Feb 092009
Authors: Shelley Woll

Editor’s note: This article previously referred to Randy Fischer as the Republican sponsor of the Board of Governors bill. Fischer is a Democrat.

Support from student government leaders at the state’s capitol wasn’t enough to gain legislative support for the Board of Governors bill Monday as it failed in front of the House Education Committee, even after it garnered backing from hundreds of CSU stakeholders.

Fifteen members of the Associated Students of CSU gathered in Denver Monday, encouraging legislators to sponsor the bill, which would have allowed CSU-Fort Collins and CSU-Pueblo student body presidents a voting seat on the board.

Taylor Smoot, president of ASCSU, sits on the BOG currently but acts as an ex-officio member.

While ASCSU secured six of seven Democratic votes prior to the hearing — one less than needed for the bill to pass — the bill failed seven to six Monday afternoon.

Seth Walter, ASCSU director of Legislative Affairs, drafted the bill in December, and student government has lobbied for its passage since, writing hundreds of letters and e-mails to state legislators.

First to speak at the bill’s hearing, David Skaggs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, testified against the bill on behalf of Gov. Bill Ritter and, he said, Colorado’s higher education leaders that he is charged with representing.

Skaggs said the bill was unfavorable because thesame committee hearing the BOG bill Monday refused to pass the Higher Education Faculty Voting bill last month, which would have put faculty members on the BOG.

Skaggs said he believes university boards are charged with overseeing the broad interests of the public and its institutions and that, should boards begin to hear only certain constituents, they would be sacrificing their presiding responsibilities.

“If we (give students voting rights), what about faculty?” he asked.

Following Skaggs’ testimony, Randy Fischer, the Democrat sponsor of the bill, introduced the draft to the committee and urged them to “show the students of CSU that you care.”

Both Walter and Smoot also testified in support of the bill.

“We really just want to put a vote behind the voice that we already have,” Walter said, addressing the committee. “It’s a quiet voice but a voice nonetheless.”

Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson, a former state senator and representative, stood for the bill’s passage, writing a letter to the committee to show his support.

“This bill gives students a needed and meaningful voice on the CSU Board of Governors,” read Johnson’s letter, which was presented to the board by Walters.

“Currently, students have a non-voting member on this board. The students have been a valuable part of the board in this capacity, but, as you know from boards we sit on as legislators, it just isn’t as meaningful when you don’t have a vote.”

Despite the proposal’s failure, ASCSU members said they didn’t leave feeling completely discouraged.

“We didn’t even think it would make it into the house,” said ASCSU senator Whitney Ruffin after the meeting, “so this alone is awesome.”

Fischer said he was “struggling to understand why the committee voted the way it did” but said he believes students should keep fighting for this issue.

The bill cannot be reintroduced to the House until the 2010 session, and the decision regarding whether student government will lobby for its legislation will rest in the hands of CSU’s future student government.

ASCSU Beat Reporter Shelley Woll can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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