Zach Eichten – [email protected]
It has recently come to the attention of the St. John’s and St. Ben’s Senates that the Boards of Trustees have been deliberating removing both the student and faculty voice from the Board of Trustees. The Student Trustee, an elected position to the Board of Trustees represents the students of St. John’s and St. Ben’s on their respective boards. This position is one of the most valuable and direct connections the students have to voice their concerns to both the administrators and trustees.
By removing the student Trustee, the board is silencing the student voice. Students are the primary stakeholders in the success of the institution and by removing these perspectives the board sends a message they do not care about student concerns. The second biggest group of stakeholders are the faculty. By removing the faculty representative the opinions of our instructors about the best way to teach our students is silenced.
In addition to the silencing of our students and faculty, the lack of transparency by the board is unacceptable. The boards hired an outside consultant early last summer to review the board structure. The student representatives were told the week before spring break began about this possible change to the structure of the board. This has given both the students and faculty limited time to advocate for our rights to be heard.
By hiding this from these representatives, it is clear that these groups integral to the success of the school are intended to be ignored. Losing a spot on the board is more than just losing the right to vote on important aspects of student life, it also removes speaking rights in these meetings. Without the right to speak, the students would have no way of advocating for the changes that need to happen at this school.
The reasoning for the move was a “conflict of interest” that students and faculty might have because they are impacted by the decisions made by the board. In addition, the consultant said we were one of the few schools with a student and faculty trustee. In response to the conflict of interest, I raise the question: how many of our board members have children or grandchildren who go to this school that are impacted by the decisions they make? In response to us being one of the few schools who have these positions, that should make us proud. We are one of the best in the country at listening to our students and removing this would be a mistake.
The lack of response from the trustees is also disturbing. I have personally emailed members of the academic affairs board I have sat on and have heard back from not one of them. As trustees it is their role to be responsive to student concerns, and by disregarding attempts at communication it is clear they are out of touch with the culture on campus. The last thing to do would be to remove the final vestiges of being connected to the students they serve.
We are literally losing our seat at the table. It is up to all of our elected students, both CSB and SJU senate, to voice their dissatisfaction with this move by the trustees. Without representation our student voice would be a thing of the past.
This is the opinion of Zach Eichten, SJU junior