose our academic programs, take responsibility for our living situations, and cook our own dinners. As a human community and a community of scholars, we work to strengthen our bonds to one another intellectually, socially, and through our system of governance."

"The purpose of the governance system is twofold. The system is, first, a mechanism to encourage innovative, participatory administration of the College. Beyond that, however, it is also an integral aspect of education at COA. Through participation in the governance system, we learn about everything from the democratic process to building codes, from affirmative action law to group dynamics, from diplomacy to stress management. We learn to listen and we learn to communicate."

"In short, we have an opportunity to involve ourselves in the decisions that affect our lives while at the College, an opportunity that is rare among institutions of higher learning. Involvement in governance is one way of expressing the long-term commitment to COA that many of us here feel deeply."