A view from the inside

On Friday I had the privilege of attending a Board of Trustees meeting for the second time. These meetings are interesting to attend because they undoubtedly generate newsworthy information, but they are certinaly not the most exciting thing on campus.

At Friday’s winter meeting the 35-member body voted to raise tuition, they announced complete admissions statistics from last year and announced that the city of D.C. approved GW’s plan to purchase land on the School Without Walls site. Read about all these stories in Monday’s edition of The Hatchet.

I was one of only three students out of the more than 20,000 that was allowed into the meeting. While some students may have a preconceived notion that board meetings are high drama, secretive shady business, in actuality the board meetings are relatively lackluster.

They begin early on Friday mornings with an eclectic food and beverage arrangement on the 7th floor of 1957 E St. As University administrators and board members chow on their bagels and sip their coffee, the meeting proceeds with each of the five committee chairs giving a report summarizing main points from the committee meetings, which traditionally take place the day before the full board’s meeting.

As the committee chairs summarize five hour meetings into a ten minute synopsis, chairman of the Board of Trustees Charles Manatt and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg preside over the body at the head of the room. Other than light joking humor at some points between members of the board, the majority of the board meeting is one person giving a report and the rest of the room attempting to remain awake.

At the conclusion of the five committee reports the board takes a ten minute recess and then goes into executive session. This is the time when much of the important financial discussions and voting takes place and when no students are allowed in the meeting.

On Friday the executive session lasted for close to two hours. As board members exit the meeting, most are willing to speak with the press if approached and fairly frank about what was discussed in executive session.

Earlier this year the SA put pressure on the University to allow a student representative on the board. Supporters of the move said student representation would increase the board’s transparency and give them a greater connection to the student body. Board members and top University administrators overwhelmingly argue that students are already represented on the board by having student representatives in the committees. During many of the committee reports the chairs discuss their insightful interactions with the students.

Overall whatever students may think of board meetings, they are generally interesting to attend because most of the University’s biggest decisions are made by this oversight body. Contrary to some people’s belief, however, board meetings do not provide entertainment most students would find amazingly thrilling.

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