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Student Governments Receive Board Support To Add More Student Seats

During last week’s Board of Trustees meeting for the committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning, UPUA Vice President Katie took her seat at the “Jordan” nametag, wedged between former-chair Keith Masser and committee chair Betsy Huber. After discussions on the trustee selection process and the Penn State Bylaws, Huber gave Jordan the floor.

In her second Board meeting since being elected Vice President, Jordan proposed something that student governments have been working on for a few years now: creating a fifth student government seat on the Board for consistency and increased student involvement.

Currently, the presidents of UPUA, GPSA, and CCSG hold ex-officio seats on the Board’s committees, with the UPUA president sitting on the committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life, the GPSA president sitting on the committee on Finance, Business, and Capital Planning, and the CCSG president sitting on the outreach committee. The vice presidents of UPUA and CCSG then switch off on an annual basis on who gets the fourth seat on the board, a spot on the committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning.

“It’s sort of an awkward situation when a vice president is on [a committee] one year but not the next,” Jordan said in her presentation. And she’s right — it doesn’t really make sense to have one student leader learn the responsibilities of serving on the Board one year and then a different student from a different organization handle that role the next.

“We really learn a lot from these meetings,” she added.

Though the student government president isn’t automatically slated to assume that role if they first serve as VP, it’s not uncommon, at least in UPUA. Having a president who’s already had some experience working with the Board is a huge advantage.

Jordan’s suggestion was two-fold. For one, add a fifth seat so both the UPUA and CCSG vice presidents could have permanent committee spots. Jordan also requested that the students be able to decide among themselves which committee they serve on, giving them more of an opportunity to decide where their talents and desires would be best suited.

The Trustees were all for it.

“I don’t see a problem with having two students on any committee,” trustee Barbara Doran said as the discussion opened, before fully understanding the request.

“We’re delighted to have you,” she added.

The Trustees also suggested opening up a sixth seat for the GPSA Vice President, saying it would be “orderly and clean” to have the presidents and vice presidents for all three organizations slotted to a spot on the Board.

“I really want to make the point that this is an educational opportunity,” President Barron said.

An educational opportunity that goes both ways, as more students will get the chance to learn how the Board operates while the Board will get more student opinion which is especially helpful when they’re making decisions for and about students.

“I was glad to hear the Trustees were receptive to the idea of adding more student members to its committees after Katie’s suggestion,” said GPSA President Kevin Horne, who is also an Onward State editor. “It’s mutually beneficial: Students learn a lot participating in these meetings, and we hope the Trustees — especially those who don’t live locally or get a chance to talk to many students — learn a lot from us about the current state of the student body and the issues it faces.”

The Board would also get the chance to have a more experienced student voice if the representatives got to choose which committee they sat on. It’s not uncommon for a student government executive to serve more than one year as president, vice president, or some combination thereof, and allowing the students to decide which committee they sit on would provide further continuity from year to year.

UPUA President Terry Ford said after Friday’s meeting that the undergraduate student government has been working on the additional seat since the ninth assembly but efforts picked up when Emily McDonald and the tenth assembly added the initiative to their platform. Ford added too that UPUA received positive feedback from Masser and hopes to continue the progress with chair-elect Ira Lubert.

Though there were no action items yet, the ball is rolling in the right direction. The next Board meeting in September will come after the other student governments have the opportunity to reconvene and hopefully we’ll have more to report on the topic when the trustees meet at the Penn Stater.

About the Author

Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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