The Associated Students of CSU Senate introduced a resolution Wednesday night that, if passed by the student senate and state legislature, will give two student members on the CSU Board of Governors full voting rights.
The proposed policy change — the “biggest resolution I have certainly seen this Senate make,” Chief of Staff Blake Gibson said — would give student representatives a hand in university policy-making and allow student involvement in holding campus administrators accountable.
This push for student representation on the board follows recent investigation into administrative spending trends that have resulted in increased funding for administration and less for academia for the first time in CSU history.
Seth Walter, director of Legislative Affairs, wrote the bill and said it intends to give students a voice in the actions of their university.
“We want to be taken seriously. Our opinions and our concerns need to be taken more into considerations,” Walter said.
Walter said the student body is the largest stakeholder in the university, with students paying roughly 70 percent of the university’s costs, and yet, he said, the state legislature gets to elect 100 percent of the BOG’s members.
“This is about equality, representation and empowerment. (Students are) footing most of the bill; we should have a say,” ASCSU President Taylor Smoot said.
Most businesses, Walter said, proportionally represent their stakeholders on their board, and under such a model, students would have 70 percent of the positions on the CSU BOG.
Instead, Walter said he is looking for just two, which would give the current nine-person board eleven voting members.
Currently, there are four ex-officio members on the BOG: one faculty member from both CSU and CSU-Pueblo and the student body president of both campuses.
“We’re not asking for a majority by any means,” Walter said. “We just want to (ensure) that concerns and desires are addressed at the board level.”
Although the board is able to pass measures with a simple majority, Walter and Gibson said it has set a precedent of only passing issues unanimously.
Adding student voting members, who could possibly act as dissenters, would change that record and represent students to state legislature.
Gibson said this percent of unanimity could make Board decisions that the student representatives disagreed with difficult to pass.
Sen. Steve Johnson, R – Larimer County, said that if the university expects students to sit in on board meetings, those students should have a voice.
“I think it’s great. I support it,” Johnson said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Smoot said one of the largest problems with the current, ex-officio model is that, aside from offering his opinion, he has no power to represent the student body’s wishes.
Additionally, Smoot said he is legally bound to not convey any information discussed in Board meetings to anyone.
“This is one more step in becoming equals in the processes of this university — (equals) which we are clearly not,” Gibson said.
In the past, ASCSU has had to respond after-the-fact to administrative actions it did not agree with, Gibson said, rather than being involved in the actual decisions.
“This would give us a chance to quit responding and start making (policy,)” Gibson added.
Furthermore, Smoot said the board has a session during each meeting in which it reviews the CSU president and chancellor; CSU President Larry Penley currently holds both positions.
All ex-officio members are required to leave the room for this session and are not able to review their administrators, but Smoot said a full voting student member would have access to that review meeting and “could voice our opinion as to how we think our president and chancellor are doing.”
Ben Schrader, speaker pro tempore, agreed with Smoot, saying, “It’s absolutely necessary we have a vote.”
“I think there are many times in the past (Penley) would’ve gotten very negative reviews,” Schrader said.
Walter said he and Smoot presented the resolution to Penley on Monday, and although Penley offered suggestions on how to proceed with the proposal, he was unable to express his opinion because he is a representative of the board and must act according to their decisions.
Brad Bohlander, chief spokesperson for CSU, said the administration could not comment for the board but said, “The ball is in their court.”
Despite an overwhelmingly positive reception from the student Senate, Senator Tim Hole did raise a few concerns about the bill — namely the turnover rate of student board members.
Hole noted that the board could be object to the fact that a new president is elected each year, so each new voting student would have to be brought up-to-speed on board issues.
Walter responded that the ex-officio members are already required to remain as informed as voting board members and giving the student members voting privileges would be a “minor change.”
Walter said he hopes to pass the bill through the ASCSU Senate quickly, so he, Smoot and Penley can present it at the Dec. 4 board meeting.
If re-elected, Walter said Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Colo., will act as the primary sponsor of the bill in the Colorado legislature and hopes that, since there is no fiscal note attached, approval in the ASCSU Senate and state legislature will be smooth.
Senior Reporter Jim Sojourner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.