Letter to the Editor: UConn students should look at S.B. 357

To the Editor,

Since I started going to Manchester Community College in January of 2014, I’ve seen that student interests are not properly represented on an executive level of higher education in Connecticut. The Connecticut Board of Regents’ Student Advisory Council is a decent step in the right direction, but the problem there is that the group itself only elects two representatives to the Board, both of whom are the chair and vice-chair of the council. Here at UConn, our Board of Trustees has two students that sit on it, one undergraduate and one graduate. The problem here is that it’s just two students, and there’s no real structure behind those students to support them very much.

There is a solution, however. It’s multi-faceted, the first step is a minor one, and on paper, it doesn’t directly involve UConn. But it’s a step in the right direction and will send a message to the powers-that-be in the executive bodies of UConn and the State College and University System, as well as the Governor’s office (who appoints most of these people to their boards). Senate Bill 357, An Act Concerning Additional Student Membership on the Board of Regents for Higher Education, would change representation on the Board of Regents. The simple text of the bill calls for the addition of two student members to the Board of Regents through the Student Advisory Council. There is a broader, grander plan, however, which would radically alter how representation on the Board of Regents is apportioned. The plan, named for its citizen sponsor, John Board of Western Connecticut State University, calls for the addition of two student members (one who would be appointed by the State Legislature, one by the Governor, and keeping the current two on by recommendation of their peers on the SAC), one voting faculty member (currently the chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee is a member ex-officio), and one very important change. The Governor would only be allowed to appoint six regents and the Legislature would also be allowed to appoint six, as opposed to the current nine for the Governor and four for the Legislature.

You might be wondering to yourself, “what the hell does this have to do with UConn?” I’ll explain why briefly. There is a similar bill pending in the Legislature that has been previously introduced, and which also passed through the Legislature with only one dissenting vote in a previous year. When the bill reached Governor Malloy’s desk that year, he vetoed it because it threatens his influence on the Board of Trustees. It has not advanced through the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee in years since then. Currently it sits in committee as H.B. 7001, An Act Concerning Student Membership on the Board of Trustees for the University of Connecticut. Unfortunately, the bill will not pass this year. If UConn students support the Regent bill, it will have the dynamic impact that it needs to at the very least pass through committee and reach the House floor. If the Regent bill passes, it will send a clear message that another (much larger) system of over 100,000 students wants more say in executive-level decision making, and with the power of the combined student voice, they will say that they want the same for UConn.

I implore the students at the University of Connecticut to look at S.B. 357, write their state representatives as well as Senator Mae Flexer and Representative Gregg Haddad, whom represent Storrs, and tell them all to vote yes on the Regent bill.

Respectfully Submitted,
Michael L.P. LaPorte

NOTE: This letter has been written independently and entirely of my own accord. I no longer claim any affiliation with the Undergraduate Student Government. Any questions regarding my affiliation with the bill can be directed to:

Email: michael.l.laporte@uconn.edu
Instagram/Twitter: @MikeFromUConn

If anyone has any questions about the Regent bill itself, they can direct them to Mr. John Board. His contact details are as follows:

Email: jib170@gmail.com
Twitter: @jib170
Facebook: @JohnBoardCT