Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Susan Talburt, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Deron Boyles, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Richard Lakes, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Irene Prue, Ph.D.


This qualitative study investigated the roles students play in institutional decision-making, and in particular how the students perceive both what their roles should be and what their roles actually are. Five Student Government Association (SGA) presidents, serving sequential one-year terms from 1999 to 2004 at one campus of a multi-campus two-year public college located in a large metropolitan area in the southeast, were interviewed. The qualitative research methodology employed thematic analysis to describe the students' perceptions in the context of both the letter and spirit of policy implementation regarding institutional decision-making. Through analysis of interviews, institutional documents, and documents at the statewide system level, this investigation explored a wide array of variables that affect the roles students play in institutional decision-making. Framed through a critical lens, this study argues that student involvement in institutional decision-making is necessary to engage students as active citizens capable of civil discourse that results in informed action for the benefit of the community in which the citizens are engaged, perpetuating a democratic society. However, this is not what the students perceived from their experiences in institutional decision-making. Based on the data, this study concludes that students play an advisory role at best, but more frequently are co-opted into serving the desired ends of the administration in a hegemonic fashion. This study offers both suggestions for praxis, and raises questions for further research, in an attempt to reconcile the tensions between the corporatization of higher education and the cultivation of democracy.