Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

When I first got to the University of Maryland, I thought the Big Ten conference only dealt with athletics. I’ve never been a sportsfan, so I largely ignored the title, content to hide from game-day crowds in McKeldin Library.

But as it turns out, the Big Ten label goes beyond just sports. The Big Ten Academic Alliance is a consortium of 14 Big Ten schools that provides opportunities for collaboration including access to a shared library system and joint research initiatives. While the alliance is a good start, there’s an opportunity for these universities to forge a bond stronger than this. The Big Ten must collaborate more on university policy decisions to ensure students are getting the highest quality experience.

The student experience at Big Ten schools is certainly not standardized. Take for instance, Maryland Images, this university’s campus tour guide organization, whose members have been fighting to get paid for their work, even though every other Big Ten university pays their campus tour guides. Greater collaboration in university policy development would certainly prevent this kind of clear discrepancy, and ensure standardized student employee rights across all alliance members.

As a part of this improved alliance, the Big Ten schools should create an institutional policy review board made up of members at each university. This board would ensure that every university’s policy aligns with Big Ten standards.

Having a standardized policy review process would prevent individual institutions from going rogue in implementing regressive and even dangerous policies that hurt students.

For example, Michigan State, another Big Ten Academic Alliance member, had an outdated policy that did not enforce active monitoring of social media tips. This led to police missing tips during the tragic February 2023 campus shooting. When students’ lives are on the line, universities in the Big Ten Academic Alliance must hold each other accountable for lackluster institutional policy.

It could also help solve this university’s numerous problems with policy transparency. University of Maryland police are riddled with vague practices. And university administration recently implemented overbearing and discriminatory chalking policies that have led to rising student frustrations. The review board could enforce guidelines that embrace clear and effective policy communication among all Big Ten schools.

The alliance should also hold open, highly publicized annual conferences where representatives from each university develop conference-wide agendas and guidelines that set a precedent for the future.

As a Big Ten student, it’s hard to always keep up with every university policy until its negative effects become readily apparent. A conference would make students and faculty more aware of institutional policy goals and give students better footing to fight against policy initiatives that need to be changed.

While some may be concerned that all this added bureaucracy could make it harder for universities to explore new, innovative policy initiatives, that doesn’t have to be the case.

As long as our university’s leaders are willing to be receptive toward students’ wishes, then the alliance could actually make it easier for universities to enact new policies. With more shared resources and a wider set of institutional leaders to draw upon for perspectives, innovative initiatives could be implemented more effectively than if a university were to try on their own.

In fact, universities are already beginning to expand their collaborative efforts. The Association of American Universities brings together 71 leading research universities to shape educational and research policies.

It’s great that colleges are willing to work together, but it’s time they step up to address all aspects of university policy. A smaller alliance of universities would also allow for a more streamlined focus on campus life.

The potential of the Big Ten Academic Alliance doesn’t have to stop there. These universities could also course share, allowing students at every Big Ten school to have the same choices in what they pursue through online classes. Majors such as animation at Purdue University or pharmaceutical sciences at Ohio State could become available to those at this university. And we could share some of our own unique degree programs such as fire protection engineering or Persian studies with other schools.

The Big Ten Academic Alliance is impressive, but the universities involved have a responsibility to do better. Collaboration and open communication between all members of the alliance could strengthen constituent universities’ policies and relationships between leaders at Big Ten schools. As students, we have a right to the best education and experience our school is able to provide — an institutional review board is key.

Isabella Cusack is a sophomore English and Public Policy major. She can be reached at