Dangerous liaisons

Graduate Liaisons to Board of Trustees should be democratically elected and ready to serve a full term

By Maroon Editorial Board

When the Student Government (SG) Assembly appoints a new representative tonight, there will have been four graduate liaisons to the Board of Trustees since February. That’s double the expected amount in a position that exists to provide stability and consistency to trustee relations. Establishing a rapport with the secretive board in just a year is tough for a single liaison; for four separate ones to do it in the same time interval is impossible.

In February, graduate liaison Joe Bonni resigned after his request for a proxy was rejected. Bonni, who had to conduct field work in Syria, hoped to have a sit-in representing him present during that quarter’s trustee meeting so he could continue his duties on his return. The position instead went to Touissant Losier, who served out the rest of the term after being appointed by Student Government. Recently, Dan Kimmerling, this year’s newly elected graduate liaison, resigned after accepting a job in San Francisco. His replacement will not be elected, but will likewise be selected by the SG Assembly out of a pool of applicants.

The liaisons serve an important purpose. They are the result of years of student government efforts to eliminate the bureaucratic barriers between students and the administration. Each liaison—one an undergraduate and the other a graduate representative—serves as the primary mediator between their student constituency and the powerful, influential, and often enigmatic Board of Trustees.

So when we have to cycle through liaisons every few months, something is very wrong. These positions, once filled, should be held by one person throughout the course of the year. That is the only sensible way to establish a productive relationship with the trustees, one that has the potential to get something done.

Both sides—students and administrators—are at fault here. To begin with, a prerequisite for the position should be the certainty that one can, in fact, serve for the entire academic year. This is common sense. Jobs and field work are necessary facts of graduate life, but if you want to be a liaison, sacrifices must be made. Don’t run if you can’t fulfill the basic office requirements, one of which includes attending quarterly meetings with the trustees.

However, idealism can only go so far. When liaisons are unable to fulfill their fundamental duties, they should be replaced. But, if a liaison does need to be permanently replaced, he or she should be elected, not selected by an ambiguous and impromptu student government process. Secretary and Vice President of the University David Fithian, who serves as the administration’s main liaison to the Board, has said that the University’s goal is to ensure consistent dialogue between liaisons and trustees. Fithian also noted that since proxies are not elected, they are not authentic representatives of their student body. This logic would seem to apply to liaison replacements as well, since when a liaison resigns, his or her replacement is chosen by the Assembly and not by general election.

The frequent resignations and appointments of graduate liaisons do nothing to ensure the student body serious, sincere representation. If they are genuine in their attempts to change campus life, liaisons must be committed to their responsibilities. Above all, the vote of the student body must be the final word in the selection of such important positions.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an Editorial Board member.