Student Association President Lamar Thorpe said Tuesday that he will not be lobbying the University for student representation on the Board of Trustees.
For two years a group of SA leaders have been petitioning for student representation on the Board of Trustees, the University’s highest governing body that makes decisions about tuition and enrollment and is in the process of choosing the next president of the University. Thorpe said the SA must prove to be a serious group before it can receive the respect of the board and lobby for representation on it.
“There is a level of maturity that must be displayed if we are going to allow a student on the board,” Thorpe said at the discussion with SA members in the Marvin Center. Some senators had requested the meeting to talk about student representation on the board.
“The last few years, our SA has been plagued with petty political in-fighting, accomplishing virtually nothing,” he said. “However, we do have an opportunity upon us to change people’s perception about the SA.”
Junior Chris Rotella (CCAS-U) said he is disappointed Thorpe will not be rigorously petitioning the University for student representation on the body.
“Students are the reason why GW exists as a University, and I think there should be a greater focus put on students,” he said. “Having a student Trustee is a step in the right direction.”
Rotella said Thorpe is undermining the effort put forth by some SA leaders to gain greater representation in GW’s highest decision-making body.
“How can we as a student body expect the administration to take us seriously when our top elected representative is constantly discounting our ability and motivation?” Rotella wrote in an e-mail this week.
Last year’s SA President Audai Shakour, who graduated, maintained a stance of not lobbying vigorously for a student on the board, but last April nearly 70 percent of students voted in support of him appointing a student to the body. About 10 percent of the student body voted in the election.
Shakour appointed graduate student Omar Woodard to the post, but the board did not change its rules about membership.
“The Trustees are leaders and they are selected to lead,” said Woodard, a former SA president and current senator (CCAS-G). “If they want to know what students think, they got the SA president. If anything, the SA president should be on the board.”
The board permits a student representative to some of its committees including academic affairs and student life. The body also allows the SA president to address the board in each of its quarterly meetings. Neither the SA president nor the student representatives have voting power on the committees.
Thorpe is also sitting on the presidential Search Committee, made up mostly of board members.
SA members present talked about sitting down with administrators for an open discussion before taking any action.
“Let’s start with programs that bring the two (factions) together,” Woodard said. “Let’s have a conversation about what is going on here.”
The Hatchet reported in November 2005 that several universities including Cornell University, Howard University, St. Mary’s College in Maryland and the University of Massachusetts have students on their Boards of Trustees – all of which reported that they welcomed and supported a student’s presence on their boards.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has said on several occasions that he does not support additional student representation on the Board.
“The board is not hostile to the wisdom of students – there is just no formal role for that input in front of the whole board. It is heard in committee,” Trachtenberg said in a November 2005 interview.
This article appeared in the September 21, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.