By Ariela Rosa
During Fall Term 2015, the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) may propose the addition of a student representative on the Lawrence University Board of Trustees. If the proposal is approved, it would be the first time in Lawrence’s history that a student has served on the Board of Trustees.
Few private colleges appoint students to their trustee boards. According to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), only 8.5 percent of private institutions have a student trustee with voting power, and another 12.5 percent have non-voting student trustees.
Sophomore Joe Krivit introduced the idea to LUCC this spring ,hoping that the inclusion of a student representative would create greater transparency between the student body and the Board. In his research into other college governments, Krivit found that their student trustees were seen as positive contributors.
“It not only works for students, it also works for administration,” said Krivit.
LUCC President Wesley Varughese indicated that he supported the goal of strengthening a two-way relationship between LUCC and the board, but added that other ideas had been suggested as well. These ideas included asking the board to submit reports to LUCC and adding the board’s constitution to Lawrence’s website.
Varughese suggested that he was interested in finding a solution that would work best for both students and administration.
Lawrence University Assistant to the President Jake Woodford emphasized that administration was open to having the conversation that the proposal has sparked, and that it has given serious consideration to student suggestions and concerns.
Woodford added that the proposal would be one step in what has been a decades-long process of evolution for student engagement in the governance of Lawrence. “[Shared governance] is an iterative process,” he said. “The formation of LUCC was another, earlier step in that evolution.”
LUCC was formed in 1968 as a result of students’ desires for more control over decisions that affected campus life. They also wanted to create a collaborative relationship with faculty members.
LUCC’s proposal will require thoughtful deliberation by the Board of Trustees. The board will have several discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of the addition before making any decisions.
An article by Roger H. Martin for the AGB states that adding a student trustee could lead to “improved communication between students and administration.” A student trustee could also “add distinctive insight and experience to the governing board” and “gain excellent opportunities to develop their personal and professional leadership skills.”
One drawback to consider will be the potential for conflicts of interest. Woodford gave the hypothetical example of asking a student trustee to vote on changes in tuition, fees, room and board. “As a person who’s impacted positively or negatively by that kind of decision, it really is impossible to vote objectively,” he said.
The length of this process will largely depend on how soon LUCC may submit the proposal.