UMass Boston: Struggle for Student Trustee Voting Rights Continues
by Jacob Aguiar | The Mass Media
University of Massachusetts Boston Student Trustee Nolan O’Brian is continuing the campaign for the expansion of student trustee voting rights that began in 2012.
“[The Board of Trustees] is responsible for a lot of things”, said O’Brian. “Operating budgets for the entire university, the establishment of majors, programs and colleges, and overseeing the allotment of funds for research and development,” he detailed.
There are 22 members on the board. Five of them are students, one from each campus. Student Trustees are elected to their position by the student population of their respective campuses. The 17 other members are appointed to the board by the governor of Massachusetts and serve limited terms.
Only two of the five student trustees have voting power. All five are able to sit on committees and be part of the decision making process, but only 2 are actually able to cast a vote in favor or against a measure. Voting power transfers from campus to campus annually.
This is the result of a state law passed back in 1970 regarding the voting rights of student trustees. “The law states that there should be two voting student members of the UMass Board of Trustees, because at the time there were only two UMass campuses, Amherst and Boston,” O’Brian explained.
O’Brian is taking up the efforts made by former UMass Boston Student Trustee Alexis Marvel when she introduced House Bill 1088 and Senate Bill 580 in 2012. The bills extend voting rights to all student trustees.
According to O’Brian, the student trustees are “welcomed and encouraged” by the other board members to voice their opinions and are not barred from sitting on committees despite lacking voting rights.
“I do not think that the student trustees that do not have a vote are denied the ability to voice their ideas and to try to get a piece of legislation passed, but they can not actually vote for a piece of legislation. As elected members of the board each trustee should be able to represent the interests of their constituency effectively. They can’t do that without voting power,” O’Brian said.
On Nov. 19, O’Brian and other students from UMass Lowell, UMass Amherst and UMass Boston visited the State House and met with legislators and aids to raise awareness of the bills. Whether or not the state legislator will vote on the bills remains unclear.