A bill proposing the addition of two students to the UConn Board of Trustees would mean “more collaboration, more discussions, better ideas and stronger relationships,” undergraduate trustee Christine Savino said during the bill’s public hearing on Feb. 27.
House Bill 5195 was raised by the Committee on Higher Education and Employment Advancement on Feb. 22, 2018 to change the general statutes concerning the appointment of trustees, according to the Connecticut General Assembly website.
The bill would allow two more students to be elected to the board, in addition to the two student seats currently on the board, for a total of 23 members. One would be a full-time undergraduate, elected by the students; the other would be a full-time graduate student appointed by the Governor, according to the bill.
Savino testified on behalf of the bill, explaining the critical role students have played in the development of the university in her testimony.
“Students have proven themselves to be positive advocates for the university and effective partners with all of UConn, especially administration,” Savino said. “Last fall, over 1,000 students from all campuses stood by the university amid a budget crisis as one UConn… Our students, values and teamwork have been essential to the university’s growth, and the trustee bill will further this.”
While no one was physically present, the university submitted testimony against the bill, stating experienced leadership was needed on the board.
“(The) fact that no institution includes more than two voting student members also reflects the importance of having experienced leadership on university governing boards, which are typically composed of individuals who have significant, long-term experience,” the testimony said.
Savino agreed with the university on that point, saying matters of business and education should be left to professionals. She still argued, however, that an additional student presence would only be beneficial for the board.
“The addition of two more students has not been supported for the sake of adding two more students, but to increase healthy dialogue, improve collaboration and embrace intellectual diversity,” Savino said in an email.
Currently, the general statutes allow for 21 people to be elected to the board, two of which are full-time students. As part of a compromise with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), UConn adopted an amendment last year that would allow USG to assign two additional students to the Committee on Student Life. On July 1, 2017, the university by-law was changed with the stipulation no more than two students are on the board.
Should the bill be adopted, the university would have to change its by-laws again to conform to state law. According to the bill, the board would be expanded to 23 members in order to accommodate the additional students.
Part of UConn’s concern is the size of the proposed board and future implications should the bill be passed, according to its testimony.
“(It) invites others to seek to add even more trustees through the legislative process in the future for reasons not contemplated today,” the university’s testimony said. “A board that is too large and potentially populated by additional trustees placed there to represent specific constituencies is a recipe for poor governance.”
The bill currently awaits the Committee’s vote on March 6, and several rounds of revision, before it will be presented before the House.
Shelby Haydu is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.