Column: Student voice needed

I am writing to highlight an issue that is not only neglected but also crucial to all students and the basic ideals of student rights and representation. Student representation on the University Board of Trustees is an absolute imperative if we, as students, are to have any reasonable say in the way the University is run, and its policies made. The Board of Trustees – which meets three times a year behind closed doors – has the final say in all University policies and procedures and is the ultimate governing body of GW.

Since the ultimate goal of any university or institution of higher learning is the educational enrichment of its students, and it is students who are affected most by the educational, social, legal and disciplinary policies enacted by the Board of Trustees, shouldn’t the students have some say in what those policies are?

Currently there are no voting student members of the Board of Trustees. In fact, there are no non-voting student members. The closest thing students have is a non-voting delegate to each of the various committees of the Board of Trustees. Only in these committees may the delegates – the Student Association President and his appropriate designees – express their opinions on matters before the committee. But these committees do not have the final say on any matter, and given that there is not even an adjunct non-voting student seat on the full Board of Trustees to express the student position to the entire board, this constitutes a gross lack of student representation.

Besides the basic philosophical reasoning that demands student representation on the Board of Trustees, there are several University Code requirements. Under the University Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, students are explicitly given the right to be involved in the governance of the university. Article I, Section C, which is entitled “Student Rights in the Governing of the University” states that “the student body shall have clearly defined means, including membership on appropriate committees and administrative bodies, to participate in the formulation and application of the institutional policy.” Additionally, Article V, Section A of the same document recognizes the necessity of student input on all levels, the express rights of students as campus citizens and the essential need for student representation.

Last week, the Student Association took a critical first step toward achieving representation on the Board of Trustees by recognizing the cruciality of the issue and adopting a resolution demanding a voting student trustee be created. This resolution will be forwarded to various GW officials, most notably the current members of the Board of Trustees, and shall serve as notice that the student body both deserves and demands full representation and recognition by the University and its supreme governing body.

From here it is the clear and solemn duty of all students and student leaders, both within and outside the Student Association, to work with faculty, staff and administrators to ensure that the mandate of the Board of Trustees does not continue to be undermined by the lack of any representational parity. Only by clearly, cogently and loudly stating our demands may they truly be heard and may students finally be represented.

-The writer, a sophomore, is a Student Association senator.

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