SBA ASKS TRUSTEES TO
The Washington state legislature has identified a clear and well-established benefit to including students in school governance. Senate bill 5217 encourages college boards of trustees to officially include a student in their ranks.
While students were stepping back into classrooms from summer break, Student Body Association President Kanpong Thaweesuk stepped into the SCC boardroom to propose a new, sixth, Board position. Thaweesuk asked the Board to approve this position, "which would ensure that the student voice will be heard at Trustee meetings."
The new bill itself states that for over 10 years, Washington's four-year institutions have had student Trustee positions. These positions have been "providing greater depth in board deliberations and a well-educated conduit for students to voice ideas and concerns."
Thaweesuk states that he and the Board share concerns: that too many students are leaving SCC to complete their degrees elsewhere, too many students are not completing their degrees, and that there is a lack of participation for commencement.
Although they have the same starting point, Thaweesuk feels that he differs with the Board on how to fix these problems. He says that the problem isn't that students don't care, it's that "students don't see a sense of belonging."
"Shouldn't students know about details going on at the college level?" Thaweesuk said. The Board of Trustees act as an "owner" of the college. Their vote determines school policy, what positions will added or taken away from the school, and how the school's money is spent. Allowing a student onto the Board would give a representative of student body a voice at the highest levels of this college.
The board would receive a perspective that the law claims may be lacking; a view of the student body from the inside. The law suggests that student positions on governing boards in the universities and colleges of
this state have shown to bridge the communication gap between
the decision-makers and the students.
Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert takes a more pragmatic view on opinion of whether there should be a student position on the board. "I don't want students to see this as an either/or proposition." Lambert's concern is to identify what needs to be accomplished and find the best way to accomplish it, new student board position or no. It's all about "...student success. Are students at SCC becoming career ready, civically minded, and culturally engaged?" Student trustee or no, Lambert wants students to be a part of improving these values.
There are some potential risks to this position as well. Lambert expressed concern that a student member of the Board of Trustees could be named in lawsuits that were brought upon the school. Lambert also expressed that there is a common misconception about members of the board: they don't have any personal power. It's only when they come together to vote that the board has authority, and even then, it's the board itself which has authority, not the trustees.
There are three major issues that the presence of this position is being asked to address; student retention, committee attendance, and graduation participation. Lambert was at the board meeting during the presentation to the trustees. "I would have liked to see data from other schools. To see a direct connection between the creation of a student trustee position and an increase in graduation participation [for instance]."
Lambert has no vote on the proposal brought to the trustees, but he shares his observation, "How does this position bring value that isn't already present in some way?" As for that, "I don't know that that point was clearly made."
"I never look at things as either/or, I like to look at things in the whole context of different perspectives," said Lambert
Thaweesuk argues that over the last six years the bond that students feel to the school and its community within has weakened. That this has been followed by a reduction in the influence that students exert over how the college is run, and ultimately how the students are serviced. Thaweesuk sees the student Trustee position as a critical part of an agenda to bring power and community back to the students of SCC.
Having a student on the Board of Trustees would "ensure that the college administration appreciates the student perspective," said Thaweesuk. He expects the Board will return a vote before the end of the fall quarter.
Namoka Trice &
Staff Writer & Editor in Chief