Student trustees may gain right to vote on board issues

Jimmy Miller

Kent State’s pair of student trustees, senior biology major Alex Evans and graduate higher education major Monique Menefee, might soon have the opportunity to vote on Board of Trustees issues.

Ohio’s House of Representatives approved a bill Dec. 12 to allow students on state universities’ boards to vote. The bill must be approved by the Senate in order to go into effect.

“I think that when you are a student trustee, you should be treated equally,” Rep. Michael Stinziano, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Mike Duffey, said. “The feedback has been wonderful [on the bill]. I’ve just been frustrated student reps haven’t had the same [right to] vote.”

House Bill 111 does not require universities to allow student trustees to vote but would permit administrations to make that decision, according to Stinziano’s official webpage. The Ohio State University has already agreed to allow student trustees to vote once the legislation is passed.

“Thirty-three states have student trustees, and 28 of them have full voting rights,” Stinziano said. “Ohio is in the minority (of the 33 states) not giving students full franchise.”

Stinziano said students currently only have rights to vote on standing committees at universities, and even then, a school’s board has the decision to approve that. Current law indicates two student trustees be a part of every university’s board in order to gain more student opinion.

“In my experience, I’ve participated just as much as trustees with voting power,” Evans said. “We participate in committee meetings, the public meeting and can bring up any concerns we might have with the voting trustees. Trustee Menefee and I have been invited into executive sessions quite frequently to add our perspectives to the dialogue.”

Kent State nor its board has no current stance on the proposed legislation, executive director of university spokesman Eric Mansfield said.

“The student perspective is what makes the student trustee a valuable asset to the board,” Evans said. “At Kent State, I’ve been able to present that perspective without voting rights. I can’t speak for other student trustees, but I can see how voting rights could make a difference for those who might be unable to articulate their viewpoints otherwise.”

The bill has been proposed in various forms within the last few years, Stinziano said. The legislation previously reached Senate as well, but Stinziano is more confident the bill will pass this time because of public support from the Inter-University Council.

“[Student trustees] get to do all the work, they get to express their opinion, but can’t vote,” Stinziano said. “I’ve always found it bizarre. They get great feedback but are stopped short.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].