Our View: We want more than a voice

DKS Editors

One voice speaks on behalf of Kent State’s 29,000-some undergraduate students during the university’s Board of Trustees meeting: the student trustee.

But as trustee, speaking is all junior psychology major Erin West, whom the university named the new undergraduate student trustee last week, can do. West’s role on Kent State’s board – the governing body responsible for making the university’s most important decisions – only allows her to serve on board committees, attend board meetings and offer input.

She cannot vote on management decision items, nor can she join the other board members when they retire into executive session. Essentially, West and Gina Spencer, the graduate student trustee, act as token figureheads in the university’s quest to appear transparent and reactive to students’ needs.

The same goes for other public universities in Ohio. State law requires university boards of trustees to include a non-voting undergraduate and graduate student trustee, each of whom serves a two-year appointment. After a lengthy application process and interview cycle, the Ohio governor symbolically appoints each university’s chosen student trustees.

We’re not opposed to the idea of student trustees. We just wish they had a little more clout than they currently do.

After all, West summed it up best when she told the Daily Kent Stater last week that, “None of (the board members) are students here. I don’t want to say none of them are in tune with the student body because I’m sure they are. But they’re not 20.”

Kent State’s board includes nine highly intelligent business and community members, such as an attorney, an oral surgeon and an editorial director for a business magazine. Despite that collection of brainpower, we cannot expect the board members to know what it’s like to be a college student in 2008.

We doubt they know what it’s like working 20 hours a week to foot the steep tuition bills while still trying to maintain a decent GPA. And, they probably don’t understand the burden associated with taking a plethora of liberal education requirement classes that inhibit a speedy path to graduation. It’s not their fault. They’re simply not college students anymore.

Why can’t student trustees vote on behalf of all of us? Given the long application process, it’s clear Kent State chooses the best and brightest students to represent the undergraduate and graduate student populations.

Sure, students can bring concerns to the Undergraduate Student Government or write letters to the editor for publication in the Stater. Still, those actions are not foolproof methods to enlighten the university’s most powerful men and women about student issues.

But a simple “yes” or “no” vote is. That way, the student voice doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of board committee meetings. It actually counts for something.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.