Hanna Pioske – [email protected]
This May after the spring semester has ended and students have left campus, the CSB and SJU Boards of Trustees will each vote on whether or not to remove the student and faculty representatives from their boards.
Such a move would strip the voting rights of both the student and faculty representatives on the executive board. However, the student and faculty representatives would continue to be able to serve as voting members on the academic affairs, building and grounds, student development and marketing and enrollment committees.
St. Ben’s Senate President Elizabeth Erickson, St. John’s Senate President Ramond Mitchell, St. Ben’s Student Trustee Isabel Tompkins and St John’s Student Trustee Zachary McFarland were informed of the boards’ intention to vote on this issue on Friday, March 3, shortly before spring break.
The CSB and SJU Boards of Trustees came to this decision after requesting a review of the CSB and SJU bylaws by Tom Ingram, president emeritus of the association of governing boards of universities and colleges.
Ingram writes in his report that representing individual constituent interests–such as students and faculty–is inconsistent with good governance. It could, for example, be a conflict of interest for a student representative to vote on a tuition increase, or measure the performance of Presidents Michael Hemesath or Mary Dana Hinton.
“All trustees have a responsibility to exercise their best judgment for the institution as a whole, rather than any part of it,” Ingram said. “It is therefore a best practice that faculty, students and classifi ed employees not serve as voting trustees.”
Ingram concludes that student and faculty voices are best heard through committees, where the boards make many of their decisions. Not everyone agrees that this is the best move for students and faculty. McFarland believes that this step would greatly decrease student input into the decisions made by the administration of the two schools.
“I just don’t see how taking away the only voice of your constituents is in any way good for governance,” McFarland said. “You can’t have an alum who graduated in the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s tell you what’s happening on campus right now.”
It’s important to note that the CSB and SJU Board of Trustees operate differently, and this vote will impact them in different ways.
“Although the cabinet members technically do not have voting rights during executive sessions, they do still sit in on Board of Trustee meetings and are allowed to provide input and step in when necessary,” Tompkins said via e-mail.
On the other hand, removing the St. John’s Student Trustee could have drastic effects.
“Not only will we not have a direct voice while they’re voting on the motions, but we won’t even have speaking rights. We will essentially be able to raise our hand and be called on,” said McFarland.
“We value the presence of faculty, students and staff and are committed to having faculty and student representatives on a number of board committees,” said Marilou Eldred, the chair of the SJU Board of Trustees, and Terry Dolan, the chair of the SJU Board of Trustees, via email. “This new model will continue the tradition of faculty and student participation, while ensuring that the Boards are carrying out their duty as guardians of these institutions.”