A bill currently making its way through Connecticut’s State Legislature aims to add an additional two students to the UConn Board of Trustees. At the moment, there are two student representatives on the board, one graduate and one undergraduate, and a total of 21 total board members. The bill would allow an additional one undergraduate and one graduate student, with the former elected by students and the latter appointed by the governor. These students would not replace any members so the total board members would increase to 23.
While there is strong support for this initiative, especially from students, the university chose to submit testimony in opposition to the bill, citing the need for experienced leadership, which they apparently feel is the key reason that more than two student representatives are not needed. The university also believes that this could open the door for unnecessary additional trustees in the future and lead to a bloated board that may not be able to effectively govern.
Concerns over experience are legitimate. In most things, an abundance of experience is a useful trait. However, that cannot be a sufficient reason to keep students off the board in and of itself, because there are many other things that make an effective board member. The value of a student’s perspective on how a particular board action could affect or be construed by the student body at large cannot be overstated. It is easy, perhaps too easy, for a 21-member board to dismiss the concerns of two students. Increasing the representation and voting power of students helps ensure that their comments and concerns are treated with the seriousness they deserve.
Furthermore, there are grounds for the student body to want the Board of Trustees under student supervision. There have been cases where fees have been raised at inopportune times for students to protest/resist, such as at the end of the semester, and the board has been under fire for conducting business in closed door meetings that should have been open to the public. This is not to say that the board is some kind of enemy of the students, but additional representation would help make sure that the undergraduates and graduates of UConn are better informed of the board’s actions.
Seeing as how those most directly impacted by the Board of Trustees are the students of UConn, they deserve a greater say in its proceedings. There is little reason to think that these additional students will hamper the effectiveness of the board, as students in the past have been capable of conducting themselves even if lacking experience. To suggest that adding two slots for students will lead to an overpopulated board long-term is a slippery slope fallacy and not too relevant to the matter at hand. There are many benefits to additional student board members, and the state legislature should consider this when determining their decision.