As undergraduate liaison to the board of trustees, I would like to weigh in on some of the topics explored by the recent Maroon editorial (2/23/10: “Proxy error”). I believe the most important issue surrounding student representation at Board of Trustees meetings of the is how to work to increase influence with trustee members and university administrators. Increasing student influence is a necessary first step to earn a voting position for the student liaisons, to increase student access to Board committees, and to have a greater role in setting the meeting agenda.
I have followed in the path of my student liaison predecessors in advocating for an increased role at Board meetings. Earning additional access and student influence at Board of Trustee meetings will take time and a prudent strategy. In my liaison role, I have examined and discussed the role of students at our peer institutions’ trustee meetings, have begun developing deeper relationships with various trustee members, and have presented possible opportunities to involve student liaisons with other trustee committees, particularly when relevant issues are being discussed.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet on multiple occasions with Vice President Kimberly Goff-Crews and Associate Dean of Students Karen Warren Coleman to draft the trustee meeting agenda. In trustee committee sessions there are opportunities to interject and raise new issues or shift the conversation to express student views. Though student liaisons don’t sit on the other 11 committees, issues relevant to students are relayed to the Student and Campus Life Committee. As an example, at the fall trustee meeting we discussed security, health care, undergraduate recruiting, and the university budget. These are issues that fall under the purview of other committees but are brought to Student and Campus Life in order to solicit the feedback of the student liaisons. Though student liaisons don’t hold a voting position, they still wield influence through their contributions at committee meetings and in agenda planning.
The student liaisons may have limited formal roles but the most important part of the position is outside the job description. The liaisons are members of the SG executive cabinet where university administrators debrief us and we relay student feedback. We additionally have the opportunity to manage projects, connect students to resources, and field constituent questions.
We have much to lose and little to gain from clashing with trustee members and administrators over the creation of a voting position for students. Such a fight will invariably become a distraction from our central task of improving student life on campus. It will take time, but we must earn the influence we hope to wield at trustee meetings.
SG Undergrad Liaison to the Board of Trustees