Push is on for student trustee position

By Emily Howland

In an effort to increase student voice in the college decision-making process, a group of students will propose adding one of its own to the Board of Trustees when the governing body convenes on campus March 3.Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) President Ben Johnson ƒ?TM06, one of four student representatives on the Campus Life Committee, said that he will raise the idea when his committee assembles for its periodic meeting. The Campus Life Committee is one of seven committees the Board of Trustees oversees.

ƒ?oeIƒ?TMm not sure how seriously the board has considered [a student trustee] in the past and Iƒ?TMm not sure how open they are,ƒ?? Johnson said.

In proposing the idea to trustees, Johnson would be fulfilling one of the major campaign promises he made while running for his student government post last spring. It would also be the first effort of its kind in recent memory. According to Johnson, though the idea is popular among students, discussions of the idea have occurred only in passing.

If the trustees accept the proposal, the presence of a student trustee on the Board would set Macalester apart from most American colleges and universities. Only a few colleges currently have student trustees, including Union College, the University of North Carolina and the University of Notre Dame. St. Paulƒ?TMs Hamline University requested last spring that a student committee look into the possibility of representation on its Board of Trustees.

The student position on the board, which would not be a student government position or require MCSG experience, would help students feel invested in the college and its future, as well as help trustees better understand the student perspective, Johnson said.

The Board of Trustees governs the college and is responsible for appointing and evaluating the president, managing the endowment, and approving large-scale plans and academic programs. Though it has influence, the Board is not involved with daily operations of the college.

When contacted by The Mac Weekly, trustees did not indicate whether they support the initiative, but said that they valued student input.

ƒ?oeStudent input to trustees has had a big impact. It is taken very seriously and is very important to people,ƒ?? said Trustee Lois Quam ƒ?TM83, an executive at UnitedHealth Group.

Vice President of Student Affairs Laurie Hamre, a liaison to the Campus Life Committee, agreed.

ƒ?oeThe trustees always are extremely interested in hearing from the student representatives,ƒ?? she said.

Peter Fenn ƒ?TM70, who chairs the Campus Life Committee, will hear the proposal next Friday. He said the committee will examine the information and discuss the issue.

ƒ?oeWeƒ?TMre going to look at the proposal and weƒ?TMve got information on other schools that have [had a student trustee],ƒ?? Fenn said. ƒ?oeThere are relatively few of them. Some of them did it an awfully long time ago, in the ƒ?TM60s and ƒ?TM70s.ƒ??

According to Fenn, students still have input on Board matters even without a student trustee.

ƒ?oeItƒ?TMs always good to have student voting members on the committee, so that they have input into everything that goes on,ƒ?? Fenn said, referring to the 12 students that currently sit on five of the seven trustee committees. They do not have access to executive meetings or a vote on the full board.

Many students agree that the Board could use a student trustee.

ƒ?oeHuge decisions have been made that affect a lot of students, like need-blind admissions, and we didnƒ?TMt hear about them until it was basically decided,ƒ?? said Will Clarke ƒ?TM07, also a student representative on the Campus Life Committee.

Clarke said the student board member would be important for improving what he sees as poor communication between administration and students.

ƒ?oeThe things students and the administration talk about are just not brought up to each other,ƒ?? Clarke said.

Others, however, question how effective a student member on the Board would be.

ƒ?oeI donƒ?TMt think the position will do much, it is just a symbol of student involvement,ƒ?? LB member Caroline Ettinger ƒ?TM09 said.

Should trustees warm up to the idea, Johnson said, students and trustees would likely negotiate the process for the election of a student member. The students who will propose the idea said they have no process in mind at this point.

Senior news editor Michael Barnes contributed to this report.