It was quite disappointing to read in the Nov. 11 issue (“Board will not admit students,” p.1) that the Board of Trustees has seen fit to try to preemptively nullify any and all discussion of student representation on that body. Even if their reasons have some validity, it sounds as though they have not completely considered other arguments.
Though Student Association Senator Morgan Corr’s resolution for referendum as currently written does not provide for details that can be worked out later, there should be one graduate and one undergraduate representative, each with voting rights on the Board. Currently, even the SA President has only limited access to these meetings – he or she cannot vote and cannot attend executive sessions.
The Board’s reasoning as reported by The Hatchet is interesting to say the least. Chairman Manatt is paraphrased saying student representatives would be biased and serve a specific constituency, and in a way he is right; student representatives would be biased in favor of students. One or two student votes will hardly cause revolutionary change and it would be healthy for the Board to be forced to at least pay attention to students. To say that a student would have a “conflict of interest” serving on the Board is like saying that every member of Congress has a conflict of interest merely by virtue of being a citizen of the United States. There are certainly issues that will arise that are beyond the expertise of many students, but again, if the student representatives are way out of line, the other members will simply outvote them. Still, however, the student representatives will be able to ask questions and discuss the issues on equal footing. Plus, it is likely the Board would be surprised to discover what students can handle.
The constitutional structure of the Board of Trustees provides for no accountability. It is completely self-perpetuating and neither students nor tuition-paying parents are able to elect its membership. Maybe the faculty should be represented as well, seeing as though they too are part of the University community. As it stands now, however, alumni are the only connection to the wider University community, and even that can be tenuous at best. They are not affected by University policies. The Board sets rates for tuition and fees, negotiates contracts, sets policies, determines funding for academic programs and makes a wide range of decisions directly affecting students. This is hardly fair without student input, as anyone even slightly familiar with the American Revolution knows what the other word for “taxation without representation” is.
I urge the Student Association to move forward with this proposed referendum and I hope my fellow students will vote in its favor. If support for it is overwhelming, as I hope and believe it will be, the Board will need to at least take notice. We must push forward to make people realize that this isn’t high school and we are adults. Currently the SA has about as much authority as a pre-Glorious Revolution parliament, and there is definitely room for improvement there. President Woodard must continue to pressure the Board to make the necessary amendments to the bylaws. It is concerning that the bylaws have not been amended for a quarter-century – further exemplifying the Board is too entrenched.
The University is designed to educate students. Thousands of students paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per year make this University what it is. Allowing for a couple of their own to debate and vote as members of the Board of Trustees is the least they can do, both symbolically and ethically.
-The writer, a graduate student, is a former Student Association senator.