Student reps on board of trustees visit SU Senate
Both seniors aiming to be more accessible
Seniors Danielle Porter and Kady McFadden both participate in a unique extracurricular activity: They serve as the only student representatives on the board of trustees. The board of trustees, which acts as the official governing body of Washington University, has 50 or so members. The student representatives are encouraged to share their opinions during committee meetings.
On Wednesday, Porter and McFadden sat in for a question-and-answer session at the Student Union Senate meeting.
The session comes at a time when the representatives want to be more open about what they and the board do.
“I think sharing with the student body has to be a part of [the position],” Porter said.
Despite this, much of what goes on in the board meetings must remain confidential, so Porter and McFadden are only able to discuss certain points.
The role of students on the board
Between the two representatives, Porter and McFadden serve on the board’s committees for buildings and grounds, public relations, finance and undergraduate experience.
The board and the committees, except buildings and grounds, meet four times a year. The buildings and grounds committees meet once a month.
These committees are where most of the Board’s work is done, according to Porter, as the board itself focuses more on overseeing the various committees.
“Instead of a decision-making body or a doing body like Senate…[the board is] really more of an oversight body, and it’s almost the fear of the board is more powerful than the actual action of the board itself,” Porter said. “If something horrible, horrible was going to happen, the board would step in.”
Within the committees, the roles of the students are malleable.
“Specific board members have their own perception of what our role is,” Porter said. “There’s no set thing that we can or can’t do.”
Some members take a strong interest in the representatives’ perceptions of the school as a whole. Others want students’ opinions on specific voting matters.
A voice, but not a vote
Porter and McFadden are not able to vote on board decisions.
Porter and McFadden see their roles on the committee as largely symbolic and think that even if they were given votes, the gesture would be symbolic as well.
“Coming into this, I felt so privileged to even be chosen to be on the board, I didn’t look at it as I don’t have a vote,” Porter said.
Rather, the representatives serve as liaisons between the student body and the board. This is not to say, however, that the representatives ought to be approached by other students with messages for the board.
“I think our position is unique in that we can’t help every student who comes to us with an issue,” McFadden said.
How they were chosen
Porter and McFadden were nominated for their positions based on their previous involvement with University affairs. Porter is a biomedical engineering major, residential advisor, former president of the National Society of Black Engineers, former peer-led, team-learning (PLTL) leader and Cornerstone tutor. McFadden has been involved with SU, including serving as speaker of the Senate for a term, and Senior Class Council. McFadden also was instrumental in bringing the bottled water ban to campus.
Based on these credentials, Porter and McFadden were selected as representatives following a series of applications and interviews with members of the Department of Campus Life, the Office of Residential Life, Greek Life Office and several student organizations.
With additional reporting by Dan Woznica