Resolution to add SU president to board of trustees passes Senate
A resolution calling on the Washington University board of trustees to add the Student Union president to the board passed Student Union Senate unanimously on March 17.
While two appointed undergraduates sit on the board already, the idea to add the SU president stemmed from a desire to have an elected student on the board of trustees.
Even with the resolution, though, Chancellor Mark Wrighton is skeptical that the board of trustees will make the change.
“The prospects for that are small,” Wrighton said. “The board is what I call a self-replicating board. There’s a nominating and governance committee of the board and they identify candidates, review them and select and then nominate to the full board for approval [of] who’s going to be on the board…the students are selected by a process defined by the board.”
Sophomore Mike Holtz, the resolution’s sponsor and the recently elected SU vice president of administration, was still excited about the potential for an elected representative to sit on the board.
“It’s great to have an appointed member and to have people who have student positions, but generally to have someone who’s elected and actually definitely carries the weight of the student body there I think really makes a difference,” Holtz said.
In addition to asking for the addition of a member to the board, the resolution calls on the SU president and the two undergraduate representatives to present their progress to Senate following each board of trustees meeting during the academic year.
Holtz, along with fellow senators Nikolas Brozovich, a junior, and Kabir Samtani, a sophomore, met with different administrators and SU executive branch members and decided to put together a poll to add on to the 2015 spring SU elections to measure student opinion on the topic.
Ultimately, 83.6 percent of voters—over 1,500 students—voted in favor of having the SU president sit on the board of trustees. The vote, however, does not ensure the initiative will actually happen—as that decision is left to the board of trustees.
The resolution also cited other universities, such as Duke University, Cornell University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that have elected student members with voting rights on their boards of trustees.
The SU president already sits on the Undergraduate Experience Committee of the board of trustees, the University Management Team and the Undergraduate Council, which would make him or her the most logical choice to sit on the board, Holtz said.
“It’s not a huge, huge leap from what we already have but something that could make a difference,” he added.
The resolution will now be signed by the current SU president, senior Emma Tyler, and the senators who worked on it, and it then will be sent to University Council, which consists of campus administrators and anyone else who might be particularly relevant to this specific initiative, Tyler said.
As with any resolution, Tyler will read the resolution to the Undergraduate Experience Committee and it will be up to the board to determine whether it would like to take the issue up as a discussion point.
“I don’t really know where they stand on the issue, but…a resolution is the voice of the students and the goal is by passing it via a resolution, they would understand that this is something students want, but it really is their call,” she said.
Holtz added that he hoped the student support for the resolution would help convince the board to take up the resolution.
“We can’t say for certain whether it’ll be implemented, but Wash. U.’s administration is generally responsive to student concerns, and we hope that they’ll be responsive to this, too,” he said.
Time commitment was one of the concerns from some administrators, given that the SU president already sits on three University-wide committees.
“We talked a lot about it and weighed our options and felt they already sit on that Undergraduate Experience Committee, so it’s not that unrealistic to give them this added responsibility,” Tyler said.
Although a new SU executive board will be assuming office later this month, Holtz, along with the president-elect, junior Jordan Finkelstein, will continue to push this issue.
“Just because Emma [Tyler]’s term is ending, I think we’re still going to continue to push for this and not let this one slip through the cracks,” Finkelstein said.