Matt Rengo – [email protected]
In May, the CSB and SJU Boards of Trustees will be voting on a recommendation to remove the student and faculty representatives from their positions on the Boards. Currently, the student Trustees are elected by the students as members of their respective Senates, and charged with the duty of representing the interests of the students at the highest level. Similarly, the Faculty Senate elects representatives to advocate for the interests of the Faculty. Both of these are considered members, with seats at the table and full voting rights. These positions have been in place, in one form or another, since the late 1990s, and have worked for 20 years to represent the interests of the students and the faculty—the two largest stakeholders in the college and university.
This proposal came about at the recommendation of a consulting agency, retained to examine the structure of the Board. The consultant suggested that the Board remove the student and faculty Trustees from the table, and take away their voting rights. They will be invited to attend as an observer, which means they sit in the back quietly and don’t speak until spoken to. Thus, students will be further removed from the process and rely on the president to accurately and fairly represent their views.
One of the cited reasons for the change is that very few other colleges and universities have a student on their board. Many student governments across the country are actively fighting for representation on their boards, so this proposal is certainly a step in the wrong direction.
When I applied to CSB/ SJU, one thing I heard was a celebration of how different things were here: two campuses, a sense of community, several lakes, etc. If being different is a good thing, then why are our boards trying to make us conform to the rest of the nation?
Another issue with this process is the timing. The consultant gave the schools their report and recommendations last fall, yet the Student and Faculty Senates were just recently informed. With only a month left in school, both are scrambling to set up meetings, ask questions and make a case for their interests. In addition, the SJU Board won’t vote on this proposal until their May meeting, a week after commencement. There will be very few students on campus at this time, and make it harder for the elected student representatives (who may live far from campus, or have summer jobs) defend their voting rights. Perhaps it’s easier to vote against students when none can be seen.
In summary, the Boards of Trustees, meant to act in the best interests of the school, are poised to literally take away the students’ seat at the table. Removing the largest stakeholders, the very reason this institution exists, from the conversation is a step backwards and harmful to all of our educations and experiences.
Students should be outraged, and our elected representatives, both Bennie and Johnnie senators, should fight this decision to the end.
This is the opinion of Matt Rengo, SJU junior