Editorial: It’s (seriously) time for a student vote on Board of Curators

We deserve for our student representative to have a vote, and a weight on the board commensurate with that vote.

During the Board of Curators’ December meeting, newly-appointed chairman Don Cupps declared 2015 “the year of the student.” But we’re looking for more than just one year dedicated to students.

For years, the Associated Students of the University of Missouri has advocated for the student representative to the board, which governs all four UM campuses, to have a vote on key university issues. The Board has included a non-voting student representative since 1984, and has allowed this student representative into closed door meetings since 1999. The Missouri General Assembly has considered 27 bills giving students a vote since 2002, but each of those bills have failed at various points in the process.

Granting our student representative the ability to vote on decisions made by the Board of Curators is crucial for both the university and for students. [As ASUM President Trey Sprick told The Maneater](link to story), “those who provide over half of the revenue to this university and university system should have some say in the business decisions made by the system.”

Recently, Missouri Students Association President Payton Head, whose campaign platform included a student vote on the Board of Curators, met with Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, to discuss student-related legislative goals, including a student vote. Kendrick said that he is interested in discussing this idea further with students.

One of the main concerns regarding the Board of Curators is that the current curators have a limited understanding of the modern student’s experience on a college campus. We understand that the role of the student representative is to provide a student’s perspective for the board members. But if students remain unable to vote, it will be harder to resolve the issues students are advocating for. We deserve for our representative to have a vote, and a weight on the board commensurate with that vote.

The main argument against having a student vote in years past was that students are not experienced or qualified enough to help make major policy decisions. However, we believe students are capable of deliberating on complex issues. If the MSA cabinet, composed entirely of students and led by a directly-elected student, can be trusted with handling a $1.6 million budget, then we don’t see how another student can’t be trusted to help make informed, effective decisions alongside the other curators.

ASUM’s tireless effort to lobby for students and inform campus on important legislative issues also highlights the passion students bring to improving their university.

Any board that is appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate is going to be politicized — and it should be noted that the Board of Curators student representative is already chosen by the governor. But some of the tactics used by the Board of Curators in the past to shut down legislation for a voting student representative seem uncalled for.

In 2008 alone, the UM System spent over $20,000 lobbying to have this legislation vetoed. After the legislation made it through the General Assembly that year, the Board of Curators held an emergency meeting where they voted 7-1 to oppose the bill. There were even reports that a former curator’s position as chairman of the Missouri Republican Party influenced then-Republican Gov. Matt Blunt’s decision to veto a student vote legislation.

The quest for student representation on the board has long been pulled into the messy world of state politics, and has even been subject at times — if you believe the accusations — to the unfair rules of cronyism. We can’t say whether or not the current effort will face these same obstacles, but one thing is clear: The UM System, which serves Missouri and its citizens, deserves more than petty politics.

We recognize that adding another representative to the Board may present an issue of voting ties. In order to solve this problem, we propose it be considered that an eleventh voting member be selected from the faculty of the four universities, in the same rotating manner as the student representative is. Faculty are the ones who truly make our universities work. They would be able to provide realistic, insightful views of what the UM System needs and could help make informed decisions in these respects.

We applaud ASUM and MSA’s efforts in lobbying for a voting student representative on the Board of Curators and for raising student awareness about this issue. We were glad to hear that Head is taking a stance on this issue. We hope to see continued efforts from these groups in rallying students to action.

We encourage students to learn more about the Board of Curators, the ASUM student representative and the potential legislation to allow this representative to vote. The decisions made by the board directly affect student life on campus, literally from the ground up, and students should become an informed, active part in that process. In order for that to happen, we need as many students as possible paying attention to these issues.

As far as the Board of Curators is concerned, every year should be “the year of the student.” Not just 2015.

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