They raise GW’s tuition. They approve the groundbreaking of new facilities. They select the University president. The Board of Trustees are among the most powerful – and most elusive – people on campus.
The 40 men and women of the Board of Trustees direct a wide range of University policy. From GW’s mission statement to tuition and fees, the Board has wide-ranging impact, said Mike Freedman, director of public affairs.
“If they wanted to fire the president, they could,” said Cleo Graves, assistant to the Board of Trustees.
The Board recently demonstrated its power by increasing tuition in different amounts for new and returning students and by approving a master’s degree program in media and public affairs.
“What the students want from the Board is what they want from their University,” said John Zeglis, chairman of the Board of Trustees and president of AT&T.
He said students want affordable tuition, reasonable class sizes and access to popular classes. Most recently, students have expressed their desire for technology improvements, Zeglis said.
Like Zeglis, most Board members work outside GW as lawyers, brokers, CEOs of major corporations and in other powerful positions.
Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Wizards and Capitals, and former Virginia senatorial candidate Mark Warner are other notable names on the Board.
To become a trustee, a person is nominated either by alumni trustees, who select former GW students, or by charter trustees, who look for people outside the GW community, Graves said.
“As chairman, my role is to make sure the Board gets its work done,” Zeglis said. “As a trustee, my job is to take the opportunity to ask the right questions, to oversee the University.”
According to Student Association President Kuyomars “Q” Golparvar, the Board needs to be aware of student issues.
Student input was considered when determining the tuition increase, technology advancements and communication improvements, Golparvar said. He said those three issues were successfully addressed by students and the Board.
“Just like a business, we ask, `Who are our customers?’ ” Zeglis said. “We care about students. They’re our business.”
Every year, the SA president nominates students for positions on the alumni relations, student affairs, external affairs and academics committees of the Board. After prodding from the SA, a student representative will sit on the technology committee of the Board starting next year, Golparvar said.
“The Board can get input from students, and they can usually get things done much faster than if the students tried to get things done all by themselves,” Golparvar said.
Golparvar said events like the town hall meeting with two Board members earlier this month made the Board more visible. He said students have taken a more active role in approaching Board members.
“There were more student-oriented questions asked by Board members this year than ever before,” he said.
SA members are in the process of inviting Board members to spend a day visiting GW classes. Golparvar said he feels this will give members a necessary firsthand glimpse of student life, which might influence their future decisions.