By Sherlock Ortiz
Any and all governing structures should be approached with suspicion. The Lewis & Clark Board of Trustees is no exception.
The Board of Trustees is a self-regulating, self-perpetuating body. Future trustees are elected by other trustees when a vacancy opens. A brief glance at the list of trustees on the school website will reveal that, thankfully, the majority are graduates of LC while others have had children graduate from LC. However, there is no requirement of any kind to be on the Board. In an interview, Vice President, Chief of Staff, General Counsel and Board Secretary David Reese explained that “the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) of Colleges and Universities establishes best practices regarding governing boards.” The Board follows those best practices and the non-profit laws of the State of Oregon. They are organized into committees that deal with different resolutions that are decided on and eventually brought to the full Board, which meets three times per year in January, May and October. Board meetings are closed to the public, and any resolutions enacted are then left up to the school administration to enact.
Among the best practices, though, the AGB “recommend(s) against having students, faculty and staff as voting members, the concern being conflicts of interest and the independence of the Board,” Reese said. This is understandable to an extent as the allocation of the yearly budget is one of the many duties of the Board. Students, faculty and staff could be biased to allocate more of the budget to one of the organizations, departments or areas of campus they are the most involved in.
There are two non-voting faculty and student representatives from each of the three schools that represent LC on the Board. They serve merely an advisory role, but, according to Reese, their perspective “is important.” There is no reason to believe that giving students and faculty voting powers would in fact run into these conflicts. As it stands, student representatives must wait to be called on during Board meetings to speak, leaving them with little opportunity to provide input. Where is the harm in letting those who know the school, are directly in touch with its needs and what is most urgent, affect its long-term administration? Students spend almost all of their waking time on campus, professors spend a significant amount of theirs, whereas quite a few of trustees do not even live in Oregon.
The decisions the Board of Trustees makes affect us all. They relate directly to the Strategic Plan President Wim Wiewel discussed in his inauguration speech. The Board handles massive amounts of money that go into projects like school infrastructure, our study abroad programs and student financial aid. All of these are areas Wiewel wants to expand, yet on which we have no input as to which direction.
Yet, the administration is in the habit of making decisions that impact students in a semi-haphazard manner. President Wiewel’s Strategic Plan had little to no student input; I attended a meeting on Sept. 17 and there was only one other student there. It was held from 11:30-12:30, a time most students, including myself, have a class. While there I felt that my voice would have little impact in any decisions. It felt patronizing to hold this event “asking for input” when it was poorly announced and held at an inconvenient time. The administration is making decisions on our behalf without asking us what we want or think is best.
The Board of Trustees should have at least two students and two faculty members who serve as voting representatives to protect interests of those who have to study, work and live on campus. These representatives should be elected by their respective bodies. If everyone on campus has the right to vote in national elections, why do we not have a say in the immediate matters surrounding our own lives and education?