Feb 282010
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

Student government leaders were rightfully ecstatic Thursday evening when a bill that would give CSU student representatives voting rights on the CSU system Board of Governors passed 7-6 out of the state House Education Committee.

If passed, HB 1206 would give two governor-appointed student representatives, one each from the CSU-Fort Collins and CSU-Pueblo campuses, the ability to vote on BOG issues. Currently, the student government presidents are the student representatives to the BOG and serve a purely advisory role. They can make recommendations to the voting body, but ultimately do not have a final say on issues in the form of a vote.

In the midst of looming budget cuts and tuition hikes, students are feeling an increasing sense of inefficacy in voicing their concerns. This bill gives students a sorely-needed way to ensure that their voices are heard on issues that heavily impact them.

The fact that a board of eight appointed members, who meet in Denver more often than either Fort Collins or Pueblo combined, has more power over students than students themselves rightly rubs many the wrong way.

One notable example of this is the BOG’s recent decision to ban concealed weapons on campus. It’s troubling that a decision sparking such student uproar was made without tangible input from students. Because student representatives on the BOG have no voting power, there is not a sufficient incentive for voting members to factor in their opinion in any decision-making.

The most popular argument floating around the state capitol opposing HB 1206 revolves around what some see as a conflict of interest that would occur should students be allowed to vote on the BOG. Since students pay tuition and fees, it is not appropriate that students have the ability to vote on issues directly related to tuition and fees, critics say.

If two student representatives are allowed to vote on the BOG, they bring the total number of votes to 10. This means that they represent only represent 20 percent of the voting base, hardly a majority. The worst case for the BOG are a bunch of 8-2 vote totals.

The bill is far from perfect. The current bill stipulates that the governor appoint one student representative from each campus. Ideally, students would independently elect their representative, much like they would a president. This would foster more active student participation in campus affairs, as the positions of the candidates for this powerful elected position would be held up to scrutiny.

The faculty representatives on the board would not be given a vote. They are an equally important voice in the CSU system when compared with students, and they deserve more adequate representation as well.

For this bill to serve a real purpose, student representatives on the BOG would have to be independent-minded individuals who wouldn’t feel intimidated into voting with the rest of the board. Their power would be useless if they just deferred to the “grown-ups” rather than voting in a way that reflected the wishes of the student body, even if that was in opposition to the vote of some or all BOG members.

Student representatives would have to possess fiscal common sense to avoid a pair of voting members that blindly vote no on any tuition or fee increase. They must recognize that there are times when increases are necessary, however unpalatable, in the budgetary process.

While the current bill doesn’t do enough to ensure that students are adequately represented in university-wide decision-making, it is a great first step toward this goal. If nothing else, it allows an institutional means for students to know that their voices are heard; that in and of itself helps restore a student’s faith in his or her school.

Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:43 pm

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