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Keith Wilbur

Q&A: Sitting down with the new student trustee

Keith Wilbur is the new student trustee at Ohio University. He is an open supporter of the student trustee voting right and Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi referred to Wilbur as “affable.” Post reporter Will Drabold sat down with the next student representative on the Board to get his positions on several key topics.


Post: Where did the inspiration to be a student trustee come from?

Wilbur: Definitely from my love of OU. Just being involved in all the organizations that I am involved in. Just meeting certain faculty and staff and what not. It was just because of that that I decided to apply.

Dean Descutner urged me to apply as well. I already knew about the position through Student Senate and he told me “I think you would be a good candidate for this.” He even wrote me a letter of recommendation for it.

Post: What is the role of the student trustee? How do you balance being a student vs. a trustee?

Wilbur: Ultimately, it’s a dual role. Even the name suggests that it’s a dual role. Student trustee. There’s a reason that they put the student in front of it. As (a) trustee, I’m going to be voicing my opinion based on all parts of the equation like I’ve said before.

If a student trustee were to say, “we don’t need to worry about the student’s perspective,” I would wholeheartedly disagree with that because the students’ perspective is part of the equation. The trustees are the governing body for the university as a whole.

At the end of the day, if the students want something and it just isn’t fiscally responsible for the university, I think that at that point, you do have to consider the university’s best interests. As a student, I am going to bring my perspective to the board.

Post: Both Student Senate presidential candidates and the current Student Senate executives have said they won’t back a tuition increase. Would you?

Wilbur: I can’t really speak to what I would vote for. I haven’t seen the board’s models. I don’t know enough information about it. I’m not informed enough to make a decision.

As a student, my first reaction is (I’m opposed), but I understand there are needs of the university. With information, I would be more than willing (to take a stance).

Post: How did you come to support student trustee voting rights, a tangible power neither Allison Arnold nor Amanda Roden, the current student trustees, support?

Wilbur: To me it’s a no-brainer. The way people are framing the argument is incorrect. The way we need to frame the argument about student trustee voting rights is: currently the trustees are effective in the job. They’re doing what they need to do without a vote. But if our job is just to give opinions, what does it really matter?

Obviously, giving opinions is fine and they’re doing a great job because they have great relationships with the trustees and they’ve changed the votes of trustees. But I don’t see the difference between me giving my opinion to a trustee and changing their vote as me voting based off of my opinion.

The vote is that concrete tangible item that you can kind of latch onto, as this is my opinion and that one poignant action.

Post: Where do you think student trustees fall in OU’s governance model without the vote?

Wilbur: Without the vote, student trustees are on the board and they’re important members of the community. They’ve gained the respect of a lot of trustees but to me, … it seems like they’re essentially the inner most student members of the board. They give their opinions to the board, the board decides, it’s almost like they’re advising the board. They kind of get a different perspective than a typical advisor would because they get to sit in on executive session and all these board meetings … but at the end of the day, they don’t have a vote. All they do is give their opinion to sway other members’ votes.

Post: Student trustees and the board look more at macro issues while Student Senate often focuses more on micro issues. How will you balance those two as a student trustee?

Wilbur: I plan on staying involved in senate throughout my four years. The position that I applied for, I knew full well what it entailed when I applied.

Senate is supposed to be advocating. They put on programming … at least to me, the way I would view them from my trustee perspective is Student Senate is just a sector of my constituency essentially. As trustee, your constituency is all of Ohio University and senate is just an advocating body of one constituency of that.

People make a big deal of a trustee being in senate and its no different — that’s still my constituency so you know, in whatever role I would be in in senate, I would be looking at a very specific constituency obviously. In that (senate) role, I am representing a specific constituency.

In senate, I have a very specific constituency but on board of trustees, I have a macro constituency so to me, the decisions are separate but the simple fact that I would be in senate is a nice move towards shared governance.

Post: How do you reach out to constituencies beyond students?

Wilbur: For the trustee position, I think that I’m well positioned to talk to faculty and staff. I have great relationships with really good political science professors. I have great relationships with deans, especially Dean (David) Descutner. He’s been one of the best mentors on campus for me. I’ve already talked to VP Lombardi. I just don’t foresee that being an issue. I’m an open guy. Anyone can come and talk to me. I plan on having regular office hours, liberal office hours.

I would love to go to all of the different senates’ and get a real perspective. And if they would let me, I would even present … I would definitely be more than willing to at least go there and say: ‘Hey I’m open to whatever you would like.’

Post: How do you think the student trustee position can be improved on?

Wilbur: I am who I am. I’m gonna make well informed decisions no matter what. When it comes to board meetings, I’m gonna ensure that the student perspective is heard right away. I’m gonna let them know that students are gonna like this but they aren’t gonna like this.

I believe that there are a lot of things and a lot of arguments by the board, by the university, and by students that are framed in the wrong way and what I would like to do is act as a liaison between Student Senate, that advocating body for students, and the board.

I’m a student myself. When people make the claim that trustees don’t properly represent students, I think it’s illogical in a way.

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