There has long been a push to increase student representation on the Board of Trustees, the governing board of the university. Currently, one undergraduate and one graduate student serve on the 21-member board. Back in 2015, a bill that would have added more student voting members was passed nearly unanimously in the Connecticut General Assembly, only to be vetoed by Governor Dan Malloy.
Given the important decisions made by the board and the size of the UConn student population – 32,027 combined undergraduate and graduate students – it is more than fair to request a stronger student presence. According to a Daily Campus report, an email President Susan Herbst’s Chief of Staff, Michael Kirk, reiterated that UConn does not support adding any more student trustees. Kirk cited that the current members have ample experience, and that the board is already very large in number. Those in favor of adding an additional student trustee do not question the current board members’ capabilities; rather, on principle, they believe students deserve more of a say in the governing of their university and education and that they offer a different perspective.
There are more ways to increase a student perspective in the board beyond adding trustees, however. Truthfully, most of the board’s decisions are unanimous, and although they would have more power, an additional student trustee would not change the vote’s outcome. This past week, leaders in the Undergraduate Student Government and UConn administrators came to an agreement: USG would stop actively campaigning for additional student trustees, for increased student representation in some of the board’s committees. Two undergraduate students will now become voting members on the board’s Student Life committee, and the undergraduate trustee will get voting rights as a member of the Financial Affairs committee.
Former undergraduate trustee Michael Daniels commented on the decision, saying, “I am concerned that the proposal may have been intended to make it appear the students have been given a greater role in governing the university without actually giving them a more meaningful role.”
However, this is certainly a step in the right direction, especially given the historic opposition to adding an additional student trustee.